In today’s entrepreneurial market, I believe there’s a misconception that simply posting your ad on social media is a sure-fire way to gain customers, but that’s not quite how it works. Yes, you can drive traffic to your business via the web and social media, but you must have some knowledge of how to do so. It can take time, practice and a lot of money to effectively use social media to gain new customers, and time and money are not luxury items startup businesses have to waste.
As an entrepreneur and co-founder of a company that works with small businesses, I’ve learned a few truths about social media and online marketing I believe are effective regardless of industry. Try these three fundamental tips for online marketing:
1. Include structure, a theme and a timeline for your posts.
Don’t make the mistake of posting items you think are interesting and splattering them on your social media outlets without having a plan of execution. Think of it this way: If you had a telephone marketing team in your office, they would likely have a plan. They would know who to call, why they were reaching out to a certain demographic, what to say and how to enable customers to take action and buy.
Apply this same type of planning to your online marketing approach. I believe a great thing about social media is that it’s as if you have access to a massive call center that allows you to reach infinitely more people — all from the convenience of your computer. But you must have a game plan.
A good approach to find what types of content and posts will be relevant to your target audience is to sit with your team and ask for feedback. Specifically, identify the key selling features of your product that most of your customers like. From there, post content that reflects those items. Each post is essentially a sales pitch, and though the content doesn’t have to be ultra “pushy,” it should have a goal.
2. Understand that not all social media is the same.
Each social media outlet has its own strengths and weaknesses. Each platform also has its own formula for success, and often each carries a very different type of audience. A common mistake I’ve seen is that companies will either hire an internal social media marketer or an external company, and they end up posting the same content across various channels without specifically adjusting that content to fit the medium.
For example, a long, text-heavy post on Facebook wouldn’t carry over into a tweet due to Twitter’s 280-character limit. An Instagram post, on the other hand, should feature images first and written content second. Other mediums, such as YouTube or Snapchat, work primarily with video posts. And I have found that LinkedIn is a helpful medium to sell business-to-business, as its users are there to network.
So which medium is right for you? Do some research to identify two things. First, which platform can give you the easiest direct access to your target audience? Second, which platform most easily allows you to demonstrate your product or services online?
Try not to be the master of all social medium sites all at the same time. This is a common and fatal flaw, as it contradicts the ability to gain a hyper-targeted audience (and it can mean you’ve wasted money on ads). Instead, find two or three social media that best fit your ability to operate them and match your product or services. From there, your focus should be on growing your audience and gaining exposure.
3. Post original content.
As an entrepreneur, you will likely wear many hats and learn to delegate, but I believe one area you should keep within your company — and not outsource to a retailer — is social media marketing. Social media reflects you and your company’s personality. The content that is posted should be original, and what will make it interesting is having it reflect your company’s culture.
In my experience, people like to read and watch content that is unique and appeals to their interests. If you are already targeting the right demographic, then the next step is to be different than your competition. Going with mainstream retailers in your industry or having a marketing firm repost generic content might not only make it difficult for you to grow an audience, but I believe it could also cause some of your consumers to find your content too boring.
A simple tip is to get your top sales representatives to post on a regular basis. You can set up a schedule to help with this. These salespeople are on the front lines, and they will know the industry and what your customers are saying and want. Ultimately, they should be able to effectively engage with your audience.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t expect customers to come running toward your website or retail shop if you don’t have an effective digital marketing plan. Understand the medium you intend to use. Learn your audience through research. And stay true to yourself and your vision when it comes to content creation. Then simply wash, rinse and repeat.