Happy New Year! Happy 2016!
It's that time of year where we all look ahead to the endless possibilities of the future. You've seen all the "success stories" - talking about their exponential growth, sure-fire tricks, and guaranteed business propulsion tactics. Why can't you do that? What are they doing that you aren't?
Is social media going to be the silver bullet that rockets you to success this year too?
To be honest. Probably not. Most likely not.
You see, social media isn't some fancy overnight trick to all of a sudden grow your business by 1248% (or whatever other ridiculous growth projection these people are flaunting).
What social media is, is a tool, in your entire business strategy. And it takes work. A lot of work. You need to know what you're doing. Then you have to do that well. And then you have to do that over and over and over again.
I'm not trying to make it sound like it can't be done. Because, yes, social media can absolutely transform your business. I'm living proof of that. But, you can't just "try" social media. And you can't just do a couple small things and expect it to work overnight.
So, if you're still with me, want to stand out from the competition this year, and are willing to understand what it will really take to dominate social media in 2016, here are my 16 tips.
1. Put in the Work
I just said it, so let me say it again.
If you actually want to see success with social media in 2016, you need to put in the work.
This can be 30 minutes a day or 8 hours a day. Or anywhere in the middle. The amount of time doesn't necessarily matter. It's the quality of the work you put into it. And how well you use that time to actually produce results.
It means doing the next 15 tips and more. Consistently. It means not going down the rabbit hole of content on social media for hours and then calling it a day. It means actually doing the work.
2. Set up a Strategy
If you've followed me for any length of time, you know how much I advocate for a solid social media strategy.
No, if you build it, they will not just come. If you keep trying to see what sticks, you'll waste more time than you have to spare.
So, figure out what you actually want this year. Then make a plan to actually achieve it.
If you want help with this, I offer social media strategy support or you can buy my book on how to create your own social media strategy.
3. Target Your Ideal Customer
If you're not speaking directly to the people who will buy from you, you're wasting your time.
Figure out who your ideal audience is. Is it existing customers or potential customers, or both? What are the demographics of this audience - age, gender, education, geographical location, income level, etc.?
Then start writing your content as though you are talking to that specific person. The more your message and content is targeted to this purpose, the better results you will see.
4. Use Quality Visuals
Visual marketing has been the buzzword for multiple years now. And this year is no exception.
But, it's not "just" visuals anymore. It's all about quality visuals.
Everyone is using photos. More and more people are using videos. People are live streaming now. So, if you want your content to even stand a chance of getting seen, it better be the best dang visual you can create.
Take better photos. Edit them to make them even better. Don't post anything that isn't worthy of your brand.
Take better videos. Get better audio equipment, use better lighting, add post-editing functions like graphics and music. Whether you film live or record it, make sure the setting is the best you can create. And, no, this doesn't mean you have to go spend thousands of dollars on equipment and software. But you will have to get smart about the tools you use.
5. Write Better Captions
We live in a sea of overwhelm when it comes to content. If you actually want people to stop and read your content, you have to make it worth their while.
Gone are the days of posting a link with just a post title. No. That's just not going to stand out. Take a little time to tell people what's valuable in that post.
Don't just share a photo or video either. Explain it. Tell a story. Ask a question. Whatever you do, write better copy and captions to actually invite your audience to participate.
6. Share Your Story
We all have a story. And people want to connect with people. People share stories. So share your story.
Find fun ways to talk about your story. It could be a short item you share every week (maybe a #throwbackthursday post) or a monthly editorial about why you started your business. Maybe it's what inspired your new product.
It doesn't have to be the over-sharing, super personal story. But behind everything is a story.
Whatever it is. Tell your story.
7. Provide Real Education
We've all talked about the value of sharing quality content and educating your audience. This year is no different. In fact, you should focus on this more.
More people are reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching live streams, and following every social media platform to LEARN. They want to know how to do something for themselves, do something better, try something new, or just be smarter.
If you can help educate, you can grow your audience and your success.
8. Run Contests
Some platforms are easier and produce better results when it comes to running contests so you'll have to determine what works best for you and your business.
If you really want to grow your audience effectively and quickly, a well-executed contest can produce unmatched results.
But, you have to do them well. And your prize, purpose, and targeting needs to be focused on your business.
9. Offer Exclusive Discounts and Promotions
If you really want social media to drive sales and results, offer discounts or run promotions exclusively to your social media audiences. This may mean you run a discount only on Facebook. Or it might be something you offer to all of your social media profiles, but not your list or in store.
Doing these types of campaigns will allow you to push the attention to your social media account(s) and push sales to these exclusive audiences.
Yes, you can (and should) promote to other sources (social media platforms, list, etc.) that you are running this campaign on the other platform. Cross promotion grows your audience with your other existing fans and still rewards them, while pushing your results higher.
Yes, I said it. You have to start investing in ads this year.
There are plenty of ways to use social media without investing real dollars into ads. But, if you want to boost your results, get faster results, and push ahead of your competition, you'll need to use ads in some context.
Almost every major social media channel provides paid advertising options now. Find out what makes sense for you, set a budget, and start using these ads.
11. Take Advantage of Advocates
There are already a lot of people who want to help you. You just need to find them and capitalize on their willingness!
These could be employees, long standing customers, new happy customers, mentors, and many others. If they love your product(s) or business and are willing to speak out on your behalf, find ways to encourage them and reward them.
12. User Generated Content
Many of your advocates you will find when they post about your business. They may post a photo or comment about their positive experience with your company. These testimonials and showcases of your company are incredibly valuable to your business.
You can also encourage your customers to create this content. Give them clear instructions on what kind of content you like to share from your customers. Invite them to use a hashtag or tag you when they share content.
Ask that person if you can reshare their content (comment, post, etc.) to your account. Use this impactful user generated content to boost your company's reputation and build your business.
It's one word. Engage.
This year, more than any other in the past, you are expected to actually engage with your audience. Respond to questions, offer assistance, handle customer service issues, thank someone for saying something nice.
If they have taken the time to mention you in any way, you can pretty much assume that they are expecting you to respond. So do it.
Oh, and do it faster than slower. The faster the response, the more your audience will appreciate it. And in today's super active online world, customers expect quick responses.
14. Know Your Legal Constraints
Social media has been a relatively rogue environment in the past because it has grown faster than any government oversight can keep up with it. But that's changing now. And there are plenty of legal implications you need to be aware of.
Know your local, state, federal (or other) laws regarding marketing, advertising, running contests, gambling (yes, a contest can be considered gambling), promoting products, sharing an affiliate link, using someone else's image or copyrighted content.... the list goes on and on.
Don't fall prey to "everyone else is doing it" or "I've always done it this way". These can - and will - backfire.
15. Track Your Analytics
How do you know if social media is actually working? Because you track stuff.
As much or as little as you can. But you need to track it in order to know what's working.
Some platforms and advertising tools offer analytics. Other tools are available as third party sources. Some are free. Some you have to pay for.
But you need to be tracking your data in order to know if it's working.
16. Give it Time
Even after you've done all this, and more, the reality is that you need time. Social media doesn't transform your business overnight. It could take months to see any real growth or measurable results. But that doesn't mean it's not working. It just takes time.
Understand that this isn't a get-rich-quick scheme. It's not going to triple your business by the end of the month. But it will transform your business, grow your audience, build brand awareness, and drive sales and traffic.
Just. Give it. Time.