1. How to Start a Social Media Campaign

    Businesses are increasingly becoming interested in social media as an avenue to reach new customers and grow the public mindshare of their business to new audiences. However, before many businesses are willing to dive into social media they want to see metrics, and examples of successes.

    Though establishing an social media presence for your business can be a daunting task, there are several proven strategies for both establishing your campaign and tracking it’s results that you can use to get started on the right path.

    Establish Goals

    How is social media going to help your business?

    Before you spend any time or money on your marketing efforts, make sure that you have a clearly defined list of goals and expectations for your marketing campaign.

    It is not a good idea to move too quickly through this phase. Clearly defined goals will keep you on track and provide milestones for tracking your marketing efforts success rates.

    Sample Goals

    • Monitor company brand / name online.
    • Increase sales pipeline from online sales by 20% by end of year.
    • Promote new umbrella insurance packages to potential customers.
    • Increase search engine traffic to our site by 30% by end of year.
    • Reach out to customers via mobile devices and Twitter.
    • Establish expertise and mindshare of our business online.

    The goals can be simple, just make them clear enough that they can be understood by your team.

    Create a Plan

    How will your goals be achieved?

    Clearly defined goals will give you an idea for what you want, and the tools and services that you need to reach those goals will fall into place.

    When entering into the planning phase it is important to know that the process may not be easy. There will be some trial and error, and results are not overnight. Unless you’re selling a miracle product or service that sells itself you’re going to need to put in work for at least several months before you can start seeing quantifiable results.

    The most difficult part of jumping into social media is finding programs that fit your business and which are effective in generating community around your brand. Fortunately, there is copious amount of examples and real-world case studies that detail potential social media programs that you can tailor to your specific needs.

    Popular Programs

    Blogging – Yes, blogging is social media. One of the consistently high-performing mediums for attracting new leads to your website is through quality blogging.

    A few blog posts each month that provide well written, easy-to-follow information that is useful to your customers can help bring targeted, pre-qualified customers right to your website, and help establish you as an expert.

    The more often you blog, the higher the chance that Google will return to your site and rank you higher in their search results.

    When tied into your social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, you will be able to share your blog posts to a wide and varied audience.

    Mixed Media – Video testimonials and “Vlogs” are extremely effective ways to get your voice heard in a viral sense. You can use a iPhone or an inexpensive flip camera to create your own viral-friendly videos that provide value to people in the net.

    These videos can be shared through your social networks, blogs, and other mediums all bringing people back to you and your business.

    Local Search / Social Networks – Find out where your customers are going to find the services and goods that you offer. Once you find out where your customers are searching, make sure that your business is highly promoted in those areas.

    Contests & Giveaways – These are great ways to engage interest in your brand. Businesses can engage in giveaways or contests through their social networks. Figure out a plan that gets your company great exposure, while engaging your social networks.

    Not only do contests build buzz in an organic sense, they also have the potential to go viral if interaction is required in order to take place in the contest. Referral rewards, and word-of-mouth promotions could easily be tied into a social networking campaign.

    These are just a few ideas that can be employed to create your plan. Remember, you can’t plan for every contingency, you need to expect some trial and error.

    Execution

    Put your plan into action.

    Now comes the exciting part, you get to engage in your social network!

    Most people are fairly enthusiastic about this phase. Business owners are action people so now that they’ve got their goals defined and their plan in place, they are ready to begin “doing”.

    This is a great attitude, however, these same people tend to lose their interest when they aren’t seeing the results that they expected. Again, it takes consistent effort and work to participate and engage in a social network.

    It took me about five or six months of hard work, constant participation and trial and error before I started to see results of my labor. If your market is very competitive, you may even need more time before you start competing with early adopters from other businesses.

    In order for you to have success with your efforts, you must tie your social media programs in with as many applicable parts of your business as is humanly possible.

    • Your email signature should invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn, Facebook or follow you on Twitter.
    • You should have a sticker on your business window that invites people to follow you on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.
    • You should be engaging offline as well, ask your customers if they use social networks, invite them to connect with you. Tell them that you give you useful information, tips, and share special deals.
    • Create a social media policy for your business that creates guidelines for your employees that encourages social media use but regulates it so that it is still appropriate to your work environment.
    • Tie your social media campaign in with your offline advertising efforts.

    There are hundreds of details that are involved with successfully executing an online marketing campaign. In order to successfully traverse it, be aware that you might need help, and never be afraid to Google for some answers or ideas.

    Results

    Tracking the success of your social media efforts.

    In order for you to track the ROI if your social media efforts you need to have the right tools in place.

    There are many ways of tracking inbound leads, and opportunities, however, the simplest way to find out is to simply ask your customers. When engaging with a customer, ask them how they found out about you.

    Chances are, many customers will reference some traditional medium or referral method. However, with consistent effort in your online campaigns, diligent involvement and tracking, you may see that people will begin these social media programs.

    Social Media Isn’t Bulletproof

    There is no magic about social media. It’s simply a different marketing approach than what you’re used to using. Many of the common sense rules of business and customer service still apply and are in-fact instrumental in maintaining a good reputation online.

    Social networks can be a double edged sword for many businesses. Sure you can generate lots of leads and get plenty of followers, but if your customer service isn’t up to par, you’re likely to get some negative attention through those same social networks.

    Now, don’t let that throw you. You can’t avoid bad reviews by simply avoiding the social networks, your customers are still going to talk about you even if you don’t participate. I wrote several articles about that and have been a strong advocate for engaging your customers wherever they choose to exists.

    In fact, good customer service and support can be an incredible sales tool for connecting with new potential customers. Even a bad situation, when handled well, can be an impressive feat that will garnish the respect and attention of potential customers.

    Helpful Tips

    Here are a few high-level thoughts that you should keep in the back of your mind as you begin to explore social media as a marketing option:

    1. You must be consistent in your efforts. Don’t just create a profile and then leave it blank. This kind of attitude will be a turn-off to customers.
    2. Don’t be “that guy” – Don’t use cheap buzz-words like “guru” or something that cheapens your product or service. Value your business.
    3. Reach out and help someone – One of the most effective ways to connect with people is to answer a question or provide help in some way. Even if it’s not in your specific area of expertise, if you know how to fix a problem, reach out and help someone.
    4. Be real, and sincere – If a mistake happens, or you have an unhappy customer, handle them with honesty and humility. Customer support should be a sales opportunity!
    5. Put a name and a face to each social network – Don’t just put your logo and company name on the account and call it quits, create a persona that people can connect with. This is social media!
    6. Meter yourself – Your participation online is not so much about volume, but rather quality.
    7. Focus your efforts – Figure out which social networks will work best for your company and focus your efforts there. You can always branch out and expand at a later date.
    8. Provide value – Sharing industry news, stories, or responding to relevant questions are great ways to establish yourself as an expert.
    9. Educate yourself – There are 100s of blogs and publications that update on a day-to-day basis. Setup and RSS feed and keep yourself in the loop once a week.
    10. The Golden RuleSocial media is not about you, it is about what you can do for someone else.

    Hopefully this guide will provide you with some useful direction as you begin to dive into social media.

    If you have questions, or would like to discuss this topic, feel free to email me, or discuss in the comments below.

    Happy socializing!