Social media can be a powerful tool for engaging your audience and building stronger relationships with them. But putting your brand on Facebook or Twitter without a social media strategy is like showing up to a dinner party without a bottle of wine or anything to say.

What’s your objective?
Like any effective project or campaign, it’s important to carve out some end goals before you start socializing.

• Build awareness
• Increase traffic to your website or store
• Promote your contest or campaign
• Learn more about your audience
• Engage with your audience
• Grow your audience
• Change perceptions of your brand

A good social media strategy can accomplish any or even all of these goals. But without defining your measures for success, you run the risk of losing focus and creating a weak or potentially negative social presence.
Where is your audience and what are they doing?
Any objective will involve an audience. A good social media strategy will help you get to know how yours spends its time online.

They’re probably on multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), but what do they do there? Are they engagers (people who start conversations), participators (people who contribute to conversations), or observers (people who follow silently)?

Facebook’s great research tools make it easier to target engagers. You can filter audiences by demographics and psychographics to find out who’s doing what.
What are you saying?
There’s a lot of noise on social media to consume or ignore. That’s why it’s critical for brands to have something interesting to say. Creating a page isn’t enough. You need to add value to your audience’s news feed with a message that matters to them (and supports your end goals).

Here are a few tips for creating a social messaging platform:

Know your tone. It’s one thing to drum up a headline for your brand. It’s another thing to write up-to-date content every single day for it. Take some time to define how your brand speaks; the words it uses, the topics it addresses and the mood it creates. Once you know it, drill it into the heads of whoever will be managing your content.

Map it out. In the social world, you create a piece of your business that will need to be maintained every day, indefinitely. Part of your social media strategy should include outlines of exactly what you want to say and when you want to say it to avoid scrambling for last-minute ideas. Companies with strong social presences get a good head start on their monthly content calendar, so it’s easier to plug in each day’s message without leaving their audience hanging.

Silence is deadly. Social media is a constantly moving and changing organism. If you don’t have something to say regularly, your audience’s perception of you could change. You may appear out of date, or worse: you just won’t appear at all.

How are you getting people to follow you?
You can’t just show up in the social media space and expect an audience – you’ve got to work to build one. Here are a couple of ways you can garner an initial following on Twitter and Facebook:

Twitter: Start following. The more brands, businesses and people your company follows, the more exposure you’ll have to their audiences. You can join their conversations easily by mentioning them in a direct tweet, which will show up in their feed and be exposed to all of their followers. If the people or brands you follow are relevant to your own brand, you’ll have a better chance of scooping some of their followers.

Facebook: Encourage your internal team to become the first fans of your brand’s page. Even though they don’t necessarily represent your audience, or the scope of audience you’re looking to acquire, their engagement with your brand will give you a critical base to begin spreading awareness to other groups. Make sure they understand how you want them to engage with your page though!

You should also be leveraging other communications platforms to push people to your social media channels. Put your social links on your website, and feature them in any upcoming campaigns.
How are you engaging people?
If you want a stronger relationship with your audience, you need to start a conversation and hold it. Here are three ways to get one going:

Ask a question: Social media is more than a platform, it’s a conversation tool. Ask your audience questions. Inspire them to comment on a topic that is relevant to your brand. Depending on your business, it may even make sense to ask them what they’re up to this weekend. An active back-and-forth is critical for creating a stronger relationship.

Offer up some content: The opportunities for content are as endless as your imagination. Just make sure you’re always on-brand and adding value for your fans. And remember you’ve got rich media at your disposal as well. Share videos, photos… anything you want.

Run a contest: Nothing says ‘engagement’ like incentive, and Facebook is a great place to run one. You can promote it and facilitate easy participation with a simple link to your contest page. You can also tailor your contest message to specific groups, and even tailor the incentive too. A good Facebook contest can be game-changing.
How do you manage it all?
Once you’ve sorted out the where’s, how’s and what’s, you’ve got to think about who is going to manage it. Social media is live 24/7 and comes with all the unpredictability of human interaction. That’s why you need a focused set of eyes on your social media strategy at all times to mediate comments, respond to questions and ensure that everything looks and sounds the way it should.

Before you start the conversation online, start one with us and we’ll show you how.
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