27th June 2014

Social Media: websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

In terms of free marketing resources, they don’t really come any better than social media. Whether you opt for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest or all or any of the other platforms on offer, utilising social media should be considered early in your marketing planning.

Social media offers a free and effective way to grow your business, gain exposure, make connections, attract new clients and keep existing ones.  It is a two way conversation so you are instantly in touch with your audience and what they have to say – good and bad!

You may assume your target audience isn’t on these platforms, but make sure this is fact rather than summation before you discount social media completely.  Demographics and useful information about specific social media platform users are available for most platforms so you can see which aligns with your audience and objectives best.

I always start by listening; listen to your audience, your competitors and brands you admire. If you have listened, you will know what your audience wants to hear, and have a unique opportunity to share an unedited message with people who have already raised their hands and showed interest in your business. You still need to make sure it is relevant and presented in an appealing way but you have complete control over what is posted. Do be prepared for the real responses though – how will you deal with disgruntle customers venting on your Facebook page? You need to be available to respond to any questions quickly too because social media operates in real time.

Once you are trusted and thought of as a useful resource because of the high quality content you post, your audience will begin to advocate for you; sharing and liking your posts – priceless third party endorsements!

The work then goes into listening and keeping your messaging and content fresh, unique and two-way. Try to make sure your other marketing activity is generating strong content to be shared via social media – for example, photos from events, ‘how to’ videos, customer testimonials, or relevant current affairs/news stories.

To do some or all of this you will need to decide up front how much time you are happy to allocate to social media otherwise you could end up on their constantly or not enough. Once your audience engages and starts sharing your content you will know you are doing something right but that may not be a specific enough measurement for the time being spent.

Driving traffic to your website is a great objective for social media and that can be evaluated using Google Analytics which is free – just make sure your website is fit for purpose though! If you are linking to other sites or content specific pages you could use a bit.ly link – this free site will let you know how many people are engaging, so you can tailor your content to demand.

This cycle of content generation, sharing and evaluating means you will always be moving forward towards becoming a valued brand with something to say on and offline.

Other articles and helpful sites;

Social Media Stats You Should Know 2014
The Ultimate Guide to Twitter Marketing
The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Marketing
56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest
Is Google+ the Ultimate Content Marketing Platform?
The 7 Essential Elements of Effective Social Media Marketing

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