Entrepreneurs and business owners in general are guilty of a BIG mistake.

 

Over and over, they tend to see social media as more of a nuisance than an opportunity. It’s not that they don’t understand the importance of social outreach. It’s that they don’t have time for it.

 

They’re also wondering if it’s worth their trouble.

 

Today I’m going to talk about why social marketing is worth your trouble and how you can do it effectively. Here are the strategies that I’ve seen work. These strategies not only help busy entrepreneurs get their brand in front of a huge audience—they also actually end up bringing a huge return on a relatively small investment of time.

 

Note: Most of these points pertain to your blog and to Facebook, but you’ll find much of it applies to Twitter, Instagram, and how you set up content on your business website as well.

 

Let’s get started.

 

Define Your Goals

 

Write out what you plan to achieve with social marketing. Do you want more interaction with potential customers? Do you want better relations with existing customers? Are you seeking new leads for sales? Or are you floating new product ideas to your customer base?

 

Have a clear plan for your social media strategies and your expected results. If you open a bunch of accounts and start posting without coming up with a strategy first, you’re doing it wrong. Your social outreach will end up being a huge time suck with little to no reward for your business.

 

Look Beyond Facebook

These days Facebook makes it hard for businesses to market to their fans. You can post to your page and only a tiny percentage of your followers will even see it. Facebook wants you to pay for more visibility; it’s as simple as that.

 

While there are some ways to get around the new Facebook policies (more on that later), I encourage you to not overlook Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn when you’re coming up with your social media marketing plan—some of them or all of them will give you reach that you won’t get on Facebook alone. Take advantage of this now—chances are it won’t last forever.

 

Have a Plan to Create Content

Do you have tons of free time to write blogs and Facebook updates? No, of course not. So where do you find all this engaging content that will help you achieve your business goals?

 

  1. Look at your email outbox. You probably spend a lot of time answering questions. Use your blog and other social outlets to answer these questions and have the discussions that you are already having. That way you aren’t spending extra time to write it out and email it each time an issue comes up. You will probably end up saving yourself time in the long run.
  2. Look at your bookmarks. You should build a “swipe sheet” of blogs and other websites you find interesting. Use these as a launching point. Write about the same things they are writing about only give it your own spin and address things they didn’t address. (More on “piggybacking” later.)
  3. Recycle content. A great blog post can usually be broken out into two or three great Facebook posts. Change the wording a little or don’t. It doesn’t matter. You can probably also take two or three main points from that same blog post and send them out as Tweets. None of your social outreach is done in a vacuum; make sure everything you send out builds on everything else, that everything complements your message.

The important thing to remember is this: Social marketing isn’t the place for the hard sell. This is “top of the funnel” marketing, where you’re building your audience and establishing a relationship with them.

 

When you’re deciding what to post, put yourself in the user’s position. How would you react when someone keeps trying to sell you something? You would start to ignore them, right? Focus on your products and your offers in some of your posts, but for most of your posts, write something your audience will find useful, funny or educational. A balanced mix of post types keeps fans engaged.

 

Post some “conversation starters.” Conduct an informal poll. Ask your followers opinions about things. Get them to tell a story in the comments section. Answer their questions. Entertain them. People love to share a motivational quote or a shocking statistic. If a funny meme brings 25 likes and 10 shares, those people are more likely to see your next post.

 

No, you probably won’t “go viral.” But you can watch your audience grow exponentially over time, and that’s almost as awesome.

 

Use a Scheduling Tool

Who has time to post on social media multiple times a day? Not you.

 

There are services that can schedule your social posts and post on your behalf. HootSuite, SproutSocial and Buffer are some of the big ones. Have a content schedule with at least two weeks’ worth of posts created in advance. Sometimes you’ll need to respond to questions quickly (especially on Twitter), but for the most part you want to “set it and forget it” so you can get back to running your business.

 

Use Compelling Images

Did you know Tweets with an image are retweeted 26% more often than those without (and favorited 36% more often?)?

 

Did you know blogs with images get twice the readers as text-only blogs, and blog posts with at least one image results in twice the shares on Facebook and Twitter?

 

Use good images. Take the pictures yourself or invest in an image service. And make sure you use images that are the right size. 1,024 pixels wide by 512 pixels is my rule of thumb for both Twitter and Facebook. But if you want to get really precise, see also this handy Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet.

 

Use Videos To Promote Engagement

Studies show that if you post your video directly to Facebook, you’ll get better results than if you simply link a video that’s hosted on YouTube. These “native” videos have an organic reach of around 9 percent (compared to 6 percent for text-only statuses and 4 percent for photo posts).

 

Create how-to videos if you can. You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg here. Just be helpful and engaging. Your audience will respond—I guarantee it.

 

Find the Right Frequency and Timing

How much posting is too much? Dennis Yu over at SocialFresh says you can post on Facebook 10 times per day if you want, so long as you have excellent content that your fans don’t find irritating. I’d say as long as you’re posting two or three times a week (minimum, and that’s just Facebook), you’ll be fine.

 

What about timing? Make sure the timing of your posts makes sense for your audience. Do you have a restaurant that’s focused on lunch specials? If so, you absolutely need to post late in the morning to catch people just as they’re starting to think about where they’re going to eat. If your business sees a lot of business on a particular day, make sure you’re posting that day. Don’t post late at night—the lifetime of a Facebook post is very short, and by the time your audience wakes up your post will be buried.

 

Most important, don’t just abandon your Facebook account for a week or two. Studies show that not posting at all for more than a week means your next post (when you finally start posting again) is seen by almost nobody. If you’re going on vacation, make sure you have a posting scheduler doing the work for you!

 

Use Advanced Facebook Targeting

As I mentioned earlier, it’s getting harder and harder to reach all your fans/followers on Facebook. In a way, this isn’t such a bad thing. You may be reaching a smaller audience, but you target your posts so you’re making the most of the audience that IS able to see your posts.

 

To create targeted posts, click on the option below “write something” that says “Narrow the potential news feed audience for this post.” You can segment by age range, location and more. Posting directly to a subset of people who liked your business page gives you a lot of control, and it doesn’t cost any extra.

 

Ready for an  advanced Facebook tactic? Learn how to do dark posts. I would say 60% of successful ads on Facebook are dark post ads. The other 40% are PPE (Page Post Engagement) ads.

 

Dark posts let you to split test a post (sending one version to part of your audience and another version to another part of your audience to see which performs best). They also enable you to post ads without them appearing on your own timeline. You can run different product ads as sponsored posts, target different audiences, split test headlines and even create personalized messages for demographic and geographic targets. You can literally run dozens of ads all on the same day without a single ad showing in your own news stream and making everyone unlike your “spammy” feed.

 

Access the Power Editor (through Ads Manager) to get started with dark posts.

 

Listen to Criticism

Facebook Insights (under the “Posts” section) will show you when your audience is reacting negatively to what you’re posting. You get raw data on how often someone clicked “hide post,” “hide all posts,” “report page as spam,” and “unlike page.” If your negative feedback is greater than about one per 100 interactions, you’re doing something wrong.

Pro tip: Download your CSV insights file to see all this data.

 

Piggyback On Your Competition

Want to see what other marketers are doing via social media? Socialbakers and BuzzSumo can help.

Socialbakers is a social media analytics service that will give you deep insight into paid posts and show how often competitors pay to promote their social content. BuzzSumo shows what content is working and the influencers who amplify it.

 

  1. Go to Socialbakers (http://www.socialbakers.com/) Search for the vertical/niche that you are interested in (at the top of the page).
  2. Check out the top accounts for Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can do research on brands, celebrities and communities. You can drill down by geography and get as much detail as you need.
  3. Once you’ve identified the “leaders” in your niche, get the links to their blogs and their home pages.
  4. Now, go to www.BuzzSumo.com and input their blog URL.  Under the “Influencers” section, you can locate all of the social media users within your specified industry, topic, or keyword that have the most reach. On the right you can see how they are ranked through page authority, domain authority, followers, retweet ratio, reply ratio, and average tweets.
  5. Now you can track the top pages in your vertical, plus the top content from their blogs. “Like” them and track their posts.
  6. An added bonus: Thanks to retargeting, you will start to see ads from these pages on Facebook and elsewhere. Knowing what message your competition is putting out gives you an edge. Monitoring their approach helps you create your own effective social media funnel.

 

Thanks for following along—this was a long post, but it’s a big topic. Don’t be overwhelmed by social media. It’s an important part of your business growth plan. Ignoring it will costs you. Doing it right will mean a huge return on a relatively small investment of time and effort.