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In: Social Media

Everywhere you look, it seems like everyone has a Facebook and Twitter account, plus Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, FourSquare, and everything in between.

With new social media sites popping up across the board, you may be thinking, “Where do I begin?” or “How can I keep up?”

Businesses are proving every day that social media is a powerful way to reach out to clients and customers. But there’s so much out there and it’s evolving all the time.

My advice to you is this: Don’t get overwhelmed. Social media is an incredible platform for businesses large and small. And with the right strategy, you can maximize the impact of social media in a way that’s right for you.

The whole point of Web 2.0 is to join a conversation. It’s the interaction between customer and business in an informal, engaging, chatty kind of setting. And the end goal is to build a loyal community of friends and followers who then become your voice to spread the news about your business to their own online communities.

Social media is here to stay, so it’s important you join in.

Make a Plan Before You Dive In

Before you jump onboard the social media bandwagon (or if you’re already there and haven’t figured out how to make the most impact), its best you make a plan.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are my goals with social media marketing? (How many followers/fans do you want to attract? Will you use this to find out if your customers are happy with your product/service? Will you set up direct product sales through Facebook?
  2. Who is my primary audience? (Is this targeted at young moms? Teens? Retired men? Be specific.)
  3. Which social media sites work best for my business and my audience? (Where does your audience hang out online? Are they mostly using Twitter? Are they active with FourSquare?)
  4. What is my company brand, and how does that affect how I converse online? (Are you going for a more classy brand, or a young and hip brand? How does this impact the way you phrase things?)
  5. What should I post? (Think about the articles, videos, photos, and Wall posts you could use to interest your community. The goal is to add content that will attract attention and interaction.)
  6. How frequently should I post? (If you’re a small firm that’s already strapped for time on the to-do list, make sure you assign someone in-house or freelance who can keep up with the posts.)
  7. How do I react if my business gets negative feedback? (Have some sort of crisis communication plan. And remember: Ignoring negative posts won’t help. It’s best to address any issues at hand so the problems won’t escalate in the expansive, untamed online universe.)
  8. Who will regularly monitor my sites to respond to questions and comments? (Someone should regularly be checking for questions, comments, and complaints, and responding and reacting to these posts. If you don’t have the time or capacity to keep up with this, make sure you delegate this task to someone who can.)

With these questions answered, you’ll be able to approach your online marketing activity with a lot more focus.

Next step: Start building your communities & earning your loyal customers & influencers. And have fun with it!