Social media can seem complex, but in reality the steps to successfully harness it for marketing are not hard to master. Here are seven steps to follow for social media success:
Social Media Success Formula
Start with a plan — define a few (not too many) marketing goals. These should be a subset of your overall marketing plan. Social media activity can be labor intensive. Without a plan and clear objectives, you may end up doing a lot of work with questionable returns.
Here are some social media goals commonly identified by small businesses. Use social media to develop customer loyalty, build a mailing list and drive traffic to your website. Social media can also help you publicize promotions and discounts, establish thought leadership, expand brand recognition, generate leads, and sell more in ecommerce. Remember, you don’t need to achieve all of these goals. Narrow it down to a couple that are important to your business.
Choose the right social platforms. For most small businesses, the right platforms are where your potential customers are . The most popular social media platforms with small businesses include: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube and SlideShare.
Knowem.com  is a great tool to identify social platforms, especially lesser known ones. You can also use it to reserve your brand name on social sites even if you don’t intend to spend much time on some of them.
Launch your social presence by completing your social profiles. Write engaging descriptions of your business, link back to your website and load your logo and relevant images. Put up an engaging large “cover” image on profiles. Try to think of something creative to captivate attention. Use a tool like Canva  or PicMonkey  to create your own cover images. Or you can have an image professionally designed. For example, a custom-designed Facebook cover image will run you about $100 at DesignPax .
Feed content to your social accounts  on an ongoing basis. It’s not enough to set up a Facebook, Twitter or other account. If you plan to use it for marketing, you have to regularly feed content to it — at least a couple of times a week. The important thing is to show fresh activity. Content doesn’t always have to be your own. Become a “curator” of content from across the Web. Share others’ blog and video content – but give them credit by tagging their social handles. This is a great way to make friends online by showing you value their content enough to share it.
Social media success won’t be found by posting an endless stream of content onto social media and doing nothing else. Instead, a big part is about being social. Just like in real life, you have to show you are interested in others. Reply and comment occasionally. Hit the Like button when you see content from others you like. Share others’ content. Follow others. Participate in the occasional Twitter chat or Facebook Live event, too.
If you don’t, your follower numbers will dwindle or stay stagnant. Nobody remains interested in a self-absorbed robot channel for long.
As your activity picks up, use technology to keep the workload down, save time and automate tasks . But don’t lose the personal touch. Tools like Zoho Social , Buffer , Hootsuite  and SocialOomph  can help you manage your social activity, schedule updates and pull together all activity into a central place so you don’t have to run around logging in everywhere.
Used adeptly, a tool won’t be noticeable by followers and won’t make you seem impersonal. Remember, not everything can be automated nor should it be. But enough can be automated to save oodles of time and keep expenses down.
Use social media analytics  to track and measure progress toward your marketing goals. Analytics are built in to many social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. But you can also find third-party tools that will provide key measurements in a consolidated dashboard and even schedule reports to be emailed to you. Apps like Zoho Social, Buffer and Hootsuite offer analytics and reports, for instance, along with managing your posting and alerting you to comments on your posts.
There’s a lot to social media success, but if you view it within this seven step framework, it becomes easier to understand what to do and how to go about it. Follow these seven steps and you’ll be able to structure a plan to use your limited time, staff and financial resources wisely.
For more about creating social media success and using technology in general, you’re definitely going to want to see our free 49-page ebook. We created the technology ebook in partnership with Microsoft. Grab your copy of the “Small Business Technology Guide: An Essential Overview” here .
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