You may not know it, but if you're taking a stab at social media marketing and you're doing it on a whim, then you're setting yourself up for failure. As with any other business tactic, you need to have a clear plan and manage expectations.
The following five tips will help you approach your social media efforts with the right mindset, so you can stay realistic, build a proper foundation, prepare for bumps in the road, keep a level head, and ultimately create something entirely fail-proof.
1. Approach Social Media Marketing with Realism
You've got a Twitter presence to build, a Facebook Fan Page to create, manage, and promote, and a social media web strategy to implement right now. But, before you start running around the social web like a crazy person, take a step back and figure out what it is you're trying to accomplish with social media, why you think social media can help, and how you can achieve your goals.
Often times, small businesses approach social media as a platform for quick wins, and a way to create immediate buzz. If only it were so simple. The reality is, as with everything, you need to be realistic about what social media can do for you in the short-term, and you need to approach your social media marketing efforts with community in mind. Do communicate with all team members involved that though social media is a great way to get the word out, and that success will not happen overnight.
Be realistic and set achievable goals. If you approach your social media strategy with an honest desire to truly connect with customers, clients, and like-minded individuals online, and possess an active interest in learning, then you can realistically start to see tangible results in 3 - 6 months.
2. Build a Social Media Foundation for the Long Term
Since you can't expect quick wins, stop treating social media as a way to win favor and gain immediate exposure. Instead set yourself up for ongoing success and a continually rewarding experience by creating a solid foundation that is actively maintained.
Your social media marketing strategy should be forward thinking, and as such, needs to be structured in a way that you have an online presence that works for you. If you want long-term success, your foundation needs to be strong, which means you need to be using social media tools day in and day out, sharing and connecting with other users, being selfless at times, and staying consistent.
If you have a blog, update it several times a week with new content that really serves your audience. If you tweet, make sure to actively seek out people you can connect with by using Mr. Tweet, Twitter directories like WeFollow, or Twitter searches for industry keywords. Also, start following the bloggers and press people who cover your sector. They may not follow you back, but if you pay attention to their tweets (and reply from time to time), you can learn about what interests them and fine tune your blogger pitch strategy.
The same holds true for any of the other social media properties. The way to build a foundation is to stay consistent, genuinely work at building new relationships every day, and starting to share new or helpful tidbits and resources with followers and friends.
3. Create Worst Case Scenario Action Plans
Many companies try to jump into social media without doing their homework, and as such experience a social blacklash of sorts. The reverse is also true, meaning that too many companies fear social media and hold back from making meaningful progress. You can avoid both extremes by going in with your eyes wide open.
Is there anything in your company's past that could come to light and create negative reactions? Or, is there the possibility for a social misstep? Most companies can honestly answer yes to both questions, so the key for managing expectations is to expect and plan for worst case scenarios.
Use your blog, Twitter stream, and Facebook account to proactively address previous errors and make amends. Also make sure you're prepared to use the same mediums to make genuine apologies and confront naysayers. Don't be afraid, just come prepared.
4. Keep Your Emotions in Check
It's really easy to react emotionally to your social media marketing successes or lack thereof, especially if you feel overlooked, slighted, or maligned. Hopefully, you've set yourself up for success by staying realistic, but should something get you heated, the worst thing you can do is react with that emotion using social media (or even via email).
It's not uncommon for entrepreneurs and CEOs to send emotional emails, to then turn around and learn that some blog or media outlet got wind of the communication. Don't let that be you, and don't let your emotion get the best of you.
You're also going to be fighting emotions when it comes to social media expectations. Chances are you’ll encounter others with unrealistic expectations around followers, fans, and media mentions. If the burden of proof falls on your shoulders, it's hard not to get discouraged. But if you focus your efforts on reaching out, helping the broader community, and staying genuine in all of your communications, you will see consistent growth and find small (and sometimes big) social media wins you can celebrate.
5. Fail-Proof Your Social Media Efforts
This isn't so much a tip, but a reminder that you can take failure out of the equation by proactive social media marketing planning and expectation management. Your efforts should set you up for success, and you need to do what you can to fail-proof the entire experience. If you keep a cool head, plan for worst case scenarios, build a strong foundation, and stay realistic, you really can't fail with any of your social media marketing endeavors.