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Going Social? You need a plan

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Social media has become a vital piece of marketing for small businesses. But many lack a specific strategy for using social media and end up with a scattershot approach that lacks punch. This misses a major opportunity to engage with customers and prospects and manage the business’ online reputation.

“Without a social media strategy, how do you know what you’re trying to achieve, what you should be doing, what you should be measuring and what’s the ROI of your social media program,” said Neal Schaffer, a social media strategist and author of a new book called “Maximize Your Social.”

If your business intends to enter the social media world, it needs to have a consistent message. You’ll want to know what resources you’ll need and how they will be used. And you’ll also need to define tactics you will and won’t pursue. All of this should be written down so that it can be passed to others when employees leave.

Here are essentials that Schaffer says should be in your social media plan:

• A consistent brand message. It’s okay to be a little less formal in social media channels. But make sure that when you post in different places all participants speak with a unified voice and message. In the planning process, be sure to designate who represents the voice of your company in social media.

• The right channel selections. Don’t try to be everywhere. That’s just not realistic and you don’t have the resources to be active in all channels. Pick a few that are most appropriate for your business. For example, most B2B businesses find LinkedIn to be a fruitful place. Businesses with highly visual products or services can do well on Pinterest. And if you’re adept at creating videos, YouTube should be on your list. And Facebook should probably be in everyone’s plan. Consider Twitter as well.

• Post strategically, not constantly. You don’t have to be constantly tweeting and posting to have impact. Well-timed and thoughtful content is what’s important. Research shows that a single daily post on Facebook can be more effective that multiple posts that split the response.

• A way to be “follow-worthy.” As part of your plan, think about why customers would want to like or follow you. Look at your business from the perspective of an outside observer and ask yourself, “Is what we say and produce worthy of being followed? Is it something that will draw people back again? Would I follow us?” •

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