It used to be that only a few people were brave enough to take the leap when a new technology emerged. These early adopters blazed a path into the unknown, while the rest of us stayed at the top of the cliff waiting to hear if there was a splat.
We’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again. Perhaps, it goes back as far as the invention of the wheel or discovery of fire? There are the early adopters, the naysayers, and then there’s the rest of us.
The early adopters tend to be zealots willing to pay exorbitant prices to become leaders in their field, but many just end up being beta testers (kind of like we have been for Microsoft). The naysayers stand at the bottom of the cliff counting all of those who do not survive the leap as evidence that none should jump.
Recently, however, many of the wait-and-see crowd have taken the plunge off the cliff following the early adopters just like a group of lemmings. The thuds on the ground below from the failure of small business social media strategies have been drowned out by the social media cheerleaders at the top.
Developing a Social Media Strategy for Your Small Business
Did I say it was small business social media strategies that were failing? Let me be more specific. It is the Social-Media-for-Dummies type of how-to advice from would-be gurus that many small business owners are calling a strategy that’s failing (a mouthful, I know).
Social media is a great tool in the right hands, but in the hands of someone that does not know how to use it properly it can be disastrous. Even if you have been properly trained on how to use a tool, it does not mean that it is the proper tool for the job.
It also doesn’t guarantee that if you follow a guru step-for-step that you will be able to repeat their results. It’s like saying you can sculpt The David by knowing how to use a hammer and chisel and reading a book on Michelangelo’s methods.
So, what is a small business owner supposed to do with social media? You must first sit down and develop a strategy. Go back to grade school. Ask the five basic questions – who, what, when, where, and why.
Who are You Targeting with Your Social Media?
It isn’t that surprising that many small business owners fail to reach their target audience with social media. Most of them have never defined their target customer offline either.
Jumping on the Twitter or Facebook bandwagon because you read how much traffic these sites receive, or that some guru had great success there, doesn’t help much if your potential or existing customers are not there.
If you do not know who you are targeting it’s not likely that your message is going to hit the mark. Knowing your audience is the very foundation of any good advertising or marketing campaign. Be as specific as you can.
Have an image of this person in your head when you develop, and later implement, your social media strategy.
The Whats to Ask about Your Social Media Strategy?
There are many whats that you can ask when it comes to social media.
What are Your Target Customer’s Interests?
Now that you have a specific image of your target customer, what do they care about? A cardinal rule of selling is that you don’t sell the product or service, you sell the benefits. You need to know what your customer cares about to know how your product or service benefits your customers.
What do You want to Say to Your Customers?
What is it that you want to say to your customer? Nothing is worse than finding the right target but delivering the wrong message. Too many times I see small business owners babble on about random subjects often having nothing to do with their business. If you don’t have a defined message then you will not be successful with social media.
What is This Going to Cost Me?
Most social media networks are free to use, but that does not mean there isn’t a cost. Effectively using social media will require a lot of time, either your time or someone you hire. Depending on your computer and marketing skills, and your desire to climb the steep learning curve, the costs can quickly become prohibitive for a small business to implement a full social media strategy.
When Should You Implement Your Social Media Strategy?
Social media is just one tool in your advertising and marketing arsenal. It is rarely effective on its own; however, when used in connection with traditional tools and leveraging other online tools it can be very effective. If these other tools are not in place, your social media efforts may be in vain.
Where do Your Customers Hang Out?
The last thing you want to do is show up at the wrong party or to throw a party and have nobody show up. Do your research when it comes to social media networks. Find out which networks your customers, or potential customers, are using. A tree may make a sound when it falls in the forest, but if nobody is there to hear it who cares?
Why do You Want to Use Social Media?
This is probably the most telling question of all. Why do you want to use social media? What is it that you expect to receive?
If the answer is that everyone else is doing it, or some guru told me I needed to do it, then you are probably a social media lemming. If you do not understand why you are using social media, it is very unlikely that you will be effective with it.