Social media has become a popular (and profitable) marketing tool for new and experienced entrepreneurs. Establishing an account and building an audience organically costs only time, and most platforms offer reasonably priced advertising options for those who want a little extra push. When used in conjunction with an SEO and content marketing campaign, it can be even more powerful, and it’s especially useful for new, emerging, or changing businesses to spread the word quickly.
However, social media isn’t a marketing channel to be taken lightly, nor is it a guaranteed win for your business. To be successful, you need to be aware of social media’s abilities as well as its limitations, and you need to have a clear strategy throughout your campaign. It’s easy to forget some of these considerations when you’re focusing on the possibility of rewarding results, but you must remember them if you want to be successful.
Don’t forget these five facts about social media:
1. This is a long-term investment. Social media makes things happen fast — people can communicate with each other instantly and stories can go viral overnight. This fast pace might lead you to believe that you’ll see fast-paced results, but remember that the proper use of social media is a long-term investment. Your followers might not buy from you for a period of weeks, months, or years, but the more time you invest in building a relationship with them and attracting new followers, the greater your chances for conversions. If you judge the success or failure of your campaign after only a month of activity or invest only in short-term bursts of activity, you’ll compromise your potential long-term gains.
2. You’re not the only entrepreneur who’s thought of this. It’s good you’ve realized the potential value of social media marketing, but you certainly aren’t alone. Many of your competitors are probably already involved in one way or another, and that means much of your potential online audience is likely already involved with a competitor. To overcome this, one of your biggest responsibilities is to differentiate yourself. It’s not enough to be active, attentive, informative, or entertaining (though those are important qualities) — you also have to be different. Research your competitors to see what strategies and angles they’re using, and come up with a strategy that serves as a unique alternative.
3. The numbers can’t tell you everything. The longer you invest in a social media strategy, the more fixated on raw numbers you become. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and I know it can blind you to more important truths. For example, you might start obsessing over your total number of followers, doing everything you can to increase this number and panicking whenever it drops. However, this number can’t tell you how loyal, how active, or even how interested these followers are in your brand. Similarly, your social traffic numbers can’t tell you how engaged your visitors are, and your share counts can’t tell you the reputation value of your content. Numbers are useful, but remember that they can never give you the full picture.
4. It’s called “social” media for a reason. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs neglect the “social” element of social media. People use these apps to interact with one another and engage in meaningful dialogue. They won’t tolerate any one-way conversations. If all you’re doing is syndicating your content, scheduling new posts, or advertising your products, you’re neglecting the source of most social media success: audience interaction. Ask your audience questions. Answer theirs. Thank them for sharing. Reply to their comments. Treat them like you would your own friends or family members. Don’t think of social media as a podium for your own speech; instead, think of it as an open table in a coffee shop.
5. Social media works best as a complement to other strategies. It is possible to see marketing success in a strategy exclusively focused on social media, but this isn’t common. Social media works best when used in harmony with other strategies that bolster your online reputation. For example, it can increase the visibility of your content strategy, while your content marketing campaign can increase the size and interest of your social audience as well as positively impact your SEO campaign. Instead of trying to develop an exclusive social media strategy, instead look for social opportunities in each of your other strategies, and weave them together into a unified online presence.
Remember these key qualities and considerations about social media, and your campaign will be far more likely to succeed. Establish your goals early, work hard, but don’t get lost in the little details that drive most entrepreneurs crazy — follower counts, posting frequency, and meticulous detailing aren’t as important as building an invested community and keeping that community engaged and feeling loved. Simpler is often better in the world of social media, so don’t let yourself be blinded by your ambitions or misconceptions.