The Four Social Media Planning Essentials for Businesses to Find Customers and Fans Online

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Last week I was invited to discuss social media marketing on a panel at a Local First Chicago event. My co-panelists were Joe Orlandino of befoundonline.com and Mark Smithivas @1god. It was a great get-together, good conversation and fantastic questions. Without further ado I’ll summarize my presentation here.

One of the ideas that I wanted to get across is that social media marketing (aka inbound marketing), just like traditional marketing (outbound marketing) is most successful when purpose-driven and purposefully planned. Social media marketing doesn’t just happen. We have to make it work for our businesses.

There are four essentials to building a successful social media marketing presence. I call them the 4 Cs. They are:

  1. Contributor
  2. Content
  3. Connections
  4. Commitment

CONTRIBUTOR:

Someone has to do the writing, blogging, tweeting, facebooking or communicating. There is a wide-range of choices for businesses, depending on budget and the level of social media engagement they need. Businesses frequently hire interns (check with the local colleges) or use contributor teams to divide responsibilities and make them manageable. It is ok as a business owner to not have time to dedicate to social media. You’re not expected to. But if you want to reap the benefits that social media can bring then you’ll need someone to be online expanding your network.

CONTENT:

An online presence, and online business reputation are based on the ability to make your business interesting and relevant, and at the core of that is the creation and sharing content. The good news is that Social Medial is very inclusive, and all content is fair – business news, but also personal notes, industry news as well as conversation with other people online. It doesn’t take a journalist or a copywriter. In most cases all it takes is conversation. Here are some examples of social media content:

  • Blog posts
  • Video blog posts
  • Photos
  • Re-sharing and commenting on popular or interesting news
  • Personal notes
  • Company news
  • Contests
  • Event notices
  • Discounts
  • Online chats/conversations (see the Connections section below)

It may seem like a daunting task to produce all this information. You don’t have to cover all of these. Starting with a couple to focus on will work well at first.

For example, if you like taking pictures think of how you can use them as your primary Facebook content. Publish photos of interesting things happening around your business, with commentary and questions.

Secondarily you can use Google search to find what’s in the news about topics relevant to your business and publish links to those articles on your Facebook page or account as well. Don’t over-think it. You can’t break Facebook, or Twitter, or any social media tool. As long as your content is not offensive it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

Content is the glue that will bring you together with potential customers and fans. It will help you build connections.

CONNECTIONS:

The online connections you make will be the source of your results. Use search functions to find people who talk about topics relevant to your business and chat with them or post comments on their blogs. Then add them to your networks (as many as they are on) and follow up with them.

Hypothetical Example: My business helps home owners make green decisions for their homes. I want to get the word out about my services and connect with new potential customers. I set up accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter, and invite all my friends, family, and my entire email address book to connect with me. I now need to find new people to connect with. I use search tools to find people talking about the green topic.

LinkedIn:

  1. I search for groups with a topic that may be within my target market. I may want to join the Mommy Bloggers group and the Chicago Home Builder Network. I go ahead and join all the groups I can think of.
  2. I post a “green home design” question within each one of the groups I joined to start a conversation and get my business name out there.
  3. I go to LinkedIn Advanced Answers Search and look for the green category. I answer some of the questions I find there.
  4. I send a LinkedIn invite to those who get engaged in the conversation.
  5. I repeat about once per week.

Twitter:

  1. I use the search function to search for “Chicago.” I read through the Chicago tweets.
  2. I pick 2-3 people to respond to. I add them to my network (use the “follow” function) right after.
  3. I search for a topic closer to my business, using terms “green” and “eco.”
  4. I picked 2-3 people to respond to. I “follow” those right after.
  5. I repeat every day following the daily workouts.

This strategy will add new people to your network every day. As your network expands so will your number of customers.

COMMITMENT:

I wrote about commitment at length in a previous post. Commitment doesn’t get discussed much in relation to social media, but I find it to be essential to the success of a business online, or any business anywhere for that matter. Once you decide to jump in the only way to see results is to press on through ongoing and recurring conversation. You MUST NOT give up.

Make online communication a daily habit just as checking email is a daily habit, keep your communication consistent and be persistent. It WILL pay off.

Participant questions:

Q: Does my business really have to be online on all these sites?

A: Yes, at least a presence on the main social networking sites. Would we had asked 20 years ago if a business should be in the phonebook? Social media sites are the new business directories.

Q: You seem to spend a lot of time online. A business couldn’t do that.

A: I do spend a lot of time online since it’s my job to do so and I love connecting with people and participating in communities. It doesn’t take being online all day to make it work. If you follow the “daily workouts” you’ll be able to get into a routine and become organized and effective online with only an hour a day. That’s less than what some spend on email.

And there were many other great questions.

Have another question? Please leave a comment.

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Since founding Lightspan, Mana has quickly established herself as one of Chicago's leading voices in social media and digital marketing. A decisive problem-solver fluent in five languages, Mana believes in clear objectives, simple solutions and the power of purpose in marketing. Credos: "No excuses" and "Find a way!"
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