Social media is here to stay for small business marketing. You need do no more than look over your teenager’s shoulder to understand how fast it is growing; and it really is a serious marketing tool.
If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
When you’re running a small business, planning can take a back seat to paying the bills and keeping the doors open. But planning how you will integrate social media into your small business marketing can make all the difference between success and failure.
The planning revolves around two areas: prospect demographics and content development.
Knowing Your Prospects
As business people, we should know everything we can about our prospects to ensure that our efforts to market to them are as successful as possible. A great way to do that is through developing customer personas.
For social media, knowing our prospects means knowing what kind of information they are looking for, where they are looking for it, and when they are looking.
- what will dictate the kind of content we need to curate and develop
- where will help us chose the right social networks to post our content on
- when will tell us the best times to schedule our posts
Truly if we miss on any of these, our social media campaign could be doomed to failure.
Speaking to Your Prospects
Today’s digital world has changed small business marketing forever. You literally have seconds to convince your prospect that they want to read what you have to say. It’s much easier to click on back than it is to leave a store you’ve driven to.
No one really likes being sold to, and that’s perhaps even more true in the digital world. Current best practices say that 80% of your social content should excite and inform your readers, not sell to them.
So you need to know what your prospects are interested in. You need to curate content that answers their questions, provides expert insight and analysis, and tells them what to do with the information.
Of course the goal of any small business marketing is to drive conversion of prospects into clients. And just how do you do that when your prospects don’t really want to be sold to? The term to become familiar with is thought leadership.
Prospects are looking for information, analysis, and insight. Thought leaders give them that, and they keep coming back for more.
Social Media is Very Content-Hungry
It’s one thing to decide that social media is critical to your small business marketing; it’s another thing entirely to jump into the fray. When it comes to planning for your social media campaign, you really need to think about the effort required to curate/develop the content. And small businesses are always juggling lots of demands on their time.
Many businesses post multiple times per day across multiple networks to meet the needs of their prospect demographics. Let use this example: you decide your business will tweet four times a day and post to other networks like Facebook and LinkedIn twice daily. As a local business, you’ve decided to post during hours your business is open and do this six days per week.
Using best practices, 80% of your content will be insightful, unbranded content (demonstrating your thought leadership) that you curate from industry sources. For a 30 day block of posts, this would require 120 total tweets (96 unbranded and 24 branded) and 60 “long posts” (48 unbranded and 12 branded).
(For this example, if each post only takes 6 minutes to write–and trust us, that’s fast–you’re talking about 18 hours of content development.)
Folks, that’s a lot of content to curate/write and either you have to do it, or you have to pay someone to. Yes, there are some automated tools to make the process quicker, but generally writing a decent post just takes time.
Since you’ll spend four times as much effort curating post content as you will writing branded posts, you’ll want to make the process as efficient as possible. One way to speed the process is to have your information sources well-organized. We recommend a content aggregator such as feedly or the similar feature in Hootsuite for this purpose. Once you choose relevant information sources, it is easy to gather related content into one place.
We track curated content using nothing more sophisticated that an Excel spreadsheet listing the content publication name, the title, the URL, and—most important of all—the date of publication. You want to track the date because nothing is as useless as an old piece of news. Search engines know the content date as well and will penalize your search ranking for old content. We do not recommend use of content that is more than a year old.
There Are No Shortcuts; But It’s Worth It!
Like most things in small business marketing, to get real results takes effort. Truthfully there aren’t any shortcuts; developing good content takes time. Even though you aren’t writing a novel, you are trying to drive a certain desired behavior from the prospect, you are trying to develop and expose your brand across the marketplace, and you only have your post to do that.
Lest you think a few shortcuts are in order, we always like to share a few horror stories of poorly proofed work.
As we said, social media is here to stay as an integral part of small business marketing. What are your plans to build it into your company’s marketing strategy?