So your business has made the decision to make a splash with social media? Great! Or is it? Hopefully, your small business is making this decision for the right reasons and not just because “everyone is doing it, so we need to do it as well.”

Even with your personal social media accounts, you know it can be a huge time suck. Will social media for small business owners mean the same for your business?

In order to get a better understanding on the implications of social media and your small business, let’s take a look at some of the key things you will need to consider when starting a social media plan for your company.

What Are the Social Media Goals of Your Business?

Let’s start with the end in mind. Ultimately, what does your small business hope to accomplish from being active on social media? Is it brand awareness? More leads? More sales?

Maybe you have no idea. And that is ok.

However, you need to really consider what the desired end results are before you jump in. Having no idea makes it difficult to create a successful social media campaign. In order to have a successful campaign, you need to know how to measure success.

What Do You Measure to Define Social Media Success?

Hopefully, your business does not get caught up in wanting to focus on vanity social metrics that rarely provide tangible results for your company. Vanity social metrics commonly consist of things like the number of retweets, number of Facebook fans, total re-pins, etc.

Instead your business needs to be focused on measuring social media metrics that matter. For example:

  • Relationships with influencers and/or customers (high levels of positive two-way engagement)
  • Referral traffic from social channels that resulted in a tangible action (form submission, sale, etc)

By knowing what means the most to your business will allow you to track those actions from the beginning in order to understand the successes and failures of your various social media initiatives.

What Social Channels Should We Use?

Perhaps the better question is “on what social media channels are our customers most engaged and likely help us to reach our campaign goals?” When choosing social media channels, you will want to focus on ones where your target customers are most active. There is no reason to devote time (and money) to channels where it will not make a positive impact in your bottom line.

Therefore, it’s best that you investigate the various social media channels and see if there are conversations around your business offerings. For example, it might make sense for your small business to use Google+ if you notice quite a bit of conversations happening, particularly topics around problems/issues your business solves being talked about. It would make sense to target channels like this.

Additionally, if you find conversations around unsatisfied customers of a competitor, it might make sense for you to engage on these channels as well. Typically, Facebook and Twitter are two outlets that customers typically like to vent about customer service issues or dissatisfaction with a product or service.

What is The Voice of Our Social Media Profiles?

Once you have determined where you want your business to be engaged, you need to decide on the voice or tone of the profiles.

  • Are you going to portray a tight and professional tone, or are you going to be laid back and relaxed?
  • Is the account going to post as a person or as a brand?
  • Are you going to simply broadcast messages or aim to create and carry on conversations?

These are just a few of the many questions you will want to consider when deciding the voice of your business profiles.

Social Media Profile Optimization for Small Business

Once the voice has been determined and you are ready to create various profiles, you need to consider creating optimized social media profiles.

Depending on which social network you are creating accounts on, you may need to consider the optimization of the following items:

  • Business name
  • Contact info
  • Website
  • Other social profiles
  • About/description
  • Photos
  • Videos

I go into an in-depth analysis of social media optimization for small business in a previous blog post.

Who is Going to Manage The Accounts?

Not only does your business need to decide how the social accounts are going to present themselves verbally, but you must decide who has the responsibility of managing the day-to-day operations of the accounts.

As noted above, social media can definitely chew into your time. As a business owner, your time is valuable. Do you want to spend it managing various social media profiles? Or would you rather run your actual business?

To me, it makes sense for you to focus on your actual business and not a small component of it like social media.

Instead, it might make sense to identify an employee who would be a good fit to manage this. Let me be clear, I don’t recommend assigning this to your summer intern. In fact, I would suggest using a tenured employee who you are confident that can present your business in a professional way. As a tenured employee, they are sure to have insights into your company, its offerings, and can successfully answer any questions about your products and services as they come up on social sites.

If you don’t have the time to manage it yourself or have an employee who is a good fit, it might make sense to use a third party who can manage social media marketing for small business.

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Small Business

After you have determined how your social media accounts are going to be managed, you should then focus on what type of content are your channels going to promote and share that will help promote your small business.

Maybe your website is full of shareable content like blog posts, guides, infographics, or podcasts which are great items to share across various social media channels. Perhaps your website doesn’t have a lot to offer. When faced with this situation, you can act as a curator to share content that relates to your industry. This allows you to promote content your audience will be interested in and ultimately drive conversations around it and your business.

Aside from sharing your content or others, social channels are a great way to learn more about your target audience. For example, you can ask them questions regarding issues they face in which your products or services can solve. Ideally, you don’t want to hard sell them and instead lead the person to come to the conclusion on their own.

Does Your Business Have Any Social Brand Ambassadors?

If you have been monitoring various social channels for your brand, you may have noticed that there might be a group of people who are constantly sharing your brand, content, and products.

These are considered social brand ambassadors.

Engaging with these users can be critical to your company’s social media success. Therefore, you should aim to communicate with them and help them become part of your overall social media strategy.

There are several ways you can engage these social ambassadors:

  • Mention them in your content – establish them as experts (Who wouldn’t want to share content that mentions themselves in a positive way?)
  • Provide them with insider news – allow them to spread your latest news or products to their audience before others know (having a third party talk about you is much more credible than you talking about yourself)
  • Ask them what they would like to see from your company – this could be new products or services or even new content

By maintaining engagement with your social media brand ambassadors, your business will build up a following of die hard enthusiasts who will be willing to talk about your business in a positive and effective manor.

Creating a Social Media Strategy for Your Small Business

When it comes time to creating a social media strategy for your small business, it takes more than just creating accounts on select social media sites. Your business will need to set social media goals, define successes, identify channels, define a social media voice, identify who will manage it, decide on what will be shared, and more.

As you can see, your business will really need a cohesive social media strategy to succeed.

Let me know in the comments below what your small business is doing to ensure its social media strategy will succeed.

Or, if you know of a business owner who could use some help with getting started on social media, send them a link to this blog post.

photo credit: C!…