If you're thinking about starting a business, already own a business, or work in marketing for a small business, you've undoubtedly had questions about social media marketing. While I'm sure the list is extremely long, I thought I would compile a good "Getting Started" list for anybody that's lost in a sea of information or struggling to even find a starting point.
1. Be Precise: Choose the Right Network(s)
Facebook is a monster, period. As a general rule of thumb, it's the best place to start and it's hard to imagine a brand that shouldn't have a Facebook presence. Just about the only exception to this rule would be businesses or products that people are embarrassed to publicly admit they use (there's currently no Facebook page for Preparation H); but even in these cases there can be a way to use that to your advantage. Instagram would be my second choice, not for any reason other than it's a little more difficult to come up with a good strategy for many businesses on Instagram and you don't get the same direct response you do with Facebook because Instagram doesn't allow links in posts.
2. Be Present: Don't Overextend Yourself
The most important thing to remember when discussing social media marketing is that it's SOCIAL. If you think you're going to create a Facebook page, pump out a bunch of updates advertising your product or services, and generate thousands of followers and new customers, think again. You need to be present and actively engage with your audience. This means you need to start small and focus on only as many social networks you can be extremely active with at one time. Usually that number is no larger than two unless you have a large team.
3. Be Value-Oriented: Quality Marketing is Expensive
Remember #2 above? Sound like a lot of work? It is. And remember, expensive doesn't just mean dollars spent. Every minute you spend doing anything costs you. Whether it's time with your family, time away from managing other aspects of your business, or dollars spent hiring someone to do it for you, there is a cost. It's important to put your time (or money) into the activities that deliver the most bang for your buck (hence my "start with Facebook" recommendation). Once you have the resources or the understanding to expand the scope of your social media efforts, then you can start looking seriously at other networks.
4. Be Opinionated: Have Something to Say
Being opinionated doesn't necessarily mean you have to be controversial, althought it may mean creating some controversy. For example, the most shared blog post on SearlesGraphics.com at the time I'm writing this is titled, "Trees Don't Need Saving, Print That Email as Much as You Want" (it's well worth a read, btw). It's a stance that flies in the face of conventional wisdom and makes the argument that using paper products is one of the best things you can do to ensure our forests will be around for a long time to come. Lots of negative comments have come in from those who wouldn't even take the time to read the article to see what it was about, but the positive responses and results have far outweighed the negative.
5. Be Better: You Have a Lot of Competition
Competing for attention used to be pretty easy. It's how some of the biggest brands in the world came to be the giants they are today. In the '50s, all it took was a TV ad and a generation of Americans believed that high-sugar cereals were a good option to feed their kids for breakfast. But the days of the entire family sitting in front of the television and watching (and believing) all the commercials are long gone. Now a person's attention is not only split across devices, but the myriad of options on those devices, and the neverending stream of content flowing through each of those options. With that much content available, you need to be better than everyone else if you want to win your user's attention as they scroll through their feed.
6. Be Genuine: Consumers Are Smart
People today are the most-informed consumers that have ever existed on this planet (sometimes to a fault), and social media is no longer in it's infancy, so anything you think you can do to "get one over" on a consumer, they've already seen. Let your social media be the outlet for your company's unique voice and let your community members be a part of your brand.
Here are a few other resources to get you started:
- 5 Facebook Marketing Tips for Small Businesses - A quick set of tips for getting started with Facebook.
- Sprout Social Blog - I find a lot of useful information here and it's a good mix of basic and more advanced topics.
- The Demographics of Social Media Users - Pretty self-explanatory, current as of the end of 2015.
- An Introduction to Twitter - Making sense of Twitter for those who are confused by it.
- Social Networking Fact Sheet - More in-depth demographic info.
- Searles Graphics Newsletter - Tips and help with all of your marketing efforts.