For a business looking to promote itself, social media can seem like unstable ground to walk on. Not only is its value for marketers the subject of controversy but the tools, techniques and trends are constantly shifting, creating a moving target.
But while the short-term benefits of social media can be great, for any significant investment in it to pay off, a company has to have a viable long-term strategy
Fortunately though, social media is just another form of marketing. As such, the keys to long-term success in social media are the same with any other kind of promotion, setting goals, developing a plan, measuring results and adjusting accordingly.
With social media, there are a variety of goals that you can shoot for. They range from getting more followers/readers to working to make direct sales from social media channels. However, different goals require different approaches and, as such, you need to have a clear picture of your objectives before you put word one of your plan on paper.
Ideally, goals should be specific and measurable. For example, a small business might want 1,000 local follows/likes in 3 months and then a 20% increase every 3 months after that. Another might want 2,000 user interactions in that time or $10,000 in sales directly attributed to social media.
Setting detailed goals is crucial later on when we come back to these goals. As such, it’s important to set specific ones, even if they are more guesses and conjecture at the time.
Developing/Executing the Plan
With the goals set, you have to get organized and develop a plan to reach those goals. You have to ask difficult questions such as “What social networks are best for meeting my goals?”, “What specifically can I do to further them?” and “What tools can help me do those actions?”
Time and resources are limited, so it’s best to start off with a narrow focus, one or two social networks at first, and then branch out as needed or desired.
However, this doesn’t mean the two networks have to be Facebook and Twitter, there are dozens of relevant networks including larger ones like business-oriented LinkedIn and retail-oriented Pinterest, but also smaller niche ones such as GoodReads for books or Lawyrs for the legal field.
Executing this plan is going to require time and energy, time and energy that likely could have been spend on other marketing efforts, including developing your main site.
It’s best to set aside the time in advance and remember that the more time you spend on social media marketing, the more experience you’ll get and the better you will do.
In short, even the best plan will fail if you don’t commit the time and resources to do it so plan accordingly.
Once you’ve executed the plan, it’s important, after a certain period of time, to step back and look at the progress that you have made.
If you gave yourself specific goals, this is the easiest part of the process. Social media is, generally, easy to track and monitor as things like followers, likes, comments,clicks, etc. can easily be tracked.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that meeting your goals isn’t necessarily the end of the discussion. If your efforts don’t positively affect your bottom line, it could be that you were targeting the wrong goals.
In short, if you’re meeting your goals easily but not seeing any impact from the results, you may need to revise your goals and bring them more in line with what will support your business.
With the results in hand, it’s time to look at how you can make adjustments to improve your marketing.
If you didn’t meet your goals, you need to ask yourself what you can do to fix that. Were the goals unrealistic? Did you try the wrong strategy? Or was not enough time spent to get the results you wanted?
If you did meet your goals, you have to ask if you set the bar too low. Should you aim higher? Or are the targets about right?
If you need to make adjustments, try to make them slowly, shifting only one or two things at a time. Don’t try out four new social networks or switch completely to a different posting schedule. If there is nothing drastically wrong, introduce new elements gradually and measure their impact carefully.
This will let you learn what works and, over time, become much more effective at social media.
All in all, there’s no magic to long term success in social media. As with any other marketing, whether it’s advertising, signage in your store or face-to-face sales, you have to develop a plan, have a to do list and execute it. Then of-course you need to make adjustments based on your results.
If you can do that and invest the time required to develop a good social media strategy, you can find long-term success.
Though it might seem like social media is an ever-changing landscape, if you are evaluating and adjusting your strategy regularly, you can stay on top of those changes easily and adapt to them before they require major shifts.
In short, if you treat social media, from an execution standpoint, like another form of marketing you will likely find that it will reward you similarly.
However, unlike other forms of promotion, this one will be growing rapidly in significance over the next few years, making it an important kind of marketing to invest in today.