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Smart businesses are selective about the work they take on. Every job pays, but if it doesn’t fit with your services or comes with too many challenges, the paycheck is not enough to cover the headache.

Social media is the same way. There are a number of channels, from niche communities to worldwide networks. Not all of them are right for your business. Before you decide to launch a social media presence, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Are you willing to commit time to social media every day?
  2. Do you have someone who can effectively set up and manage your accounts?
  3. Are you ready to provide exceptional customer support through social media?

If you answered “yes” to all three, it’s time to start planning.

5 Questions to Build Your Social Media Strategy

You don’t jump into a project without a plan. A lack of planning leads to costly mistakes and time wasted. That’s why it’s important to develop a blueprint for how your business will manage your social media accounts – and put it in writing. Yeah, it’ll take some time. But it can mean the difference between a profitable source for new business or a bad experience for potential customers. Answer these five questions to help you build a successful social media strategy.

1. What are your goals?

Identify the business purpose of joining any social media channel, whether it’s connecting with current customers or attracting new ones. Decide how you will communicate and how you will measure success.

2. Where are your customers?

Find the channels where your audience is active. Start with the one where you can reach the most people and build from there. For most businesses, that’s Facebook. It has more than two billion active users. Odds are your customers are there, too.

You may find that your customers are active in more than one place. Make sure each channel aligns with your goals before setting up an account. The worst thing you can do is spread yourself thin by joining every social network without having the content or time to connect with your customers.

3. What can you share?

When someone chooses to follow your account, they are inviting you to share a space with their family, friends and other interests. Your posts must be relevant and interesting enough to draw attention from the cute babies, headline news and viral videos that dominate their feed.

You’ll feel the urge to blast your followers with sales messages. Fight it. Instead, treat this relationship with the respect it deserves. Build better connections with your customers by showing a personal side of you or your business. Show off the work you do, project successes, your company culture or behind-the-scenes insights into your business. Drop in your sales pitch when you’re truly offering something different – an exclusive offer, special event or new service.

4. How will you engage?

Social media provides you with a direct line to every customer and potential customer. It’s not just a place to share; it’s a place to listen. Develop a plan for interacting with your audience, fielding their concerns and responding to questions and comments.

5. Who will manage it all?

To be effective on social media, you must dedicate time each day to share content and interact with your fans. Don’t just hand it off to the youngest employee because they “know Facebook.” You need someone you can trust to follow your strategy and manage your channels long-term. Identify the person in your company who can effectively set up your accounts, create the posts and continually find new ways to connect with your customers.

Tips for Successful Social Posts

Bobcat Company Facebook post exampleNo matter how much thought you put into your strategy, it’s nothing more than a plan. Whether you thrive or crash and burn all comes down to execution. Here are a few key tips to put you on the path to success:

  • Photos and videos rule. Text-only posts don’t fly anymore. Visual content catches the eye, forcing people to stop and pay attention. An interesting picture or quick video will increase engagement.
  • Keep it concise. Twitter is the only platform that limits your text, but short posts perform better across all channels. Social media users have short attention spans. Capture your customers’ attention quickly and get to the point before they scroll by.
  • Speak the language. Show your followers that you belong. Social media has developed its own lingo, with differences across channels. Know your @ replies from your RTs and the hashtags popular in your industry. Watch how your customers talk and learn to use the same language.
  • It’s not about you. Customers control the conversation on social media. If the conversation on your account is one-sided, you’ll lose their attention and possibly their business. Keep your customers’ interests top of mind when you post. Respond quickly to their comments – especially to negative feedback – to show you’re listening.

You know time is money. Don’t waste it chasing trends and searching for new customers in the wrong places. Develop a solid social media strategy, and stick with it to make lasting connections with your customers and increase business opportunities.

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