You might be daunted by the prospect of getting social media right for your brokerage. Muhammad Yasin presents a simple guide to get you on your way.
Feeling overwhelmed by the world of social media is easy, especially if you have yet to take part in it. Many businesses use it, have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, built brand loyalists, and even generated sales leads.
Yet without any prior experience with social media, it might get frustrating as you ask yourself the many questions necessary to start up your social media plan: Where do I start? Which social media platforms are right for me? What is the right balance?
Social media is a cog in your marketing plan and should align with your other marketing goals, your branding, and with the way you engage your customers offline. You must have goals you want to reach before you actually begin the process.
Reserve your accounts
An obvious but important first step, register the name of your business and the names of your products. Consistency is important through social media as a whole, but here particularly. If you use an anagram or a shortened spelling of your business on one account, you should use it on others as well. Use a handle that will allow people to find you when they go searching. When you start registering accounts, sign up for every social media site you know of. Start with well-known sites like Facebook or Twitter, but do not neglect the sites such as YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others. You likely will not produce content for all of these accounts, but it is a good idea to secure your company/brand names to ensure that others do not register, and use, them for negative purposes.
Imagine yourself at a party. How likely are you to jump into a conversation between two people without knowing what the conversation is about? Hopefully, not very likely. The same should be true for social media conversations. Know what is being discussed through social media before jumping into conversations. Monitor what others are talking about. Use the search functions of the social networks to find out what people are saying about your industry keywords and your business and products.
Your marketing plan brings in customers, attracts people to work for you, and says a lot about your business. Social media is part of your marketing and public relations. Any goals that are set as part of a social media plan should be relevant to your marketing and PR, as well as your customer service and sales initiatives. Once you begin interacting, check your performance against the benchmarks you have created. Using analytics tools, measure the engagement of your content, your brand consistency, and return on investment (ROI). You can adjust your plan as necessary.
Find your following
Different people prefer to interact using different types of social media. If you know that your customers focus on specific sites, go to those first. Spending your time and content on Pinterest while all of your customers are on Twitter means you will lose valuable time in front of your audience. Search for the platforms with the most interaction, and go to that audience. Never completely neglect the smaller audience from the other sites, but spend your time where you stand to gain the best ROI.
Content is one of the most important parts of social media. While a large part of social media is interaction, another large part is learning. People take to social media and follow different people because of their expert status. As a business, you are the expert, and the content you share should reflect that. Blog your expert ideas and share them via social media. Remember, though, that sharing information via social media is not for the purpose of making sales. Instead, you are sharing information to establish a relationship with your followers. If your followers value your insight and expert opinion, they will come back to see you as a customer.
Again, social media is about building relationships, and your main goal when using social media should be growing those relationships. People reach out via social media because they want a response, so you should provide them some kind of response in return. Any reply from you will strengthen the tie between you and the customer. Once you have loyal customers and brand evangelists, reward them through promotions. Mention and thank anyone who blogs about you. Keep track of your followers and note who is and who is not a customer. Remember that every person who interacts with you is a potential customer.
Just like you use marketing to generate leads and help the sales team, social media should be used to drive revenue as well. Unless you are bringing in, or at least learning about, potential customers, then the time you spend on social media is wasted. However, when you generate leads, different tactics are required for different social media platforms.
With over 1 billion users, Facebook is a powerhouse in social media platforms. Share your expertise on Facebook by linking to blog posts, articles, or other relevant information that your followers would find interesting and pertinent. Customers can ‘Like’ you and your business, and then your posts will appear in their feeds. Be careful about the amount you share, though: share too much, and you will bog down newsfeeds, which may lead to you getting “Unliked.” If your customers like your content, they can share it and make it appear on their own pages, and link back to yours, expanding your network into theirs. Facebook is a great medium for contests and other promotions, and that is a great way to reward your following.
Yes, the 140-character limit on each Twitter post is not a lot to work with, but used correctly it can capture the attention of your reader for just long enough to drive them to content or even to your website. Describe yourself well in your bio to give a better idea of who you are. Your Twitter icon should be an up-to-date head shot of you or your branding, so followers can identify you or your business. Stay relevant to your industry when you tweet. You should share a variety of content, but also engage in conversations. Make your tweets public, and use keywords and hashtags that will allow customers to find you. Twitter should be a natural conversation.
Many people think that Pinterest is full of recipes and home decorating ideas, but there is so much more to it than that. If you leave out Pinterest, you are missing out on a world of potential followers. Create boards that are relevant to the many aspects of your industry, and find great content you can pin to them. With Pinterest, you can gather some of the most creative pieces of content in the world all in the one place.
As you generate leads, ensure that you continue to engage your current customers. Focusing on leads is certainly important, but your established relationships will pay dividends if you keep them solid. Social media boils down to building relationships, and if you give it the right attention, your business will soon see great results.
5 Top Social Media Tips
1. RESERVE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
Register your business name and any brands that you own. There is no need to produce content right away, but do not let a competitor snap up your accounts. Start with the well-known ones (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) and expand from there.
2. MONITOR SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERSATION
It is to your advantage to monitor what others are saying about your brand and industry. Search your company names, brand names, and industry keywords using search functions. This is what you will need to talk about.
3. SET GOALS
Planning is vital. Social media should be integrated into your marketing efforts. Make a plan that supports the existing marketing goals and set benchmarks. Your actions in social media should support those goals, and the goals of the marketing plan overall.
Creating and sharing relevant and interesting content is very important, but it is also very important to interact with your followers. Social media is about building a community on a personal level and building relationships. Building relationships can help your business’ bottom line.
5. MEASURE PERFORMANCE
As with any part of marketing, measuring your performance is vital to becoming more efficient and better overall. Set checkpoints to measure growth. Divide tools into four categories: Content, Diagnostic, Monitoring, and ROI. Each will help you improve and adapt your social media plan overall.
Muhammad Yasin is a public speaker, e-book author, and director of Marketing for HCC Medical Insurance Services. In his role, Yasin is responsible for the brand building and lead generation strategy of several dozen social media accounts with over a quarter of a million followers