Are you getting a satisfactory return from your social media marketing?

Reading between the lines of the top questions asked by Tyson Report readers about this topic last week, I suspect the answer is either ‘no’, or ‘I don’t know’…

Well, let’s see if we can fix both those things over the next week or so, as I break down my responses to those questions into three broad themes:

  • Part 1 – Basic Principles & Strategy (this post)
  • Part 2 – Getting Results: Sales & Return on Investment
  • Part 3 – Specific  Platforms & Tools

Today is Part 1, so let’s talk about basic principles and strategy. Please leave me a comment below if you find this helpful or have further follow-up questions based on what we talk about.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Elizabeth asks: ‘how can social media be used to better service the business, than a TV commercial or a newspaper ad?’

Now, you may instinctively feel that ‘it’s obvious’ that you should be using social media. After all, ‘everyone’ is ‘on it’ these days, right?

But actually Elizabeth raises an interesting issue. A lot of small businesses have just jumped into social media because it seems like the thing to do, and hey – it’s free, right?

And you might say, ‘well Robert, you encourage this because your primary giveaway is to do with social media marketing.’ Which is true… but I know I attract a lot more people if I offer information about social media (I’ve split-tested it!). Once I have your attention, I can point out the things you really ought to focus on, BEFORE social media.

You see, social media sites are just tools. They aren’t a strategy in themselves. And, like any other marketing channel you could name, it’s not a given you should invest in them.

And make no mistake – even if you don’t dip into your wallet, it’s never free to maintain a social media presence, because it takes your most precious resource of all…

TIME.

If you spend 30 minutes a day updating social media accounts, five days a week, and can’t definitively tie that activity back to at least £820 worth of actual BUSINESS per year… then you’ve spent more than THREE WHOLE WEEKS of your year working at less than the UK minimum wage.

And that’s just thinking about revenue – never mind profit. Not too good if you’re a business owner.

Like any other marketing activity, time spent on social media must justify itself, and in Part 2 I’ll explain how you can find out whether your social media activities are paying or not, using web analytics.

Social media platforms also stack up poorly in comparison to opt-in email marketing in another fundamental way: you don’t own them and you can’t control them.

If you have a Facebook business page, you may now be only too aware of this.

Remember all those preciously acquired ‘fans’? Well, Facebook changed the rules of the game and you typically need to cough up to reach them now, with the average ‘organic’ (i.e. unpaid) reach on Facebook posts now hovering around the 2% mark.

Little wonder that readers like Geoff are asking ‘is time spent updating your status really worth the effort, or should we forget about news-feeds and focus on the paid advertising?’

The bottom line, Geoff, is ‘yes’… or at least it’s ‘yes’ UNTIL you get a lot of other stuff sorted first.

As with SEO, a marketing strategy built on ‘free’ social media activity is a house of cards – whereas, if you can get your sales processes to work profitably with paid advertising, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Seriously!

So, if ‘unpaid’ social shouldn’t be your top marketing priority, what is?

As my friend Sean Clark and I covered this in our recent podcast, The First 6 Steps To Marketing Any Website (Hint: Social Media Is NOT No.1!) , your first steps should be:

1. Web analytics – understand and measure what is happening at your website.

2. Data capture – of email addresses at minimum.

3. Pay per click advertising – reliable traffic source allowing you to tweak your online marketing/sales processes until they actually work.

4. Opt-in email marketing – still the backbone that helps you build relationships and market pro-actively.

5 and 6. Either social media or SEO, depending on your situation.

Listen to the podcast for the full lowdown, but in a nutshell, your social media activity should always, always be secondary to what you do at your main website hub and through your own opt-in email list (which you own and control 100%).

I hope this goes some way to answering Alan’s question: ‘how to be strategic about social media?’

Now, once you do get to step 5 or 6 and you start to think doing ‘free’ social media, your basic strategy should be as follows:

  • Create and/or share content which has value in the context of your niche
  • Pro-actively interact with people in your niche by joining conversations, liking, following, retweeting
  • Do both with regularity to grow your footprint and influence

The ‘value’ part of the equation is what small businesses most often get wrong.

As I said in ‘30 Social Media Hacks’, if all you do is shout about yourself – YOUR business, YOUR products, YOUR offers – no-one will want to listen.

People care about themselves and their needs, not yours.

So if you do nothing but flood your social channels with desperate-looking ‘buy now’ messages, you are actually turning off potential customers and getting further away from a relationship.

At the same time, you CAN and SHOULD sell on social media… it’s a matter of getting the balance right.

Let’s talk about how you provide value first. What is value?

You provide value when you help the other person get what THEY want.

This might be information, news, or resources that help them professionally, in their business or job, or satisfy personal needs, interests or desires.

Brainstorm the type of value your ideal customer would like and that you can provide. You don’t need to interpret it super-narrowly:

  • If you sell handmade furniture for example, talk about interior design in general, about easy furniture care, about the materials you use and what makes them special.
  • If you’re a personal trainer, the value you can provide probably isn’t just related to exercise per se, but also to diet, wellbeing, and the active lifestyle.
  • If you’re a pest controller, don’t just talk about how people can protect their homes and outbuildings from pests, but give tips for homeowners in general.

The key is to pinpoint your ideal customer, and understand what’s important in their lives.

Create your own valuable content around those ideas and share it, and/or collect and share other people’s useful content in the same area (here’s a list of tools to help you do it).

If you do this consistently, then not only will your following grow but you will earn the right, in the minds of your connections, to promote yourself directly from time to time.

Because they appreciate your useful content, they’ll be receptive to hearing more of what you can offer (and frequently they will come to you for help without you even asking!).

Want a rule of thumb?

Limit directly promotional activity to no more than 20% of your output on social media sites.

So to answer Christian’s question, ‘can social media really penetrate the target consumer on a start-up or no budget?’, the answer is yes – but if you aren’t prepared to spend money, better be prepared to spend time.

Personally, I see that as a false economy. And it’s one reason why I increasingly believe the best way to play social sites from here on out will be to master paid advertising on these platforms.

But let’s say you’re out there doing this – posting, tweeting, interacting. ‘How far should you engage in non-specific ‘chat’ in order to develop business relationships?’ asks Steve.

The first point I’ll make is that in Part 2, I’ll explain how to track return on investment from your social media activities. Once you have this in place, then if all the time you spend chatting makes a profit, keep chatting! If not, stop.

The second thing I’ll say is that if you’re doing this for business, you should always be friendly, helpful and polite. You wouldn’t go to a networking meeting and be sullen and rude would you?

Beyond that Steve, my advice is to do whatever you feel comfortable with.

You will never find me sharing pictures of cute animals or peppering my tweets with ‘OMG!!!’.

If you do, I don’t criticize, but it’s not me. Does that make me come off like a cold fish to some people? Maybe… but I know the ‘cute animal’-style of communication probably turns off as many people as it turns on.

If you’re honest about who you are, and are sharing material of value, then over time people will appreciate it. And if they don’t? Forget ‘em. You’ll find your own ‘tribe’.

These basic concepts – providing value but doing some selling too, and not trying to please everyone – hold true no matter what social platform you’re looking at.

But naturally the question pops up: ‘which channels are the best for my business?’ (Sam).

Here’s the first golden rule: you can’t do them all.

For best results, master ONE platform first.

That’s why when I saw Paul’s question:

‘We do Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. What other social media would be best to next jump on to, bearing in mind we want to push more people to our websites?’

…my first thoughts are a) there is a real danger of spreading yourself too thin and b) are these paying off for you?

If there are only one or two of you in the business then I doubt jumping on to another social site is actually the right thing to do, because either the ones you’re using:

  • Aren’t making you money – in which case they either need more focus, or abandoning altogether.
  • Are making you money – in which case you’d probably be better off doubling down on them, rather than diluting your efforts.

But returning to Sam’s question, the platform to try to master first will of course depend on the kind of market you’re going for. Instagram has a very different demographic and feel to LinkedIn, say.

Since Sam’s business is about helping overworked SME owners, I’d suggest she starts with LinkedIn or possibly Twitter.

Choosing the right traffic source for your business can be difficult, and it’s something my VIP Members and I discussed in detail in our ‘Traffic Webinar’ a few months back. I won’t make a habit of releasing this content outside of my VIP Members but I do think it will help a lot of people so I will share it here:

If you watch the video above, you’ll notice how I talk about your choice of traffic source depending to some extent on your personality too, so when Sandra says ‘I never know what to tweet or totally how Twitter works therefore tweets are few and far between. Facebook, to me, is easy by comparison’, the answer is obvious to me!

If you have a natural affinity for a particular social site, and your market is there, then don’t overcomplicate things. Go for that one. As a solo business owner I just don’t think you can or should do more than one social site really well.

Of course, if you don’t already know which social site is best for your market, it’s time to do some research.

For example, Simon asks ‘is there a resource anywhere which lists the relevant popularity of social media sites for different countries of the world?  For example, what is the order in India, South Africa or Australia?’

The international picture has changed and become more ‘winner-takes-all’ over the last few years, with local players edged out by the big guns we’re all familiar with in most markets a Western business would probably be going for. For instance, Orkut used to be the big player in India, but it’s now been well and truly superceded by Facebook and the rest.

This is a chunky presentation but should give you everything you need to know Simon:

Simon continues: ‘other points fall out of this: should a blog post contain local language content and are there plug-ins for WordPress to contribute to these alternative blog sites?’

My first port of call would be Google Analytics, which will give you an indication of where people are visiting from and in turn tell you how much time and effort is warranted on this. (If you don’t have web analytics like Google Analytics on your website, drop everything and get it installed!)

Many web browsers – notably Google Chrome – do a decent job of translating websites anyway these days (you can see some stats on share of browser market here).

But if you want to take it further, then yes, you can consider a WordPress plugin. I’ve not had call to use any myself so can’t comment on which is the best but here’s a useful list to start you off.

Don’t forget – in a few days time I’ll be answering more readers questions in part 2 of 3, this time on results, sales and return on investment…

We’ll cover questions like:

  • ‘How do I measure my Twitter performance? – Roger
  • ‘How can you increase sales from social media and not just traffic?’ – Chris
  • ‘What are the top two proven tips in converting “posts” into payment?’ – Christian

Stay tuned for that, and please leave me your comments or questions below!

Episode 39 of The Small Business Marketing Report is a podcast all about… podcasting! And more importantly, how you can start one for YOUR business.

Once you are over the technical hurdles (which really aren’t all that high), podcasting can be a fantastic promotional tool that raises you above your competition. You can become your own media publisher with a platform you control at very low cost, and build deep relationships with your subscribers, because you’re ‘in their ears’.

Follow our guide and you could soon be rubbing shoulders with some of the best media brands in the world on iTunes and other podcast outlets.

Here are the links to some of the applications, equipment and websites mentioned in the show:

Listen in to the show, and if you have any questions then please feel free to comment below or on our Google+ page.

Subscribe to this podcast via iTunes and if you like it we’d be grateful if you could leave a review.

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