Why are social networks so important for your start-up?

You’ve created a social media presence, but what next? Found out how to maximise the potential of social to meet your business objectives

You've set up your social networks – created a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, G+. They're all looking great and you have all these social media icons lined up on your website. However, the big question is WHY?

Why are you on social networks?

You may have decided to join social media for a number of reasons:

  • Your competitors are on them and so you need to ‘keep up with the Joneses'.
  • You've done a lot of market research and identified that many of your clients/customers are now turning to these channels regularly for advice and conversation – so you need to join in.
  • You want to look as if you are a progressive business – and showcase these icons on your website.

These are all valid points, but an even better answer would be something along the lines of the below:

“We use a number of communication channels. Given that there's been a shift in consumerism, and online visibility is such an important part of our everyday lives, we are now exploring how these potentially far-reaching communication channels can become part of our communication mix, both internally and externally, to help us deliver on our business objectives.”

The key message here is twofold:

Firstly, social media is another form of communication for your start-up and an extremely effective one at that. Social media platforms allow you to spread your business message far wider than before, and for free or very little cost.

Secondly, social networks provide another tool to enable you to meet your business objectives, for instance driving more traffic to a particular section of your website. It can be easy to get carried away with the number of Twitter followers you have or the number of likes on your business Facebook page but what's important is utilising social media alongside other strategies to reach wider business targets.

Dedicate sufficient resources

Once you understand the reasoning behind social media it's far easier to ensure you use it effectively.

However, any organisation that is leveraging social media platforms effectively will tell you that you need to dedicate sufficient resources to see results in terms of:

  • Time – To develop processes and systems to integrate social media within your business
  • People – Training your people, educating them on what can and can't be discussed (policies/guidelines), content creation, curation, sharing, listening and tracking, conversing, targeting and measuring
  • Money – Training your people, advertising spend to boost awareness and visibility.

They will also tell you that whilst you can start to see results quite quickly, actually building purposeful and relevant networks on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook takes time and dedication.

Think about it – it takes time for people to get to know you, like you, trust you and ultimately talk about you.

So, now you know why it is important and also that you need time to see results, here is my six step plan for making the best use of social media.

  1. Examine your strategic business objectives. Once you've figured out your ‘Why' – then you'll find that steers your whole activity. So be sure to have covered that critical element before you dive in.
  2. Identify which social networks will help you to achieve these objectives. Each of the channels can be used in different ways from sales to customer service and from brand awareness to networking. Sites like LinkedIn and Google+ are very much B2B while Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are more B2C. One size does definitely NOT fit all on social!
  3. Plan how you are going to use the different channels, what content you will use and who will manage the sites for you. You'll need to dedicate resources to see results.
  4. Ensure you Listen. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of social media. What conversations are taking place, what are your customers saying, what are your competitors doing?
  5. Analyse these conversations so you can create the correct content, target the right people and understand your business environment. There are lots of free tools to do this as well as premium versions.
  6. Finally you will be in a position to engage properly. You will have plenty of content, you'll understand your audience and you'll be able to measure the performance of your activity.

Follow these steps and you'll be well on your way to maximising the social networks rather than just ticking the social media box and hoping for the best that they work!

The Business of Being Social, published by Crimson Publishing, is available to buy now.


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