Strategy – a.) A clever plan or stratagem. b) The art of devising or employing plans or stratagems towards a goal.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a strategy is a plan or the art of developing a plan to move you closer to a goal. The most important part about this is that you have a goal, or a desired result that you envision. Once you have a goal in mind, then you can determine a strategy to help you get there. Once you have a strategy in place – an overall plan – then you can identify the step-by-step actions that you will take to work the plan, and in turn achieve the goal.
What does this mean for social media and small businesses?
Many small business owners know that they should have a social media presence. In an effort to get on board with social media, you may have already set up a Facebook page, a blog, or a Twitter profile. There may have been some initial activity, but after a while, it died off. We’ve all seen websites where you click on the blog link only to find that the last post was published in July 2010, or where the last tweet was sent six months ago.
This is the online equivalent of having your store windows covered with cobwebs.
One way around this is to take the time to work on your strategy. This may seem counter-intuitive to some small business owners with a strong desire for action (“Let’s just get started and work things out as we go”).
A willingness to be flexible is important, since social media marketing is an iterative process of testing what works and making adjustments. However, when it comes to marketing and social media, understanding what you’re doing and why is critical. Answering these questions will increase your chances of success.
Many people mistakenly believe that social media marketing is free, since there’s no charge to use Facebook or Twitter. There is a critical cost involved, though, usually in the form of staff time for the busy marketing manager or business owner responsible for managing your social media efforts. By taking the time to engage in a planning process, you will ensure that you are effectively using your most valuable resource.
How can you develop your own social media strategy?
The best way is by taking the time to clarify your goals. This is an important part of developing a marketing plan. What are you trying to accomplish with social media marketing? How does this relate to your overall business goals? Are you trying to generate sales leads or provide customer service to existing customers? Are you trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field, increase online sales, or raise awareness about your brand? All of these are important business goals and most likely you will have more than one.
Once you have identified your goals, you can look at how social media marketing can help you achieve them. You can establish clear objectives, develop a strategy to reach those objectives, and identify your action items. For example, if your goal is to raise brand awareness, an objective might be to increase web traffic to your site. Your strategy may include launching a blog on your site that meets the needs of a particular group of readers – a website with a blog can get up to 55% more traffic than one without a blog. Your action items may include developing an editorial calendar for your blog, identifying keywords that people would use to find you through the search engines, and incorporating those keywords into your blog posts (but remember to always write for your readers!). After doing this, you will be able to measure web traffic to your site, which will let you know if there is growing awareness online about your brand.