If you have ever heard the well-known saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, then you will understand that this applies to all aspects of your business, including your social media marketing.

Working in regular social media activity into your working week is as important as having a rock solid business plan. If you just wing it with your social media, then your current and potential new customers are going to see this and lose confidence in you. What will happen as a result? You will be driving your customers into the arms of your competition.

Map out your social media strategy

To attract new followers, and hopefully turn them into paying customers, you will need to work out a plan that is clear, effective and easy to implement. To enable you to write up an effective plan you first need to ask yourself some questions. This will help to narrow down your goals and objectives.

What am I hoping to achieve with social media?

Your answer will depend on the type of business you run. For a company that is interested in selling their services online, then you may want to focus on using social media to gain recognition, exposure of your brand to a wider audience, and to interact with your customers and followers to help solve problems and offer advice.

For those with products to sell online, or a physical shop to attract customers to buy from you, again you want to use social media to expose your brand and to promote special offers, showcase new products and engage with your customers and followers by actively discussing your products.

By identifying not only your goals but also the goals of your customers, you can work out a strategy that can connect both.

Always start out by providing value to your customers. Specifically, work out how you can solve your customer’s issues or problems by offering useful information and advice, or by suggesting one of your products and explaining why it would help.

To outsource or not?

If you are in the position of being a very small company with few employees, or even a partnership of two, or a sole trader, then you may have to consider outsourcing your social media to a specialist management company or a freelancer. Time is a precious commodity for very small businesses, so it can be risky to spread yourself too thinly across so many tasks.

If you have enough staff, then you may want to consider delegating your social media management to a staff member who is familiar with social media and has a good record of running social media campaigns.

It is probably the easiest task for large companies as they may already have a qualified employee that works within their marketing department, or they are in a position to hire an expert or a consultant specifically for the job.

social-media-question-markShould I go for all the social media platforms?

The idea of having an active presence on all of the popular networks is really appealing. However, in reality it could be an absolute nightmare to implement and maintain over the long-run. If you are short of time and need to focus on many other essential tasks to keep your business going, then it would be wise to start small with just one social media platform – at least until it’s running smoothly and has a growing audience.

Which one to choose and how to start? Well, this will really depend on your customers. Most small businesses would be advised to begin with a blog and posting on the platform that most of your customers use. You can find out in advance which is the most popular platform for your customers by conducting a customer survey for a few weeks. Your results should give you a good idea of where your customers tend to hang out the most, so you can start with the most popular one to get established, then maybe include the next most popular site in a few weeks or months time.

Which is the easiest social network for small businesses?

Probably the easiest platform to use would be Twitter. It is very simple to learn to use, and because there is the 140 character limit per tweet, you will not be spending a huge amount of time each day figuring out what to write.

Google+ isn’t perhaps as popular as other platforms, but even if you don’t use it much, being on there will help to boost your site’s search engine results, so it is worth considering using.

For B2B companies, the obvious choice of social media sites would be LinkedIn. Most of your industry peers will already be on here and they will want to see that you are an active user too.

B2C businesses, especially if they have highly visual products to sell, will benefit from being on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. These platforms are excellent for showcasing your new product range or promoting a special offer.

How often should I post?

Your followers and customers will visit their social media sites at different times of the day, so you have to post quite frequently if you don’t want them to miss out on any important messages or information you have to share. Only posting once per day at 8 am in the morning isn’t going to be ideal as most of your fans and followers will miss it due to timing.

It is all about experimenting and testing the water with your posts. You will have more chance of reaching your followers if you stagger your posts throughout the day. This is probably easiest through Twitter due to the brevity of their 140 character limit.

After a few weeks of posting, you can look back at your social media analytics to see the times of day and the days of the week that your followers are the most active. Then you can target your posts to reach more of your followers at the times that suit them.