When, What, Where? Social Media Posting Strategies

It’s early, you have your cup of coffee, a laptop and about 45 minutes that has been carefully set aside to devote to your Facebook business page….

WHAT THE HECK DO I WRITE?!?

If you don’t have a plan the result is either to think about something clever and creative for 40 minutes and then share it in the last 5, or unload two days of thoughts in 5 or 6 rapid sequence posts, completely filling the first page of all our loyal fans, annoying them to no end!

Here are Three Social Media Posting Strategies I’ve found to be effective at Sigma College of Small Business and with our clients.

#1 – Have One, a Social Media Marketing Strategy That Is!

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you should take some time and write out a social media strategy.  The plans we write for clients are three pages or less and include:

  • Target audience – list of the top three audience categories we expect to reach
  • Objective – what we expect from that audience as a result of social media marketing
  • Message – the general message(s) we will convey through social media
  • Media Plan – a list of each social media channel we will use, with the specific audience, post frequency, specific objective, primary topic categories and examples for each individual channel.

The Media Plan is the most important part of the plan, because you will use Facebook for a different purpose than your blog, and LinkedIn will get different results than Twitter. Taking some time to write out your strategy will give you a first reference for building a Social Media Calendar.

#2 – Use a Social Media Marketing Calendar

Every month I meet with clients and we list all the events, products, services and important messages that are “post worthy”, i.e. valuable to our audience, for the next month.  Then we add in some campaign ideas, their Constant Contact email marketing schedule and some placeholders for sharing the content of others.  Once we have the master list we expand it and develop specific posts for each item.  A big event may warrant 4 or 5 posts in the weeks and days before the actual event and even 1 or 2 follow-up posts.  Smaller events may be one “I’m here” post.

The result of the media calendar is that the time used for posting becomes very efficient.  Many times I write the posts ahead of time so it’s just a matter of copying them over to the right media channel.  There are also social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite that enable scheduling your posts days in advance if you won’t be available to make it real time.

A media calendar with a posting strategy also keeps your posts consistent and spread out so they are “above the fold” more frequently for your audience.  Use the calendar to fill in the gaps on the days and weeks where there isn’t too much going on.  A good way to fill those gaps is by sharing the content of others.

#3 – Make Sharing a Part of Your Strategy

A great thing about social media is that sharing great content is easy. (almost too easy for those who can’t recognize “great” content:-)  Make sharing part of your strategy.  Share content from blogs that are relevant to your audience, web sites of great new products or services you find (like business classes for small business owners), and most importantly the posts, tweets, blogs and emails of the people in your social media and personal networks.

Sharing great content does a lot for building your online reputation and relationship with the people who can help share your message!  As part of the social media marketing plans that we develop for clients, there is a list of blogs, pages and people for them to follow; most importantly for their own information and development, but also to give them plenty of stuff to share on those rare mornings when they have some time but nothing to say.

What are Your Social Media Tips and Tricks?

Social Media can be a very effective tool for small business owners if they take the time to create and implement a simple strategy.  One of the goals for Sigma College of Small Business is to keep things practical for our customers.  We focus first on simple ideas and actions that are easy to implement but will have an impact.  What are some tricks and techniques you use to be more effective with Social Media Marketing?

Would the REAL Time for Social Media Please Stand Up?

I attended a great seminar Wednesday presented by Gina Watkins of Constant Contact and hosted by the Greater Warrenton Chamber. (Sigma College co-sponsored with CC) The topic was social media and Gina mentioned that a business owner could be effective at social media spending about 15 minutes a day! There are a lot of us spending more time than that, so I thought I would walk through where the time goes when you make social a part of your marketing mix.

Social Media Calendar

Start Here!

The first slide of my social media classes is this picture of a calendar as a way of telling my students that, although social media is cash cheap, it can be time expensive.  One of the first decisions in determining the role social media plays in your marketing plan is how much time should be spent building your network.

Pure Posting

Once you are all set up with your accounts and have a goal of 5 or 10 posts per week on a couple of social media sites, then 15 minutes a day is likely enough time.  But don’t get your expectations up!  You will likely get fans and followers from your current network, but it will be slow going building that network over months.  Mixing in some time to monitor and comment on some blogs, share some posts with your network and start some discussions will be time well spent.

Set-up and Design

Setting up and designing social media pages can seem like an unending task.  Every time I turn around there is a new tool, or a new app that I just have to try.  And even though they are all “one-click” installation, they typically take me a bit more time.  Most of the sample sites we see have had some work done.  An extra tab here, a customized page there – it all adds up to extra time or paying someone.  Make sure you schedule some time to keep up with the latest apps and keep your sites up to date.  It’s part of being relevant and it will take a couple hours a month.

Blogging

I recommend to most of my students and clients to do some blogging.  It’s a great way to show your expertise in the industry and adds great content.  When you decide that blogging is a part of your social media mix, make sure you plan the required time.  Depending on how often, your writing skills, the amount of research required and the pictures and links you add, you may need to schedule a couple hours per post as you get started and 30 minutes to an hour if you really get efficient.  But the payoff, if you are good, is that you are putting up good content that will draw readers that will subscribe, share, etc… and build a better network, quicker.

Interacting

I have yet to read a book, article or blog on social media that didn’t stress how critical it is that to be successful in social media you need to read and comment on other people’s posts.  In fact, here’s one from Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg that I read yesterday.  It’s part of establishing your online presence and building credibility – really it’s being part of the community, part of the network.  Plan to spend at least an hour a week just interacting with the online community.  Read, comment and share the content of others.

Planning

Now, to be more efficient and add the most value with the time you have will require a plan.  I give my students and clients a media calendar to pre-plan their posts.  We work through a plan for their posts over the next month or so, determine the topics they should post on and even write out the posts ahead of time if possible.  Spending a couple hours planning every month will make you more efficient and improve the quality of your posts.

In Summary

So the answer to the question of how much time do I need for social media is a pretty wide range.  Someone who uses social media for a high percentage of their marketing mix may spend a couple hours a day, whereas, a beginner may only spend about 15 minutes a day.  The important thing is that you pull out that calendar and schedule the time it will take to meet your social marketing objectives so you aren’t suprised.

Toeing the Line: Professionalism and Social Media

“How Social Media Can Affect Your Professionalism” was the topic of the day at Monday’s Network@Noon at the Prince William Chamber Western Office.  Promoting business in social media, while protecting your personal privacy and maintaining your professionalism is one of the biggest concerns for small business owners.

The Big Decision – Are my customers my friends

One of the first questions to ask yourself as you move forward with your social media plan is “Are my customers my friends?”  Answering this question will allow you to set up some “rules” for who you will connect with on the different social media channels.  For example, my general rule for a LinkedIn connection is that the person must know enough about me to make a recommendation.  LinkedIn is designed to set up professional connections so that your network can recommend you to their network – that’s tough to do if they don’t know me.

This becomes even more important in Facebook.  Facebook “friends” are people who have given me permission to see their personal posts and I’ve given them permission to see my personal posts.  So if crazy cousin Eddy posts something on my wall about an embarrassing childhood experience or picture, all my friends can see it.  Fans are people who choose to follow the posts I make on my business fan page.  “Liking” a fan page is a one-way interaction and these “fans” or “people who like” cannot see any information on my personal profile, and I can’t see their personal profile.

For many larger businesses, where the owner isn’t personally linked to the business, this isn’t a difficult decision.  However, many smaller businesses and sales people depend heavily on referrals from friends and building personal relationships to make the sale.

If you decide to pull customers into the more personal social media areas like your Facebook personal profile, make sure to adjust your posts to position yourself a personable, yet professional.  For example, you may not share that funny picture of your nephew’s potty training progress, but the tasteful pictures of your daughter’s field trip may be fine.  If you enjoy being fully transparent on Facebook, it might be better to keep your customers on the Fan Page.

Building Your Professionalism

Here are three ways that people are getting the best results in building their professionalism using social media.

Posts should add value and show your expertise…Make sure your content mix is more than 50% original thoughts.  It’s great to re-tweet and share the links of others, but to differentiate yourself and show your expertise it is important to post original stuff.  Even when you share a blog post, add a comment that explains why it is great content for your audience.
Blogging really establishes expertise…To really show off your expertise and credibility online, nothing beats a consistent blog.  Because blogs are typically longer than the standard social media post, it allows you to deliver real value and complete thoughts to your target audience.
Use social media to leverage your network, not replace it…All the old rules for face-to-face networking still apply and social media is not an excuse to stop attending those networking events.  Social media merely gives you a tool to take those relationships to a higher level faster.

Some General Posting Guidelines

Don’t post anything you don’t want on the front page…Including, but not limited to, complaining about customers, sharing trade secrets or talking about extremely personal family situations.  Before you “share”, think through your professional audience and make sure they won’t be offended and think less of your judgment and professionalism.
Do you want customers to know you are at their competitors??? If you have a key restaurant client, do you really want them to see you “check-in” at their competitors across the street?  It may not matter if you are good about equaling out the love.
Posts can reflect your work schedule, political positions, financial situation, etc…Launching into a bashing of a political candidate or religious group may seem harmless enough, but would you do that in a meeting with customers who may hold opposing views?  How about reflecting on your day off golfing to a customer who is still waiting for their overdue web site?

In Summary

While considering how social media fits into your marketing mix, make sure that you segment the audience and adjust your content to ensure professionalism, trust and credibility.

Social Media Marketing Starts with “Networking”

Recently, I had the opportunity to present a Career Building event at Strayer University in Manassas, VA.  My friend Amelia Stansell, a VP with BB&T, joined me in presenting a topic on professional networking and using social media to leverage your network.  My next few posts will work through that presentation, highlighting Amelia’s principles for networking and then relating those principles to techniques for social media marketing.

Thanks to Jennifer Durand at Strayer University for inviting us to speak and to the students who participated with some great comments and questions!

The Enigma We Call “Networking”

Amelia begins her presentation by defining the enigma we call networking as “person to person relationship marketing.  She emphasizes that it is taking the time with each individual to know them as a person and build a relationship.  It’s these relationships that can help lead to either closing a sale with that person or getting a referral from them.
Social Media is a new technology that leverages proven networking techniques.  The resulting value is that you can grow and manage a much larger network.  Use tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to follow the lives and careers of your network, interact with them through posts and comments, and refer them through sharing and recommendations.  These methods make it easier to interact with each person in your network between the meetings and phone calls.  Try it and notice how your face-to-face conversations change from “how have you been” to “did your son get off to college ok?”.  It’s a much deeper start to what will be a more productive conversation.

It’s About Getting More Referrals

Professional networkers will tell you that it’s all about the referral because it is more likely that you will get new business from a referral by your network than directly with someone in your network.  Therefore, it’s important that your network trusts you, sees you as an expert and understands your business enough to recognize situations where they can make the referral.  In traditional networking the process begins with the “elevator pitch” and initial meeting, then continues with follow-up meetings, networking groups, phone calls and promotional materials.

Social Media leverages these techniques by enabling you to post your basic information in online “profiles” and “info” pages.  These provide the base background information about you and your business.  Build trust and credibility online is a continual process of listening to your network by reading their posts, interacting with comments and questions, and consistently posting valuable and informative content for your audience.

Relationship Selling, Not Broadcast Advertising

Many business people approach their social media marketing as a broadcast advertising channel, a free way to reach more people with their message.  For some businesses that have a huge fan base, it can certainly be used in that way.  However, for most of us who count on sales through personal relationships and word-of-mouth, the approach needs to mirror solid networking techniques more than basic advertising principles.

Sigma College of Small Business Social Media Services help customers use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging to promote their business and themselves.

What are some tips and recommendations that you have for how to leverage social media to build your professional network?