We’ve all done it at least once, right? We jump in a boat and ride out into open water with our fishing pole and an assortment of bait. Now the questions come out:
“What fish am I trying to catch?”
“Is this a good spot to cast out?”
“Which bait do I use?”
Or most likely, and my personal favorite: “Why didn’t I think of these things before I came out here?”
This is where the resemblances between social media and fishing start to come out. Just like a good fisherman, you have to prepare yourself ahead of time for what you’re hoping to accomplish. The bait you use for one type of fish may not be the same for another. Some fish may prefer certain bodies of water or only live in one place. But how can these questions help you define a social marketing plan for your small business? Let’s find out.
What Customers Am I Trying to Acquire? (What fish are you trying to catch?)
This is first step in building a marketing plan because it defines the rest of the steps that follow. What customers are most important to the growth and survival of your business and financial growth? Are they college students with expendable income? Established business in a certain part of town? This answer can be both broad and equally as specific. The more specific, however, the better you can execute the rest of the plan.
Which Social Networks Should I Use? (Is this a good spot to cast out?)
Are you a small retail shop in a college town? Try Foursquare and create an interactive marketing campaign for your followers. Are you a financial consulting firm? LinkedIn has the most business professionals online. Are you an established brand looking to stay connected with customers? Twitter makes it easy to search for conversations involving your business and industry. Do you want to engage your fans with promotions and reward them for their loyalty? Facebook makes it easy to launch and manage campaigns.
There are dozens of effective social media platforms out there, and there is no point in using all of them. What it comes down to is research. Find out where your customers are spending time online. They may be in multiple places, but that’s okay! There are plenty of social media tools (SproutSocial, Hootsuite, and TweetDeck to name a few) that make it easy to manage and post to multiple accounts. Find them, and then prepare to cast out!
What Should I Post? (What Bait do I Use?)
Okay, you’ve established who your customers are and where to find them online…Now what? One word: Engage! Effective social media marketing relies on quality and ongoing engagement with your customers. For some this may be providing customer support or answering questions, for others it may be posting quality information that help your followers use your product (Here at PaySimple, we use our knowledge of small business, online payments and billing to educate our followers on our industry and product).
Keep in mind, you can’t know for sure until you try it! In other words, you don’t know what will get the fish biting until you cast out. When you find a bait that works, keep using it! Just like in most businesses, social media is 10% proactive and 90% reactive.
Distributing your message is just the beginning; it’s what your customers do with it that defines your brand (sometimes for better, others for worse). Learn from your customers, and build a brand that reflects your business/product/idea in the best lights.