It's an all-too-common scenario found in online marketing nowadays. An entrepreneur turns to social media to grow business revenues and decides to setup a Twitter or Facebook account.Â Without any real strategy or knowledge of how to effectively use either medium, the entrepreneur wastes countless hours every day doing tasks that have no real impact on the business. Month after month goes by with little growth in followers, zero activity, and no sales. The entrepreneur gets frustrated and ultimately gives up all real effort in social media.
The problem with this scenario, aside from the tragedy that the real profit potential of social media was never really tapped into, is the damage this kind of haphazard marketing can have on the brand of a business and the image it projects to potential clients who visit the company's social media pages.
The hidden code of social media
Take a moment to think about buyer behavior. When evaluating potential companies to do business with, most consumers will turn to the Internet and search Google for reviews. They will also visit the company's website, and then take a close look at the company's social media pages.Â During each of these tasks, the consumer looks for clues to guide his or her decision on whether or not that company is worth hiring.
There are many clues that consumers look for when evaluating a social media profile:
- How many followers does the company have? A large number of followers would indicate that the company is successful and likely has many satisfied clients. A low number of followers could indicate that the company is new, amateur, and not popular among consumers.
- How often does this company post content and what kind of content are they posting? This is an important indicator consumers look for to determine a company's level of expertise and ability to connect with their audience.
- Are people commenting, sharing, or re-tweeting content from the company's social media pages? If the pages appear to be very active and showcase many happy clients, the company will be more appealing to the prospect. The adverse is true if the comments are few and far between.
All of these elements, and many others, play a critical role in whether or not a consumer will decide to do business with a particular company. Entrepreneurs who approach social media carelessly end up doing more harm than good. An inactive Twitter page with few followers, a handful of tweets, and a design that doesn't match the company's brand will actually repel business.
That's why it is absolutely critical that entrepreneurs answer the following questions before getting started with social media marketing:
1. What goal do you wish to achieve from social media?
(e.g. — secure more clients, build an email opt-in list, make partnerships, conduct market research, provide Internet-based customer support, provide clients with a platform to connect with one another, etc.)
2. Who exactly is the demographic you will target to achieve this goal?
(e.g. — "power women" in the NY-metro area with expendable income, elderly people who use the Internet, cat-lovers, etc.)
3. How will you go about finding, connecting, and engaging this demographic?
(e.g. — Search Facebook for groups the demographic will likely be a member of and start actively participating in the discussion, look for other Twitter accounts that share the same demographic and follow their followers, launch a contest on Facebook to drive people to "like" the page, etc.)
Once the above questions have been answered, an entrepreneur can begin to have the type of focus and direction needed to successfully build a brand on social media. Just as one would not start a business without creating a business plan, one should also not start a social media venture without creating a "social media plan."
Ryan Kristopher is CEO of Windows Renew, the largest network of computer consultants in the world, and an Internet Marketing consultant and social media trainer for businesses of all sizes. Read more about Ryan here.