As 2013 begins, you may have just finished developing your to-do list. If you are like a lot of small-business owners, one of the items near the top of that list is something about finally taking the time to figure out social media marketing.
Maybe you set up a blog, but haven’t been updating it. Maybe you set up a Twitter account, but you have yet to post that first tweet. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you updated your Facebook page. Well, now’s the time.
Social media can be a great equaliser for small businesses. It used to be that guy who had the most advertising dollars was usually going to win. These days, people are much less interested in being sold; they are looking for useful information, and if you have some to offer, you have the opportunity to build a relationship.
Inspired in part by my 6-year-old son, who has been working on letter recognition, here is an A to Z checklist to help you get as much as possible out of your investment in social media marketing.
Action. Create an action plan to get started. It is important to decide what you want to do before you try to do it.
Budget. Set aside money to invest in a copy editor and/or a social media virtual assistant to teach you the ropes and review your content. This person can also manage the back end of your blog.
Consistency is crucial. If blogging is going to be central to your social media strategy, you have to decide how many times a week and which days you are going publish.
Differentiate. Create content that is thoughtful and cuts against the grain. There is a lot of noise in the marketplace. Don’t be just another food blogger. Carve out a lane for yourself.
Execution. Develop a daily execution plan. How much time will you invest each day?
Format. Pick the format or formats you will use to develop your content. Will you write, record podcasts, post pictures or create how-to videos? Or will you do all of the above?
Goals. Create 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals for developing content and seeing results. For example, how many shares, page views, or inbound links do you expect to attract each week?
Help others. Providing useful content for free to your target audience is the most valuable thing you can do to build your brand. Avoid sales pitches.
Images are everything. Create an archive of pictures that you will use with your blog posts. Be sure to add meta data to those pictures to you improve your search-engine optimization.
Journalism. Think of yourself as a journalist. Be factual and informative with the information you share. Try to approach common topics from fresh angles. Most readers tuned to the same frequency: WII-FM (as in What’s In It For Me). Let them know you are invested in their success.
Kick start your blog by developing content two to three months before you introduce it. Create an archive that you can pull from when you are busy.
Listen first. Conduct a listening strategy to find out where your target audience hangs out online, so you can focus on one particular social media site first.
Mobile. It’s time to invest in a mobile Web site. So many people are using smartphones, and for many it’s the only way they check the Internet, which is why local retailers especially need to make sure they can be found on mobile devices. Google has created a free Web site to help small business get started with a basic mobile site.
Niche. Find one. The more specialized your content the faster you will rise to prominence as an expert in your field. People want content from people who specialize in solving their problems.
Optimise. Search engine optimization is essential. Use your keywords to develop your blog titles and article content. If you do not understand S.E.O., do not panic. Here are three WordPress plugins that will help: WordPress SEO by Yoast, Online Backup For WordPress, and W3 Total Cache.
Pinterest. It is likely to be the hottest social media platform for SMEs in 2013.
(To be concluded)
@ The New York Times