The social media phenomenon is one of the biggest marketing challenges for businesses today. All the “rules” that were fairly easy to understand and implement in traditional marketing channels may or may not apply in these new marketing outlets – a reality that has caught more than one company off guard. Even large corporations with well-staffed marketing and communications departments have been blindsided when a post on Facebook or YouTube has gone viral.
Regardless of the size of your company, if you’re in business, you need a social media strategy. These tips will help you develop and implement a social media plan that will work for your company:
1. Begin with an overall approach to dealing with social media. The specific vehicles are likely to change, so your strategy needs to be flexible and allow for evolving technology and consumer trends. Take the time to understand the big picture and make the commitment to staying current on what’s happening as new outlets are introduced and old ones fall out of popularity.
2. Understand how the people you are trying to reach use social media. Consider all of your markets – customers, decision-influencers, media, suppliers, and so on – and design your plan so it positions you appropriately within your markets. For example, if you’re trying to reach retail consumers, Facebook is a good place to be. If you need business-to-business networking, you need to be on LinkedIn.
3. Be realistic in your expectations. Just because some companies have thousands of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook doesn’t mean you will – or that you even should. Companies like Walmart and McDonald’s have different goals for these efforts than a professional services firm targeting a narrow local market. Does it really matter if 5,000 people “like” your Facebook page if none of them buy from you? Wouldn’t it be better to have 1,000 people “like” you and at least one-fourth of them be paying customers?
4. Remember that there’s more to a social media campaign than simply setting up the accounts. Decide in advance who in your organization (employee or consultant/contractor) will be responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining your campaign. A great Facebook page won’t do much for you if you are not posting regular status updates that provide value to your subscribers.
5. Integrate your social media efforts with your overall marketing plan. The design, tone, and message of each element should blend so that you are easily identified no matter what the medium. Remember that while social media can make a substantial contribution to your marketing efforts, it shouldn’t be your marketing foundation.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what it takes to effectively use social media to grow your business. It is, however, a good starting point for you to use in evaluating the role of this rapidly-evolving phenomenon in your marketing plan today and in the future.
Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer and ghostwriter based in Orlando, Florida. She is the author or ghostwriter of more than 25 books, including Entrepreneur’s Almanac; Online Shopper’s Survival Guide; Make Big Profits on eBay (with Charlene Davis); In Search of the Five-Cent Nickel (with Don Abbott); and 11 titles in Entrepreneur Media’s StartUp Guide series.
Jacquelyn writes and ghostwrites a wide range of materials, including articles, newsletters, brochures, social media copy, blogs, website copy, books, ebooks, white papers, special reports, and more. Visit her website at http://www.jacquelynlynn.com to sign up to receive free business tips via email.
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