You’ve done it. You’ve made the decision to start your own business. And It. Is. Awesome. Who cares if you’re not really sure whether you’re grinning or grimacing? No one ever said you can’t be thrilled and terrified at the same time!
Once you start planning, you’ll realize pretty quickly that social media will need to play a part in your marketing efforts. But these days it’s almost like social media platforms spawn at the same rate that cells divide. Which ones do you use? What kind of audiences frequent each one? What kind of posts get the most exposure?
So many questions! Do all of them matter?
To some extent, yes. But when you’re first starting out, it’s important to keep things sustainable. So start with these key questions, and once you’re up and running, build from here.
What channels are you already on?
I know, we’re talking about business, not birthday parties and vacation photos. But using platforms you’re already on offers several benefits:
- You’re already familiar with how they work, and have some knowledge of best practices (tagging, formatting, etc.).
- You’re already spending time there, so posting for your business likely won’t feel like yet another thing on your to-do list.
- You can encourage friends/followers to support your business by promoting it on your personal account, which could expand your reach into their networks.
That’s not to say you’ll want to utilize all of the channels that you use for personal reasons. (See Question #3 below.) But you’ll at least want to consider them.
What channels are you on that you don’t use?
We ALL have one or two social media accounts floating around out there that we never use. If it seems like it could be an option for your business, evaluate why you don’t use it.
Is it the user interface? The kind of content it supports? The community it caters to? The fact that you didn’t invest enough time up front to really understand it? If the latter is the case, that’s easily solved. And the first three deserve reconsideration in light of the fact that you’ll be using it for business.
In the end, though, if you just really don’t enjoy using a particular platform, you may not want to waste time creating an account for your business. That is, unless you can automate posts using HootSuite or a similar service. Otherwise, your business account will grow as dusty as your personal profile, and that never looks good.
What channels seem most appropriate for your line of business?
This is going to depend on what kind of content you push out, and what you hope to achieve with your social media presence. It also depends on your intended audience.
Planning on using lots of photos or even short videos? Instagram is a great platform for this kind of content. Are you looking to build a community? Facebook is a place where you can share all kinds of content, and have extensive conversations about it with your followers. Trying to launch a recipe blog and associated handmade products? Try Pinterest. It’s all about discovery, and while conversion rates can be low and slow at first, once things catch on, they REALLY catch on.
What channels work for your competitors? Why?
You’ll never catch me advising anyone to be a copycat, but I would advise you to at least check out what your competitors are doing. What channels work well for them? What channels don’t see a lot of action?
Then look into what channels they don’t use. If you can come up with a way to occupy that space that offers something to followers, and you have the time and energy to do so, then by all means, capitalize on it! You’ll be filling a gap, and you won’t be fighting your competitor for attention.
What will you use each channel to promote?
As I mentioned above, each channel lends itself to certain types of content. Instagram is for pictures, and now, short videos. Twitter is for clever snippets of your brand experience that can be entertaining and informative all at once. Pinterest is often used to cultivate interests, discover new ideas, and develop styles. LinkedIn is a great place to network and keep up with professional organizations that relate to your field.
So what will you use each of these for? Promoting blog posts? Sharing knowledge? General insight and/or entertainment? All of these? Get a clear sense of this, and your social media presence will practically create itself.
What kind of time commitment will each of these channels require?
Each social media channel comes with its own set of best practices. Number of posts per day/week, time of post, type of post…it’s all a part of creating a successful social media presence. It’s important to note that some of these channels are more time intensive than others.
For instance, Instagram and Pinterest are likely to generate little discussion, just likes and followers (and hopefully more than a few adoring comments). Tumblr, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, on the other hand, engender more conversation, and you should be ready to talk back if needed. This takes up some time, naturally, so consider that prior to your decision to use these channels in the first place. If you don’t have the time or the desire to keep up a conversation, think twice before signing up.
Factor in at least two hours per week for social media maintenance — maybe a little more at the beginning, when you’re learning how to integrate everything. Again, tools like HootSuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer (my current favorite) can help save time. Once you get the hang of things, you can scale back the amount of time you spend managing your online presence.
All this said, you should know that the social media preferences of teens and young adults have begun to shift significantly from what are now considered mainstream channels. This article from Medium offers a great first-hand account on how teens feel about various channels. If they’re your main audience, your social media plan might require venturing into uncharted territory.
Once you’re set up, though, there’s no end to advice on how to interact with your audience. Seriously, it’s everywhere. Just remember — you do you. It’s what will set you apart, and what will gain you followers. Everything after that is just details.