By now you probably know that a social networking presence for your small business is no longer just a luxury – it has become an expectation. fatburner-test Today, your overall online presence must include not only a great website, but also a consistent social networking strategy that is integrated with your other marketing assets. Social networking is here to stay, and your business needs to get social with a solid presence and an ongoing strategy to create the credibility and visibility needed for success today.
Here are three steps that can help you create a sustainable social marketing strategy for your small business:
1. Build an Integrated System
By building an integrated social marketing “system,” you can connect your social profiles, your website, and other marketing efforts so that your branding is consistent and your online initiatives all work together seamlessly. For example, your Facebook page should be able to “talk” to your web site, your Twitter “tweets” can be displayed on your Facebook page, and your blog posts can be RSS-fed to your LinkedIn profile. An integrated system means that you can update your marketing with a “write once, publish to many” model that saves time and ensures consistency across all online channels.
You may need some outside professional expertise to help with the integration work, but it is well worth it in the time you’ll save updating and posting to your social profiles. Integrated social posts can also drive additional visibility as information is “liked” and shared among users and their contacts across multiple platforms.
2. Create a Content Pipeline
Most businesses already have plenty of available marketing material just waiting to be used as social content. For example, you could use your monthly newsletter as social content by dividing up the articles each month and using them as individual posts. Or, you can share news and developments in your industry that you find on other websites or on professional association blogs. Finding content to use in a social marketing strategy doesn’t have to be burdensome, especially if you use something that we call a “Content Pipeline.”
A Content Pipeline can be as simple as printing out a monthly calendar, then selecting the days you want to post or add new content to your social profiles and other marketing channels. For example, if your newsletter has three articles, use one article each week as a new post, then share a link to an interesting blog post (on your website or elsewhere) as the content for the fourth week. Then, let your integrated system do the work for you and publish the weekly information to all of your other online channels automatically. An integrated system also enables you to pre-schedule your social updates to run automatically, so you can pre-schedule an entire month’s worth of updates all at the same time.
3. Be Consistent with Updates
This is the step where many small businesses seem lose their momentum – ongoing updates and participation. It’s not surprising that this is difficult for many small businesses, since they typically do not have the staff or additional time to commit to consistent, weekly (or monthly) updates on their social profiles. However, it is critical to add new information, posts, and comments on a regular basis. Without consistent activity, your social networking efforts will do little to promote your business, bring in new leads, or help build customer loyalty. With sporadic or inconsistent updates, you also open the door for your competitors to gain momentum, visibility, and new customers, while your social profiles just sit there with old, stale, or missing information.
If you don’t have the internal staff or time to execute an ongoing social marketing strategy, then hire a firm to help you. Having a business presence on the social networks today is really only the first step; you must also commit to a sustained, ongoing effort to feed and care for your social marketing strategy in order for that strategy to work for your business.
Lauren Hobson, President of Five Sparrows, LLC, has more than 16 years of experience in small business technology writing, marketing, and web site design and development. Five Sparrows provides professional website, marketing, and social networking services to small businesses and non-profits at affordable prices, giving clients access to customized services that meet both their needs and their budgets.