This is a difficult task to tackle as your target audience is always cyclical. Many experts have many suggestions to being effective with your social media marketing message. I will try to condense what many of them are saying down to five steps that will work for the average person starting up a business, nonprofit or whatever. The good thing about social media marketing it that it doesn’t cost much, just time and whatever way you make your connection to the internet, which you would probably already be paying for even if you weren’t trying to startup a business.
Step 1: Research
Research has got to be a part of your marketing strategy. How do you reach your base, for that matter who is your base? What social media platform do you use? Do you use multiple media platforms? Do you create your own social media platform? All these questions have to be answered. There are many social medias to use: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and so on. Experimenting with many social medias may be a good way to find out where your best yield of buyers might be but you need to be careful not to waste too much time when you have other needs of the business to take care of. In the beginning it might not be very cost effective in creating your own media platform but is something that you will want to consider down the road.
Find out who your competition is and what they are using to connect to their customers. There may be an untapped resources that they are not using to attract business. Also don’t be afraid to steal away some of their customer base. Many times there are customers willing to leave that company due to a bad experience but just don’t know of any other companies that can fulfill their needs. The way you accomplish this is by setting up your next step: the conversation.
Step 2: Begin a Conversation
Once you have found the media you want to communicate over, you’ll want to find out what your target audience wants to hear about and what they like to talk about. The trick is injecting yourself or your product into a group of people in the hopes that it will grow. For example, on twitter someone created an account called the Bedford Bear(I think its hilarious). This is just someone having fun on twitter in relation to the news reporting that bears have been moving into Ohio from Pennsylvania because of a lack of food. Is he selling something, no, but he has created a following(close to 1600 people following) in a very short period of time. This is one way of capturing an audience, how you tie that into what you are selling depends on many factors. There is no wrong way to do it as long as you are profitable or succesful in your goal. The next step is the task of setting yourself apart from the pack.
Step 3: Set Yourself apart from the pack
Setting yourself apart from your competition shouldn’t be too difficult if you know your product or service. You know what your competition is doing wrong or what you as a customer of that company has always hated about that service. Be careful not to overreach here, sometimes some of the things your competition does that you dislike is part of a necessary evil to remain profitable. Another way to make a big splash is to be what is known as a first mover, a first mover is someone who is first to market in a particular area. Amazon, Travelocity, and eBay are examples of very successful first movers. However sometimes being first to the show isn’t always the best, being second can allow you to learn from other first mover’s mistakes. However you stand out from the crowd the next step should be Creating Buzz.
Step 4: Creating Buzz
The fourth step, Creating Buzz, is probably more complex then it sounds, you need to create an environment in your conversation that passes the torch to your customers. Customers are your best form of advertisement for many reasons. Potential customers trust the advisement of current customers more than anything you might say about your product or service. The other nice thing about your customers doing the leg work for you is that its free. Remember, that creating buzz works both ways, as much it might help you it could hurt you just as much. Whatever media you use just keep up with what is being said about your product or service. Try not to jump in on the conversation once its going well, just address concerns with product issues or services or with product updates, upcoming events, sales and so on. Which leads us to the next step, Adapt or Die.
Step 5: Adapt or Die
As was mentioned at the beginning of this post your customers can be cyclical, along with this so can technology and the social media that your customers use. If you don’t keep up with the changing trends you will fall behind. Survival of the fittest has never been more alive than it has with the ever changing business world. You can never tell what the next big thing will be, you can only try and move with it when it starts to move. When twitter first came out I thought it might fail, boy was I wrong, “hashtag” this and “hashtag” that. I see more signs of twitter now then I do of Facebook. Again be careful with this as well, know your audience. If your market is aging with your product are they switching to the newest and greatest or sticking with whats familiar.
Remember folks this post isn’t the be all end all of how to start up your social media marketing plan. It’s just an idea of what I feel is important from what research I’ve done. This plan also might not work with every business out there. Anyway, GLHF.