I’m gonna let you in on a little something. I’m going to give you my entire social media marketing strategy, right here, right now, and I’m gonna do it in just two words. Are you ready?
“Uh, Laura, that’s cool, but…what?”
Okay, okay – I hear you. I’ll elaborate a little bit. Here, let me show you what I’m talking about! This graph below shows my Facebook page’s growth since mid-2012 (the earliest time for which this data is available):
And right here is a similar chart tracking Twitter followers (that spike at the beginning is only because this data wasn’t tracked before mid-2011):
See what those two charts have in common? Consistent growth. There are no huge spikes or dips, and just as importantly, there are no plateaus – just steady growth over time that shows no signs of slowing down.
You’re probably not going to jump from 0 to 10,000 followers in a week. And a big marketing dirty secret is that while these massive jumps can happen, it’s almost never from high quality followers. (Just ask anyone who has gotten on the homepage of reddit if they saw ANY difference in their traffic a week later. Hint: the answer is no.)
So if you want a large, quality following on social media, you’re going to get there over time – and consistency begets consistency. You wanna grow? You’ve gotta do something about it.
See? Be consistent.
Now look – I know this is easier said than done. Like, a lot easier. Consistently updating your social profiles for a few weeks is one thing, but we’re talking about years of commitment here – and for what may seem at the beginning like a very slow payoff. So how do you keep this up over time? How do you stay motivated? How do you even know you’ll have the time to do this again and again?
It may seem daunting now, but I was able to do it – and even though my business has grown and I’ve gotten plenty busier, I’m still able to do it. So I’ve broken down my method into three key steps that can help you stay consistent for years on end. Here’s what you’ve gotta do:
Step One: Plan
The average person’s approach to social media – the one that’s been ingrained in you since you first signed up for a personal Facebook account – is to do what you want, when you want. You ignore your Facebook for weeks at a time, then upload an album of pictures. You tweet whenever you think of something funny to share. You update your Google+ basically never. Essentially, you make it up as you go.
Well, that works for the average person – but your business is NOT the average person. It’s your BUSINESS. And using the same approach to social media that your friends and family use just isn’t going to work – you need structure and organization.
That’s why I’m always stressing the importance of a plan. A lot of people think they can skate by without a plan, because social media is so easy to use – but a plan is the difference between using social media and using it effectively. You wouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe, so why would you try to market your business without a plan?
Calendars and spreadsheets should be your new best friends – like, braid-each-other’s-hair sort of friends. Plot out your upcoming blog posts in a calendar. Keep track of your best social updates in a spreadsheet. That’s how I’ve kept my own updates organized for years, and it’s the only way to manage your strategy while retaining any semblance of sanity. If your system of staying organized consists of reminders scribbled on the backs of your hands and sticky notes all over your computer monitor, you’ll be ripping your hair out by week two.
Come up with a plan in advance and stick with it – and no, “winging it” does NOT count as a plan!
Step Two: Automate
All the plans in the world don’t make a lick of difference unless you actually see them through! (Though I’m not super sure just how much a lick actually is.) The only way you can be absolutely sure that you do see your plans through – at least where social media is concerned – is to automate.
Yes, you have to automate your social media profiles. No, this is not optional.
A lot of people get squeamish about automating their social media. That’s okay. I get squeamish when I spot a bug in my house. But there comes a time when you have to accept that you need to do this if you want to succeed.
“But if I’m not actually at the computer and I send an update, isn’t that bad? Isn’t it disingenuous? Isn’t it…weird?”
Heck no! When something is important in our lives, we automate it. We use automatic deductions so our bills get paid on time. We program the thermostat to kick on when the living room gets too chilly. We use coffee makers that turn off automatically so they don’t burn the dang house down. And if you want your social media updates to get posted, you’re gonna automate them.
I get that you may want to try posting everything in real time. You want to be available to respond right away, in case someone leaves a comment (which by the way you can still do, even if the posts are automated). Maybe you just feel like you have less control when updates are getting posted without you personally hitting “send” on each one at the eleventh hour.
When you automate your social media, though, you’re still writing all of your own material – you’re just setting it up to be published at a future time and date, and there’s no reason for that to be scary. The truth is, you can’t assume that you’ll always remember that you need to post an update, even if your routine is rock solid. You can’t even assume that you’ll be available to do it! By automating the process, you make your daily schedule that much simpler, and you have one less thing to constantly worry about.
Not sure how this automation thing works? Check out Edgar (my tool of choice) right here to learn more.
Step Three: Look alive, people!
While automation is massively important to managing your social media marketing, it doesn’t mean that you can set it and forget it. You have to remain an active participant in your own social media, and on a daily basis – even if that just means checking your notifications to make sure that nothing crazy is going down on your Facebook page.
Ever send someone an email and the person never responds? Or you call and leave a message for someone, and they never call you back? Mega frustrating, right? Well, that’s exactly what your audience goes through when you don’t respond to them on social media.
Social media interaction is a two-way street, and your customers will reach out to you there. If you leave them hanging because you can’t be bothered to check in every now and then, you’re going to end up in serious trouble. Actually responding to your audience, however, makes your connection infinitely stronger:
An interaction like that takes all of two seconds, and even though that person wasn’t even asking a question or voicing a complaint, responding to the mention showed her (and anyone who saw it) that I was paying attention, and that I appreciate her – which I was, and I do! Who doesn’t like to know that they’re being heard, and that their input is taken seriously? When you respond to the people in your audience, that’s what you’re showing them. Checking your social media is just as important as checking your company’s email, or listening to your voicemails – only on social media, your entire audience can see when you’re ignoring them.
Don’t always wait for your audience to find you, either – outreach can give your social following a serious boost. Actually read your Twitter feed. Respond to the things that interest you. Retweet the things you want to share. Send someone a little shout out when you like what they’re doing! This sort of thing seems simple, but a lot of entrepreneurs skip it – doing it can get you noticed by more people outside your immediate following, though, and help you build up your audience.
Now, it’s time to get ripped!
Committing to change is tough. That’s why only 8% of people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions. But if you’re not consistent, you won’t see the results you want.
Think of your social media marketing like going to the gym. If you want to get a ripped physique, you have to make a workout plan, right? And you have to actually stick to that plan, right? Because if you just kind of go to the gym whenever you feel like it, you’re not going to see any results (aside from being periodically sweaty and sore, I guess).
Well, it’s time to get your social media marketing jacked! Swole! Your social media strategy is gonna be so beefy, it’ll need its own spray tan and bikini bottoms!
Okay, maybe that last metaphor got a little out of hand. But you get my point – if you want big results, you have to put in the work. Not just now, but over time, and with consistency. Because it isn’t gonna be a lucky break that gets you where you want to be – it’s going to be your own determination and commitment to make it happen on your own. So take that first step today, and don’t feel like it has to be a giant leap! You’ll get to take another step tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, until you get wherever it is you want to go.