Developing An Effective Social Media Strategy (A Guide For Beginners)

Social media has developed into a powerful sales and marketing weapon. An estimated 200 million people use Facebook, 70 million use LinkedIn and 18 million use Twitter – reaching customers has never been easier.

Used well, social media tools can provide brands with a customer touchpoint that allows real-time communication in a cost effective way. But getting it wrong can be costly, so before embarking on any social media campaign, marketers and brand owners must plan their implementation strategy carefully.

What are you trying to achieve?

Common sense is not always common practice, and it is vital to start thinking about what you want to achieve before you begin. Are you simply aiming to communicate cost effectively with your customers? Or to looking to generate more web visits? Do you need to boost sales bookings? Or raise brand awareness? These are just a few of the many questions that must feed into your action plan. Once you have mapped out what you want to achieve from your social media strategy, you can move to the second stage of the process.

Research is everything…

Before you start developing a social media approach, find out which social media channels your customers are using. There is no point putting resources into a marketing campaign that will never reach your target audience. Gathering statistics and web user information about your existing customer base online, or by buying a specialist report on your market area. If you are thinking of carrying out market research, consider outsourcing to a specialist agency.

Have something worth shouting about…

Make sure you have content for your social network of choice that is going to serve the purpose. There is no point driving customers to copy that is not relevant, visually poor, out of date or that is not beneficial to your customers. Keeping your social media communications alive and fresh will help keep people interested in what you are saying. Use the content you generate to position your brand either as an expert in its field, an innovator, friendly to do business with or simply more cost effective than your competitors. Potential customers have not chosen to view your content to find out what you had for breakfast or what you did last weekend; make sure you are speaking in the language of your customers and that you demonstrate how your brand is different, and can benefit them. The best campaigns add a high level of engagement by using interactive elements such as video, polling, blogs, community forums and useful special reports.

Constantly Measure…

Once you have created your social media campaign, it is vital that you monitor and measure its effectiveness. There are a number of ways you can do this, but if your goal was to generate more web visitors, using free basic software such as Google Analytics allows you to track how many visitors your site is getting and where that traffic is coming from.

John McCambley is head of brand marketing and communications, McCallum Layton

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