Create a business. Tick. Set up social media accounts. Tick. And why are you doing it? Because "You have to be on social media. Everyone is on social media."
No really, why?
I hate to say it, but "because everyone is on social media" really shouldn't be the reason why. What surprises me is that if somebody told you that you have to do a print ad in a magazine, or have to run an event or need to go to networking events, have to sponsor an award etc., you would probably give more consideration to whether they were the right marketing channels. So, why not social media? (because it's 'free' isn't a great reason and answer to that question either - see why below)
Even if your audience is there, do they want to talk and what will you say?
Let's not forget that people aren't eagerly signing up to social media platforms to talk to brands. Sorry, but the much-used, generalist marketing terms about 'engagement' and 'education' fall very short here - you can't just barge in on people's social lives and expect them to stop, sit and have a chat with you.
Let me state clearly - I'm not saying don't use social media.
I'm saying consider why and how a little more carefully...
Consider what you have to offer
Social media isn't a megaphone to shout about you. By all means, talk about your latest product or service, but this shouldn't be the main part of your social content. Check out Innocent drinks, who, for me, is a social media king. They do post about products but their 'other' content by far outweighs product posts.
Whether you know it or not yet, you will have a lot to offer. As long as you know your audience, you will have value to offer outside of your product or service.
I had a question on a Facebook post the other day from a talented lady who runs social media for a theatre group aimed at families, asking about ways to increase social media engagement. A suggestion for her was to post about things other than updates on performances, rehearsals and new dates. She should explore giving advice and tips to parents whose children want to get into the theatre, for example.
Create posts that encourage open dialogue
You may have heard for a long while now that Facebook is changing. Facebook is facing a challenge after becoming a bit of a victim of their own success. Lots of people use Facebook, lots of brands are now on Facebook to reach those people and now people feel their Facebook feed is no longer about connecting with, and seeing updates from the people that they know.
Facebook is addressing these issues and you may already know that organic reach (i.e. not a paid ad) has declined hugely for businesses.
The basics of social media tell you that the more people like and comment on a post, the more people see it, and the more that platform 'rewards' you because you have clearly provided valuable content.
Going back to point no. 1, you should take the time to really know your audience and plan content which will encourage participation - comments, questions, answers and tagging others.
Go where your customers are, not just peers
Imagine you are a free-from food producer. How many foodies do you think you reach on Twitter or Facebook Vs Instagram? Is Twitter the right place to be for your consumers or could you use this platform for other audiences e.g. chefs, caterers, bloggers, journalists? You could use Facebook to reach consumers, but also to join other foodie groups, such as The Food Hub
Avoid simply replicating the exact same content on different platforms
Don't simply repeat the exact same content in the same way across each platform. The platforms are built to be used in different ways, so do so. There's lots more to go into here, so I feel a separate blog coming on.
Do a little research and 'snoop' on others
Do take a little time to get to know the platform and how individuals, brands and you competitors use it. Researching what makes good content, what you do and don't like about posts from others brands and individuals is a great way to help you find your own social voice.
Do consider putting a small amount of budget behind social media
The end of this title should say 'if you want faster growth and exposure".
Facebook is the best example of this. There are very few marketing channels (let alone social media) which offer the level of targeting that Facebook ads offer. It's a very cleverly designed system and it's not expensive. Play around with a small amount of budget and different ways to target people by location, interests and behaviour. It's an interesting little exercise in itself.
You can also use paid ads as good testing ground to reach more people and see which content engages more people, and then use that in your organic posts.
However, even if you don't spend money on social media ads...
Don't think of social media as free
This is the good old "Time is money" adage. Your time is valuable and should be considered the same as pounds in your pocket - and social media should take time; the planning part at the very least.
Any time you spend on social media is like spending virtual pounds. If it takes a lot of time and doesn't create a return, you are wasting minutes, hours and 'money' that could be better spent elsewhere.
A good exercise is to note the time you spend on social media and then consider where else might you be able to get a better return for some of your social media time?