A Beginner's Guide to Social Media Strategy

From multinational corporations to mom and pop flower shops, just about every business is getting in on the social media craze. And it’s no wonder. With a reach broader than that of traditional mass media and the ability to humanize the face of a business without labor intensive in-person strategies, social media is a powerful combination no business can afford to pass up. But using social media properly requires a big mentality shift, and confusion abounds. Before diving head first into the fray, it’s important to take a good look at a social media guide, keeping these tops tips in mind as you go.

How to Define What Social Media Success Looks Like

First and foremost, it’s important to know what social media success will look like, both in a general sense and as it relates to your unique business.

Generally: One easy to spot sign of social media success can be the number of fans and followers your business accrues across social media platforms, but usually a better marker is how active those followers are on your site or feeds. Taking short cuts like paying for fans generally won’t do much for you either as a means of establishing your brand or increasing your rankings in web searches, both of which require fans that actively share, comment on or link to your content and social media, acting as your brand ambassadors.

Specifically: Just what that means on a social level to your brand specifically will depend on your set social media goals (see below). But one measure that will definitely be specific to your business is how much revenue your social media efforts manage to generate. Social media is a marketing strategy, after all, and you can define your success in terms of the amount of sales and repeat business you generate as well as the amount of money you save by reducing customer service time and responding promptly to customers with complaints.

How to Set Social Media Goals

The savviest businesses think before they tweet by setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) social media goals. A few ways to do just that:

Know your customers: When you’re just starting out, it’s important to have a good grasp of who your audience is and just what kind of content they’re looking for. A good jumping off point is entering common questions into Google’s Keyword Tool to find holes in your niche that need filling, and developing a joint content and social media campaign to take that keyword over.

Know your brand and content strategy: The most successful businesses on social media have a clear voice and know where they’re headed. Do you want to become a thought leader in a competitive industry by writing quirky but helpful content, or do you want to stand out by creating a community in which users generate the bulk of the content while you profit off of ad revenue? Let your broader route and philosophy guide you in setting specific social media goals, whether that’s gunning for a set number of retweets or scoring ten top-notch guest posts for your blog.

Know your platforms: From Facebook to YouTube, different social media platforms attract different audiences with different interests and different rules for engagement. Knowing the way each platform works will help you research and run social media campaigns with different goals, like converting a certain amount of customers via a pinning contest on Pinterest or rewarding creative brand-related tweets on Twitter.

How to Monitor Progress with Metrics

No matter what social media strategies you take, it’s important to measure the results of your efforts. With a plethora of tools out there, beginners will benefit the most from the following easy to understand metrics:

Traffic and conversions: If you’ve got a Wordpress site, traffic sources and clicked links are easy spot on your dashboard, so keep your eyes peeled for traffic coming from your social media platforms. You can also sign up for a free Google Analytics account for more powerful tracking tools, or a host of paid sites which track conversion metrics, like the number of readers that make a purchase or sign up for a newsletter.

Number of active fans: As a good beginning measure, you can eyeball the amount of comments each social media post generates, as well as tactics that increase fans. Platforms like Facebook provide a weekly page update with metrics like reach, number of people talking about you, and traffic. But to really get a look at the hard numbers on most sites, you’ll have to employ a third party tool, like SproutSocial or Wildfire.

Mentions and shares: Set up a Google Alert or the Twitter hashtag search to track mentions of your company online, or use a spreadsheet to manually track number of shares. Social media is a powerful tool, and it doesn’t have to be a puzzle. With these principles to guide you, you’ll find success for your business on social media and beyond.