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Inspired by a conversation we had in #DuchyBizHour this week, we thought we’d put together a little post to reiterate and expand on a few ideas. Putting together a successful Social Media strategy can be a steep learning curve, so here are 5 tips to point you in the right direction.

1. Be Social

It’s in the name right?! Well, you’d be surprised at just how many people aren’t sociable on Social Media. Time and time again we are approached by businesses for advice on how to engage with social media platforms. They don’t understand why they can’t get more than 10 followers on Twitter because the links they post about their website are interesting! There’s nothing wrong with promoting your own stuff as a starting point, as long as you quickly realise that this is just a starting point, and you need to start mixing it up with other content as soon as possible.

Hopefully you picked up on the key word from the previous paragraph – engage. This is first step in moving from a poor participant to a great one. Say hello to other businesses, find out what popular hashtags are used in your local area, especially if on a regular basis. Like some businesses on Facebook. Follow some businesses on Pinterest. Each of these actions will garner interest in your own profile and some of them will result in reciprocal likes/follows/+1s etc.

2. Think Strategy

So you’ve started pulling in a few followers, you promoted yourself a few times, what’s next? Strategy. For most, there are 3 main reasons for getting involved with Social Media – SEO, conversions and brand identity. So its time to pull all that together and use it to structure your Social Media actions to achieve the things you want them to. The easiest way to explain is probably with an example:

Imagine (for just a second) you are the owner of a Beauty Salon in Cornwall.

As a local business, local SEO is going to be important to you, so Cornwall, as well as your specific town/area are going to be important items to include in your content. Therefore, look for ways to weave these words into your content and hashtags, especially when you are linking back to your website. ‘Weaving them in’ is the important phrase here, use them sparingly as not to be penalised for spamming, but make sure you do use them.

That will help (in part) on the SEO side of things, so lets look at conversions. The advantage with a business such as a Beauty Salon is that you can use SM to convert on both business and personal levels. So use that to your advantage. Connect with individuals on a one-to-one basis to see where you can help. Have a chat with businesses to give exclusive offers to their employees or see if you can offer gift cards for their ’employee of the month’ competition, etc. Most important of all, listen. Just like you’d have a conversation with a friend or when presenting your business at a networking meeting, communication is a 2 way street. The more you listen, the more you will learn, and (to quote a horrible phrase) knowledge is power when it comes to making new clients.

Lastly, wrapping it all up in a pretty bow is your brand identity. You have established the 2 sides of the content coin, self promotion/SEO and engagement/conversion, now you have to decide on your tone and how you want to portray your business. Professional, friendly and flexible are probably the 3 words that would come to mind for a Beauty Salon. Therefore, we’d make sure we were including knowledge and technique based posts to highlight how well we know our industry, indicating that we take our work seriously. We would mix it up with plenty of nice comments and smilies when engaging in conversion, exuding our friendly nature, setting the tone for what you can expect when you are our services in the salon.

3. Get help with tools

With the explosion of SM marketing there are now a plethora of tools available to assist with your campaigns. We’re going to quickly mention one of our favourites, but make sure you do a bit of digging as there are so many available for performing various tasks!

Hootsuite – One of our favourite tools for managing multiple networks all at the same time, with tabular views for the different aspects of each network. Probably the most useful feature is the ability to schedule your posts, meaning that you can send a small bit of time (say an hour or two) at the start of every week writing up a drip feed of posts that are automatically posted at different times across the week, rather than that nagging feeling of having to think of something new every day.

4. Measure Yourself

Or at least your social presence. There are a number of ways of doing this, here are a couple of easy ones to get to grips with:

Klout – Gives you a score based on your SM ‘clout’ – how much influence you have based on engagement. You can plug in multiple networks and you should notice your score increase as your activity and engagement with others increases. It also gives you a breakdown of score by network, so you can see if you are favouring a particular network too much (or not enough) and realign accordingly with your business goals (i.e. if you are going to get more conversions and engagements on Twitter, Twitter should be the network contributing most your Klout score). We find that the number itself isn’t actually hugely significant, but the usefulness more comes from the psychological ‘guilt factor’ that comes when your score doesn’t go up because you haven’t posted enough. Think of those activity trackers you wear on your wrist, the amount of steps you take each day isn’t hugely relevant. Their value comes more from the fact that the device is on your arm reminding you to take the stairs instead of the lift, or not eat that extra snack.

Twitter and Pinterest AnalyticsMore analytics?! Absolutely! If you are looking at how many visitors are on your website and their behaviour (you are looking at this aren’t you?!) then you should be doing the same for your SM. We have highlighted Twitter and Pinterest as two easy examples to link to (your Pinterest account must be a business account to access analytics, but its free and easy to do), but most networks have their own way for you to track your progress. Its a good way to get more granular information than you would from, say, Klout, but perhaps focus on your most important network first then expand your horizons from there. Whilst all of this information is great at the tip of your fingers, too much can easily cloud your judgement and actually have a negative affect on your overall plan.

5. Rinse and Repeat

If you’ve got this far in taking the steps above, you are doing really well! No really, we mean it, chances are you’re already doing better than most of your competition, so whats next? The title gave it away, but quite simply, rinse and repeat. Really, its that easy? Well yes, and no. If you stick to the plan, its easy, but so many businesses don’t have a plan so give up after a month only posting something ‘when they remember’ which adds no value to their brand. They tend to only do it because they ‘feel they have to’ and really thats the end of that. Squandered opportunity.

As part of your plan, if you feel yourself running out of steam, and don’t know what to post about, try coming up with a monthly theme, and tie it in with your offline marketing. Going back to our Beauty Salon example, make October all about nails. Run an offer in the salon that you can shout about across SM, post some previous examples of work you have done (a great excuse to get visual, which nearly always results in better engagement) and get together some interesting content on the techniques you use and why. Add in a few links to your website and you can quite easily plan in a month’s worth of Social Media content in a very short space of time – all whilst adding value content for your brand and customers.

#DuchyBizHour is run by @CornwallBzForum and is held every Wednesday morning at 11am. You can also find us on various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.