Posted on July 23, 2013 by Webfor By Sara ThompsonWhat��s the big deal with social media? Well, the businesses who use it —and use it well— are seeing a significant return on their investment in networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.The companies that committed themselves to high levels of social media activity in 2010 increased their revenues by an average of 18% that year while the companies that were inactive saw sales drop by an average of 6% over the same time period.This may not be everyone’s experience, especially when it comes to small, localized businesses; however, it has certainly proven to get your brand in front of more eyeballs that any other marketing efforts have before. That’s because Facebook alone has more than 900 million users. So, how can you get in on the action? A sure fire way to be certain your investment in social media gets the results you desire is to develop an actionable strategy. Many businesses hop into the flashy sports car that is social media, only to end up lost on some deserted highway because they didn’t make a roadmap, or even decide where they wanted to go.If you want to make the most of your time on social media, follow these seven suggestions to create a winning strategy.1. Determine your business goals for social media.Do you want to create brand awareness, increase website traffic, offer real-time customer service, or generate new leads? Whatever you main goal for social media is, make sure it is concrete, measurable and most importantly, achievable. If you’re running a small suburban business that restores antique furniture, you cannot expect to get 10,000 likes in your first year on facebook. Don’t hang yourself with the specifics, just make a general goal that you feel you can achieve.2. Get to know your target audience.This step is a doozy. Without taking the time to understand the users— the people— whom you will be reaching out to and inspiring to act (or click), the whole point of social media is moot. It is imperative to get to know the point of view taken by your target audience, which not only includes your existing and potential new customers or clients, but also leaders in your field and even your competitors. Become familiar with their lifestyles, and more importantly, their social behavior. What networks do they use? What times of the day are they using them? What types of social posts do they react to? What is important to them?3. What’s your thing, your niche, your purpose?To keep your strategy focused it’s important to determine your “why.” The most successful businesses work not to promote what they do, but why they do it. Disney makes movies and builds theme parks to create “magic”. Apple innovates consumer technology to enhance the user experience. So, why do you do what you do? With that in mind, decide on the most important topics to your business and plan to keep the things you post within that realm. An off topic post every once in a while about the fact that it’s finally Friday is O.K., and can work to humanize your brand, but it’s incredibly critical to not just post about whatever the internet is buzzing with that day. Align to social media strategy with your content strategy, such as your blog posts and videos, to offer your followers real, specific value.4. Create Your Business Pages and ProfilesOnce you have a firm grasp on your purpose and your audience, it’s time to choose the most appropriate social media networks to join. You don’t need to join all of them— that would be next to impossible to maintain. Just choose the ones that your audience uses that are also in line with that types of content you plan to share. If you’re a fashion designer, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are excellent platforms to start with because they are geared toward visuals. If you’re in the health and medical field, your content may be better suited on Twitter and Google+ where articles and studies are well-received. I would suggest only joining three or four networks and adding others later if you have the time.When setting up your profiles, make sure you fill out everything you can in regards to your “about us” sections, and include your Website URL whenever possible. Optimize your cover photo and background graphics, and use photos of people rather than logos whenever you feel it’s appropriate.“Social Media Is About People, Not Logos” – Jay Baer5. Set Up an Action Plan.With your profiles up and ready to rumble, before your go on a posting spree, create an operational plan. To do this, there are a few questions you should answer for yourself, such as“What time of the day is best to post?”“How often should I post?”“What do I do when someone makes a comment on my post or replies to a tweet?”These are the day-to-day, working questions that you will want to answer before you get started, rather than on-the-fly when you may not be looking at the bigger picture. Decide how many times per week and per day you will post content, what time of the day is best for posting on your chosen networks, the mixture of content you plan to share (which should fall in line with your content strategy or editorial calendar), and the tone you will take when you reply to comments. This is something you should definitely go over thoroughly if you have a cross-functional team working together to help you succeed at this (which really isn’t such a bad idea).Pro Tip #1) Do your best to reply to every comment and tweet.Pro Tip #2) 80% of your posts should simply offer value and interest to your fans/followers. The other 20% (or less) can be self-promotional.6. Listen, Then ExecuteMany social media marketers forget this part, which is critical to the success of your strategy. When you’re at a party, you don’t barge into a group of people having a meaningful conversation and just start blabbing about yourself. It’s rude, and the people you’ve just interrupted won’t get a good first impression. That kind of approach also should not be taken on social networks. Ease into the conversation by appreciating what others have to say (and sharing it), making a few respectful, interesting comments, and then winning over the crowd with content that is undeniably relevant and compelling.7. Measure Your Results and Adjust AccordinglyOnce you get going, how will you know if you’re doing it right? How will you measure your success? Go back and read over you goals and keep them in mind when you evaluate your progress. If your goal is increased brand recognition, you can keep track of Facebook’s insights for “likes”, “reach” and “talking about this.” If your goal is to increase online sales, one way to measure the impact of social media is to include a “How did you find us?” menu in your online checkout process with “Social Media” as an option. Or, offer a Pinterest-only promo code for a coupon and see how many get used.May I disclaim, though? The odds are it’s not going to be shares-galore and exponential metrics right off the bat. Social media can be very rewarding, but it’s a long-term investment and often involves trial and error. If something doesn’t seem to be working for you, try something a little different. And, don’t be afraid to take risks.Did you think that cross-functional team idea sounded life sweet relief? Webfor’s social media marketing services might be right for you. Give us a holler for a proposal at (503) 512-0770.