Five Steps to get started on Social Media

Walls have Ears

Image by laverrue via Flickr

Small business owners who haven’t already jumped into the social media quagmire often ask, how do I begin?  Should I start with Facebook?  Do I need to Tweet?  Where is the road map to all of this stuff?

Unfortunately, there is no one path in social media.  There are many paths and the trick is to fine best path that fits you and your business.  But there are some basic principals when it comes to using social media tools to market one’s business.

First Steps before going Social

1.  Ignore the strong temptation to jump-in without a plan -  One of the strengths of entrepreneurs is their ability to take action, particularly when the outcome is uncertain.  It’s like a moth to a flame and is probably a driving force to get into business for one’s self in the first place.  But this attribute doesn’t work so well when it involves marketing online using social media.  One needs a plan to be successful.  Otherwise, social media will just be a drain of time and resources.  So what’s in the plan?  Start with the basics.

  • What do you want to accomplish online – don’t say “increase sales”.  Instead be realistic and specific select from a) build awareness; b) build stronger bonds; c) increase consideration of your products/services; d) foster loyalty, etc.?
  • Who do you want to reach, who is your target? – don’t say “anyone with skin”.  Instead narrow your target audience to a specific gender, age group, and characteristics or emotional triggers that connect them to your product/service
  • Which social media tool(s) does your target use? – don’t say “all of them”.  Instead think, or better yet, ask to ensure you’re not potentially wasting your time spinning you wheels where none of your customers hang out.

2.  Make a list of your products/services, brand names,  your industry, your key competitors, the names of your best clients/customers, names industry movers and shakers, industry journalists and possible joint partners.  Oh, and don’t forget to include the name of your company.  Why?  Because you want to create a ‘complete’ picture of what is going on with all of these audiences before you dip your toes into any social media pools.  Now what?

3.  Create your online ears by establishing Google Alerts for each of the names on your list from Step 2.  Creating Google Alerts is free and easy.  Just plug in the terms, product names, individual names and determine the frequency you want to receive the alerts.  You could add another free tool such as Social Mention as it will include items Google Alerts may overlook. If you like, send your Alerts into Google Reader and read your alerts in one easy download.  You may also want to bookmark Social Mention searches of particular interest so you can keep them handy for future reference.

4.  Listen & Learn – The best way to learn more about what is happening online is to listen.  So take your fingers out of your ears and start paying attention.

What are you listening for?   Only through listening will you learn what is being written about, shared and communicated online as it pertains to your business, industry, clients/customers and yourself.  You may learn that one of your biggest customers just returned from Hawaii, one of your favorite vacation spots. Or you may learn that one of your competitors is having some difficulties with their new product introduction.  You’ll read about what possible joint partners are up to and learn of a way for you to tie in with them.

5.  Adjust your plan accordingly – Consider what you are hearing and reading.  How does this new information impact your initial plan?  Are there others who have some clout in your industry  you need to add to your Google Alerts?  What are people talking about?  How do the conversations, the sharing of information, the dominance of a key competitor impact your plan?

Bottom Line

If you want your entry into social media to be successful, take these five steps BEFORE you start create Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts.  You will be better prepared to achieve success.

Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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