Social media can be bit of a time-sink in your personal life but with more than 60% of adults now using it businesses have to climb aboard the social band-wagon or else get left in the trail dust of their competitors. But it’s not enough to just set up on shop and hope that nature will take its course. The first thing you need to remember when it comes to social media is the web is a two-way street. Your customers joined Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Linked In, which are arguably the top four and most important platforms to populate, because they wanted access to information and services, not so that you can sell to them. So first you must give them something of value, such as an effective feedback channel and improved customer services.
Once you’ve satisfied their needs you can start gently pushing out your brand and marketing messages, but instead of just spamming your channels with adverts you’d be wise to devise a simple plan of what you want to achieve. Start with a goal so you (and your customers) know what you want to achieve. If you’re a retailer that might mean getting more customers in your shop on a quiet day of the week; if you’re in a trade it could be quoting for 10 new jobs a week.
With a goal in mind you should be able to picture your target demographic – and now you need a strategy to hook them. Maybe that’s offering a discount voucher for days when your business is quiet? Perhaps you’d rather run a competition, or build a buzz around a launch event? Running meaningful promotions and giveaways used to be the exclusive domain of much larger companies, as you need a decent-sized audience to sell it to. But the rise of social media over the past half-decade has opened the playing field right up.
The final piece of your social media game-plan is devising the right tactics to fulfill your strategy. If that strategy is running a promotion or discount then advertising it to a large crowd will make it more cost effective. So your tactics would be to gather an audience over a period of time through interacting with them on social networks and even dropping flyers around your neighbourhood, and then slamming them all right between the eyes at the same moment with your offer. If it’s well-received your followers will share it and recommend it to their own networks, seeing your exposure blossom organically inside whichever groups you have targeted.
TIP: If one of your direct competitors is doing well, scour through their social accounts to see what tactics they are employing. It might feel a bit dirty but competitor research is a perfectly valid business strategy, and made so much easier by the Internet. If they don’t have any social accounts, this is your chance to get several leaps ahead of them.
Find your brand influencers
There are some fantastic tools and resources to help you sniff out the people you should be building better relationships with; websites like Campalyst.com which uses Google Analytics to tell you which Twitter accounts are directing the most traffic to your website. These are the people you should be targeting with personalised tweets when you have an offer or promotion to share.
Another great tactic is to find people asking questions that you can answer, thereby winning them over with your expertise and engaging manner. For example a lot of people will tweet looking for advice when they have a slight domestic emergency and don’t know what to do. At Monitter.com you can add multiple columns looking for keywords people are tweeting about in a particular geographic location. If you are a plumber you could turn this to your advantage by monitoring ‘leaking’, ‘burst pipe’ and ‘need a plumber’ within 10km of your postcode. Now when someone tweets about a burst pipe in the loft leaking through the ceiling, our fearless plumber is ready to leap in to action offering to be there to fix it in ten minutes (UPDATE: Duncan Rice pointed out on Google+ that Monitter has temporarily shut down after Twitter changed their code that allows third party apps to access the data feed, so I will keep an eye on it and report back here when it goes online again).
Once you’ve built a decent-sized following you can use a relationship management tool like Commun.it to keep it nice and healthy. As well as useful stats about how you’re tweeting and how your followers are reacting, here you can see exactly who is most engaged with you and how great their influence is. Highly engaged followers with a decent amount of influence make ideal people to send review and sample products to, as they are most likely to spread the word about your company online. The free account is limited in numbers and reporting, but should be enough to begin with and you have the option of upgrading to the paid version if you find it useful.
TIP: Your top supporters need to feel the relationship is a two-way street, so reward them often with retweets and @ mentions so they feel appreciated. They might even pick up some followers from your following, which will only go towards strengthening the bond between you.
There are many more tools I could talk about here, just search for “Twitter tools for business” if you want to explore on your own (or pick up a copy of my book ‘Working the Cloud’). But one last quick mention has to go to Tweriod.com. After authorizing the app it will prepare a report for you about when your Twitter followers are most active, allowing you to tweet, or schedule tweets to happen at those specific optimum times. The free reports are quite limited, but enough to give you a rough idea about weekend and weekday traffic so you can maximise the reach of your social comments.