Ah, social media. That great modern invention that connects consumers with brands in a way we never could have dreamed of 10 years ago.

Most people that know me will know that my relationship with social media can be described in two words: ‘fear’ and ‘loathing’. I’m happy to manage other people’s business pages, where I can be anonymous, but when it comes to my own profiles I run away and hide.

Despite that, I’ve recently bitten the bullet and begun posting on Linkedin. Yes, just the one platform, but for me it’s a start.

If I can get over myself enough to do it, so can you. These days it’s pretty hard to avoid, and in many industries it’s a down-right necessity if you want to stay competitive.

What’s more, it’s free, relatively easy for anyone to attempt and not hugely time-consuming as far as marketing initiatives go.

8 Steps to Social Media Success

Step 1. Dip a Toe in

Start by selecting one platform and concentrate on doing it well.

You don’t need to be all over Twitter, Instagram AND Snapchat – particularly if you’re a B2B business. Talk to your customers about what platforms they use most often, and go where they are. Bear in mind that even though they might use Instagram, it might not be the place they want to hear about home insurance policies, so be mindful.

Step 2. Strategise

You don’t need a full-blown strategy document to get started – although if you have the funds, it helps – but it is important to work out how you’re going to tackle social.

Consider what tone of voice you’ll adopt (matey and funny, or professional and formal for example), how often you will post, and who is your target audience. Whatever you choose, be consistent and stay true to your brand identity.

You should also set social media goals which align with your wider business goals, such as:

Business Goals Social Media Goals
Establish an online presence Grow page Followers and post reach
Create brand awareness Encourage engagement, build relationships
Enhance business reputation Establish thought leadership through original content
Grow customer base Generate leads and encourage conversions
Drive traffic to the website (SEO) Increase click-throughs from social posts to website

Step 3. Schedule a Weekly Slot

If you don’t make it a habit, it will never happen. Make sure you book in a 15 minute slot to your schedule at least once per week – put it in your calendar and set a reminder so you don’t forget.

During this time, go through your feed to see what people are talking about. If you’re on Twitter, use a tool such as TweetDeck (it’s free) to follow relevant hashtags and people. Share an article or two that might interest your followers and connections. Comment on, like or retweet someone else’s post, even if it’s just “thanks for sharing!”.

Think of a couple of original ideas for posts and write down whatever comes to mind – but DON’T post it yet!

Step 4. Proof Proof Proof

We all laugh when we read an article about how a huge global company has royally put their foot in it, offending a whole segment of their audience with a well-intentioned but poorly thought-out post.

Don’t be that company!

First, triple check every post you put out there for spelling errors, and think hard about posting anything that could be misinterpreted or cause offence.

If you’re not sure, ask a friend to proofread it or give feedback before you hit publish.

Step 5. How and When to Post

Aim to post at least once per week on Linkedin and Facebook, but several times a week on Twitter.

Work out when the best times to post are for your audience – this depends a lot upon your industry and what platform you’re using, but there are plenty of guides online.

You should also use the platform’s in-built analytics to monitor which of your posts are getting good engagement and see if there’s a trend.

Step 6. What To Post

You don’t have to post 100% original content; in fact, sharing ‘curated content’ (i.e. content from other sources) is a good thing. Go for the social media rule of thirds: one third original content, one third promotional content and one third curated content.

What you post will depend on what kind of business you run and who your target audience is.

Here are some content suggestions for B2B companies:

  • Projects you’re currently working on – this is a good way to showcase your services in an interesting and ‘human’ way
  • Client case studies
  • Industry news i.e. new legislation that will affect your customers, government schemes
  • Giving advice and providing useful information via blogs, webinars, whitepapers and ebooks
  • Events: photos and news from awards, charity events and conferences
  • Opinion pieces on industry issues
  • Staff news such as new hires, promotions, day-in-the-life and meet-the-team articles
  • What makes your company a great place to work – this has the added benefit of making your company appealing to prospective employees
  • Making sense of complex subjects i.e. understanding different methodologies or technology
  • Infographics that highlight interesting industry statistics, or simply company growth

Go for the social media rule of thirds: one third original content, one third promotional content and one third curated content.

Step 7. Grow Your Audience

Now you’ve got a plan of attack and you’re in the swing of posting on a regular basis, it’s time to grow your following. Here are some online and offline ways to build an audience:

  • Follow and engage with the individuals, or companies, that you’d like to follow you back
  • Include links to your social media profiles in email signatures, on your website and in sales collateral such as brochures, business cards and proposals
  • Make it a core part of your new client on-boarding process (“Don’t forget to follow us on social media for the latest industry and company news and special offers!”)
  • Verbally encourage your contacts to follow your social media
  • Employee advocacy: company pages work best when employees champion your brand within their own social circles. I recommend encouraging employees to share branded content and posts on their personal profiles to increase reach and engagement – particularly Linkedin
  • Paid adverts: use Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter ads to boost your profile among your target audience

Step 8. Keep Track of the Stats

As with all marketing tactics, you need to keep an eye on the data to see what’s working, and what ain’t.

If you worked out your social media goals in Step 2, it should be pretty easy to work out which KPI’s you’ll need to track to measure your success.

For example, if your goal is to grow web traffic then you could use Google Analytics to monitor the number of click-throughs from social media, and what percentage share of overall website traffic is coming from social media. Set up automatic monthly reports so you can chart your progress month-on-month.

How to up Your Social Media Game: Run an Ad Campaign

If you’ve got some marketing budget to spare, it’s worth investing in social media advertising. Run a short-term pay-per-click advertising campaign to make sure your business profile is getting out in front of a larger audience. Start with the lowest budget possible on that platform, and up it from there if you’re getting good results.

Top Tools for Beginner Social Media Marketers:

  • Social Pilot and Hootsuite area scheduling tool that allow you to post on 3 accounts for free
  • TweetDeck is essential if Twitter is a big part of your social strategy. View custom timelines, create and manage Twitter lists and searches, and add team accounts
  • Followerwonk is a tool with a limited free plan that helps understand your audience and identify social media influencers
  • Google Trends to search for trending topics and share information related to what’s most popular right now
  • Can’t afford an in-house graphic designer? You can still add great-looking graphics to your social posts using Canva
  • Striking images have been proven to boost post engagement, so take advantage of free stock image sites like Pexels
  • Animoto is a low-cost tool for creating great animated visuals to accompany your posts