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There is no easy Social Media formula for getting 1000s of avid followers and hundreds of shares and likes per post.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something other than Social Media Marketing.  The fact is, the only way to organically build a real and engaged following in the Social Media world is through steady hard work.

While there is no ‘quick fix’, there are strategies that can help you get started and continue to success.  When you break down all the Social Media classes (including university programs), self-help programs, and business ‘quick-starter’ programs, they all point to a few basic elements.  We’ve isolated those elements into what I like to call the “3 Cs of Social Media Management” –  ‘Be Constant, Consistent, and Creative’.

1) Be Constant

As a small business new to the Social Media scene you must establish a constant presence online.  This does not mean you need to be online at all hours of the day – no business starting out could manage all that (unless you have a dedicated Social Media Marketer handling your accounts).  Too many posts can also overwhelm your target audience.  The key is to have a constant presence – post content at times where your content will have the greatest reach.

Run Social Media ads – Facebook ads work great, and help get you noticed on supporters’ walls;  the new Twitter ads are also taking off (worth considering).

The key to being ‘constant’ is to seem like you’re ‘always there’ without being intrusive.  Depending on your target audience, this is a fine balancing act.

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2) Be Consistent

Getting everyone excited about your new site or product or service, then rarely posting months down the road (because you feel business is fine) robs you of potential growth.  It can also lose you some of your key initial supporters and Social Media advocates – or what we like to call ‘evangelists’.

Keep the interaction and engagement going.  Your social contacts are not just there to share word of your new business… the long term supporters are KEY to you getting feedback on how you’re doing, and how changes to your style of business affects customers.  Their feedback is the best ‘focus group’ research you never paid for!  With a local restaurant client we constantly monitored Social Media accounts – particularly UrbanSpoon, Yelp and Facebook – to get a good idea of how we were performing, and how new menu items were being taken.  We ended up being the top restaurant of that food category in the city.  Without an active Social Media engagement the restaurant would not have been that successful.

Don’t ‘disappear’ for a month.  If you’re off on holidays get someone to replace you, and keep up with your posts, tweets, and collection of feedback.  The best way to do this easily (not everyone can manage or know the accounts you manage in detail) is to use a Social Media integration tool like Hootsuite.  Your online marketing replacement will find it easy to manage timed Tweets and all your accounts in one easy to use tool.

Another element of being consistent is to project a consistent image.  Your online voice should be the voice of your company (or client).  This voice should be consistent across social channels if your ‘company’ is the one who is ‘speaking’.  This changes of course if the post is the voice of a particular employee or department within your company, however the consistency of overall brand and company values should still be a part of every post.

If you are finding yourself always strapped for time you should probably consider a professional solution.  Too many business owners find themselves mired in online marketing for hours/day, while they forget about their turn-key business.  Your store and your team need your help and attention.  You don’t want to have a great marketing campaign, while lacking that greatness ‘in store’.  Many local companies are available to handle your social communications and feedback.  Prices often start as low as $250-500/social account per month (some all-inclusive deals are even less).

When you consider the benefits of even one quality social interaction that brings you even one new client, you can see how that marketing cost is really small.  Think of any costs incurred in a Social Media campaign as being the same as ads on TV or the newspaper – but amplified.  Social Media allows you to target your specific audience demographic in your specific trade area.  No newspaper or TV ad or even direct mail piece can accomplish that.  The Social Media channel is also much cheaper.

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3) Be Creative

Content is King in the world of Social Media, but that content must be creative to attract shares, ‘likes’ and to build a regular engaged following.  Your content doesn’t always have to be original – shares of funny things found on the web can also help you build audience (just ensure they are tempered to the style of business you are operating – and appropriate for sharing).  Still, the more interesting original content you provide, the more shares and ‘likes’ you’ll get.DSLR_VideoRig

The most engaging Social Media content are photos and videos.  Try to implement one of these in every post.  Have a dinner special?  Include an image of the meal.  Grand opening?  Share a picture of your beautiful store.  Want to share a great customer service success story with your followers?  Put up a video of your awesome team or employee in action (with permission, of course).

Ensure photos and videos are of the best quality possible.  Your online followers like to see ‘real images’ of real people, but while a good iPhone video of your latest customer appreciation event will look decent, you’re likely to get more mileage with a professionally produced one (remember, videos you share will often be of ‘evergreen’ content you can use over and over again).

Keep in mind that YouTube is the #2 search engine on the web (behind Google).  The average Canadian spends 2 hours per day watching online video.  Since it is integrated and part of the Google universe, every video you post helps you better index your business in Google Search.

If you can share ‘how-to’ videos online in your area of expertise you will see your customer base quickly grow.  Sharing expertise helps establish your business as the experts in a particular area.  Google and YouTube will help get you noticed.  It always helps to run a few social media ads as well (businesses running Google ads tend to top out higher in Google search rankings).

People like to be entertained online, or ‘get something’.  Keep this in mind when providing content.  Entertainment is quite self-explanatory (funny videos and photos, clips/previews of the latest action movie, etc.).  The ‘get something’ part is a bit more open-ended:  you can provide advice, how-to videos, etc.  That is often the easiest ‘give’.  Free downloads of ‘white papers’ discussing areas of your expertise can be helpful, and will be gobbled up (you can require an email for these, and collect the emails to build your email marketing list).  Give-aways and free samples are also very popular.  Give out free appetizers at your restaurant – people will come in and buy lunch or dinner (we tried it, and it works!).  Give out a sample of your work – a ‘free’ 30 min photo shoot to 3 lucky people who ‘liked’ your Facebook page.  Many ways to do this, and the returns will be immeasurable.

As you launch your new business, or begin your online business persona, keep the 3Cs in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to Social Media engagement success.  Be patient, however, as this success – as in any business – will not come overnight.  New followers must be carefully engaged, nurtured, and stimulated.  Once you are fully engaged you will see the results come back to you, with many followers becoming full-on ‘super fans’ or ‘evangelists’ for your business.

Herman Thind, BSc., OOST,
Certified Social Media Strategist.

Reprinted with permission from www.DigitalGrit.ca

Herman is a community advocate, consultant, and a student of all things political. He was born and raised in Saskatchewan, and grew up across Western Canada.

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