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There are many social media 101 articles out there, but this is a comprehensive guide to the social media novice. Social Media Marketing is not rocket science, but there is a wrong and a right way to do it. The question most often asked is “are we doing this right?” Most of the time, the answer is ‘wrong’, and it’s more so locally here in Trinidad. I have seen many pages set up, with under fifty likes and most people just don’t know where to go after setting up the page.

If you use social media right, you can increase your brand’s awareness, increase your sales and explode your potential reach, but that is if you do it right. In a previous article, I explained the importance of engagement and interaction.

Plan, plan plan! 

First things first. You need to plan. What are your targets? What do you want your social network to achieve? Who do you want to reach and how do you want to reach them? Are you going to advertise? Without a plan, you’ll be lost and your social media communities will flop.

These are some things you need to determine:

  • What is the purpose of your social network?
  • Who is your target market?
  • Where will you be directing your traffic?
  • How do you intend to reach your target market?

And finally…

  • Would this bring a good conversion rate and ROI?

There are many other questions you can answer once these have been answered. Determine your goals based on these questions.

Know your Networks! 

There are many social networks lurking the internet, some more popular than others, but the question is… which one? We’ll start with the most popular and work our way down..

Facebook is all about interaction and visuals. You create a business page, then start uploading your cover and profile photos. Most people have a graphic artist make quirky photos so that the profile photo looks like it’s a part of the cover. Make sure to post interactive industry-related content like photos, videos, and articles, with a conversation-starting post or question. Remember that Facebook is where users interact mostly with friends and family, so your content needs to be light and fun.

Twitter allows you to broadcast worldwide, not just to your fans like Facebook. #Hashtagging is a key element to Twitter’s functionality and posts with #hashtags are more likely to be read and retweeted rather than those without. Following and following back has become the culture on Twitter, so follow people in your industry, or potential reach, and most active Twitter users will follow you back. Mix up your tweets with some business, some social, some industry-related content, and some news updates. You have to be relevant to them. Remember to interact as much as possible.

LinkedIn is the professional social network. Networking here is like a physical business networking event. Join a couple groups to interact with others in your industry and connect with like-minded people. Encourage your consumers to give recommendations on your LinkedIn profile, since this will allow you to appear more credible for potential customers.

Google+ is great because of Circles (in my opinion of course!). You can segment your fans into circles and you can share information, like discounts, with certain circles if you’d like. You can even try a hangouts video conference session live with your followers – how awesome is that?! No other social network offers that support.

Pinterest is one of the latest, but also a very popular social network. It’s functionality is based on imagery, and is ideal for retail and product based businesses. Creating unique pinboards is the key to popularising your Pinterest network.

YouTube. Rich content is the best way to do how-to’s and is a force to be reckoned with in the social media marketing world. The key is not to force your content to go viral, it’s about making viral industry-related content, like how-to videos. Many people prefer to listen or watch to a how-to video than to read a lengthy article on the same topic.

Foursquare is a location based social media tool which is great for brick-and-mortar businesses. Register, claim your location spot, and then promote. Your users will ‘check in’ when they visit you and it’s usually shared to another social network linked to their account, like Facebook or Twitter. The one thing you have to be careful with is users have access to immediately post a really bad review which can hurt your business, but creative criticism should always be accepted, noted, and worked on; so there’s a silver lining on every cloud.

Reddit is ideal if you’re content-driven, and with over two million page views a month, it’s a powerful social media marketing tool. But be warned, Reddit is not for the faint of heart. Only unique and compelling content will be welcomed with open arms, and submissions of sales-focused content could hurt you seriously. So, if you have the correct type of content, then proceed with caution into the world of Reddit, and possibly reap amazing reach and earn valuable traffic.

Interaction and Engagement will be your Saviour

You have to interact with people on social networks to get their attention. Social media marketing is like going to a networking event; how would you get people’s attention and connect with people at that event? If a walk-in customer has a question, you’ll answer it, so why leave questions from your online customers unanswered? Once you interact and engage your communities, you’ll have a successful online following.

Some things to Remember: 

Planning is the name of the game to keep on track with your social media marketing.

Consistent, compelling, informative, industry-relative content is the Holy Grail.

Keep your brand’s image and identity consistent and intact across all social media portals.

Blogging allows you to share information with your community and readers about news and events, as well as how-to guides, and other relevant information. Blogging can also raise your credibility.

Linking relevant content from other sources is another great way to build your community and also build a rapport with other brands in the industry, and who knows, you might even get some link backs too.

Always look at what your competition is doing. It really helps you to gauge whether you’re reaching your target market, or if your competitor is.

Reports are the most important thing. They help you know if you’re on the right track. Monthly is the best way to do them since you’ll get a true representation of a campaign. With weekly reports, you can track your campaigns and make minor adjustments. End-of-campaign reports help you judge whether the campaign met its goals and targets.