If you're a business owner (or an author, artist, self-employed, etc), you know you need a website and social media. You've created your website, added your social media, and... now what?
Most business owners are old school. We were raised in the age of advertising on TV, the radio, billboards, and printed matter. We were all taught to advertise to our target customer. After all, it's not like they could talk back to us (unless they vandalized our billboard) directly.
There wasn't any interaction. No discourse.
Social Media is not a Billboard
First things first, let's talk about your social media.
If you're like me and raised in the '80s and '90s, maybe even as late as the early 2000s, social media was new. However, the idea of advertising wasn't.
Here's a new avenue for paid advertising. Create an ad, target it far better than a billboard, and off to the races. Right?
If you approach social media (whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even Linkedin) like a billboard or TV ad, the strategy will probably blow up in your face. Throwing money at any of these avenues will not increase your chances of getting a customer.
Yes, you will get loads of traffic.
However, you will also get loads of comments, shares, likes... or the opposite... on the ad.
The overriding question from that negative attention will be (even if you have targetted the ad correctly and are hitting your target market), "Why am I seeing this?"
Assuming that your ad is doing its job by getting the eyeballs isn't the answer.
The issue isn't why they're seeing it (you paid for them to see it) but what do you have to offer that is of value to them?
... And it isn't what you think it is.
It's not your product or service.
It's your content that proves you're the company/author/artist/whatever it is you do that they should be going to over everyone else.
This leads to two rules in Social Media (and Content) Marketing:
Social media is, by its very name, social.
Content is king.
Notice that paid ads never enter the picture on that. We'll get into when you should pay for an ad. If you aren't doing either of the two up above, stop, step away from the advertising manager in whatever platform you're using and go back to those two rules and rethink your strategy now.
If you've already paid for ads, take a step back. Don't shut them down (that will screw with algorithms), but take a moment to perhaps reduce the budget temporarily because you may have some fantastic ads. Don't waste them.
Let's discuss what to do next.
Kick-Start Your Content Strategy
First things first, start a blog. Set a schedule for that blog and stick to it as much as possible. Hire a freelance writer that specializes in what your business does (I'm for hire, by the way) to maintain it if the idea of writing a blog makes your mind skitter off into the wild blue yonder. You can even hire a freelancer to write one-offs or have one that works one set of articles while another does another. We're freelancers. We'll get it.
Just make sure that the content you have on your blog is yours - not rehashed from somewhere else (unless, of course, you have used it as a reference and are writing a post based on it... like an opinion piece or editorial. Something to make it yours and yours alone).
Four Blogging Rules:
The content has to be yours, not copied. Not reshared (unless you're remarking on it with another blog post).
The format can be anything from list-acle to video, to a podcast.
Limit categories to a max of six otherwise you look unfocused and unorganized. If you find that your blog is growing past this, perhaps look into creating a wiki or rethink why you feel you need those categories (trust me, you don't). Too many categories also damages your SEO. Just... don't.
Keep to a set schedule. Can't blog more than once a month? That's okay. Bursting with ideas that you can keep up with a blistering schedule of numerous posts a week? That's okay too.
Once you have figured this out, and are sticking to it, you now have a content foundation in which to move to the next step.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing is built on a foundation of real content that creates value. What that 'value' is can be different for everyone and can be almost anything.
However, it shouldn't depend on paid advertising.
Paid advertising can be great to get the traffic. It does work - for just that. But your social media campaign with the content within it will be what makes that traffic stick around long enough to get the results you actually want.
In some cases, real content can (if you use the right hashtags where hashtags are used) be used in place of paid advertising. You can't get a better return on investment than a sale on something you paid nothing other than a bit of time that you would have spent anyway trying to make an ad.
So, now you have the content.
You have the ads.
Now you're getting comments, likes, shares... what then?
Some schools of thought say to answer all comments, even the ones that could draw people into an argument. I don't agree.
There is a term on the internet called, "The Internet Troll".
What is that?
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who starts flame wars or intentionally upsets people on the Internet. Typically they do this by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog), with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion. This is typically for the troll's amusement, or to achieve a specific result such as disrupting a rival's online activities or manipulating a political process.
The best practice is not to feed a troll. In other words, do not engage with them. Trust your instincts - if it feels like someone is trolling, your gut is probably right. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
When Do I Start Paying for Advertising?
Once you have come up with a strategy on standards on commenting, responding to comments, hammered out all of your content strategies...
... Then start getting into paid advertising.
The point of paid advertising in social media, unlike a billboard, is to get traffic to your platform.
Make sure the platform is there before you start.