The Beginners Guide: Using Influencer Marketing To Grow Your Business

Did you know that when referred by social media, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase?

Customers are more reliant than ever on reviews and recommendations when it comes to buying a product or service. This means that recommendations from influencers on blogs and social media have become a powerful marketing tactic utilised by an increasing number of businesses.

The market was estimated to be worth $2 billion in 2017, and this is set to reach a staggering $10 billion by the year 2020.

Research by Activate by Bloglovin’s has also found that 67% of marketers believe influencer marketing has helped them to reach a more targeted audience, which has created stronger results.

So if you’re not using influencer marketing as one of the strategies to grow your business and reach a much wider audience, you’re missing a potentially lucrative trick.

In this post we’ll be explaining:

  • How to find the right influencers for your product or service
  • How to build strong relationships with these influencers over time
  • How to create meaningful content that will highlight the benefits of your offering
  • How to track your ROI on these campaigns

Let’s dive in!

What is influencer marketing?

In a nutshell, influencer marketing is when you pay a particular person to share your product, service, or message with their (usually substantial) social following.

For this to work, it’s not just about the numbers though.

This influencer must have an actively engaged audience who trust their opinion, and that audience must represent the target audience for what you’re selling.

How to find relevant influencers for your business

Say the product you’re selling is luxury suitcases. You would naturally want to reach out to travel bloggers and writers, and other influencers who travel frequently (e.g. fashion bloggers, models, and celebrities).

It’s vital you pick an influencer who is in your niche or has an audience that is made up of your target customer.

You also need to get clear on what your goals are for each campaign you create:

  • How much will you spend
  • How long will the campaign last?
  • How many posts do you want for this particular campaign?
  • Which platform(s) do you want to use?
  • How much revenue do you hope to generate?

The key here is to set realistic, but very specific goals for each campaign.

Once you’ve done this, you can select your influencers.

Here are a few key details you should begin to compile and compare when it comes to selecting an influencer:

  • Their background
  • Name and age bracket
  • Social media platform numbers (look for engagement level too)
Start using influencer marketing tools

The two biggest challenges most businesses face when it comes to influencer marketing are:

  1. Finding relevant influencers
  2. Managing those relationships

Many businesses will currently reach out to and engage with potential influencers directly through social platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

They’ll usually have a back and forth about a partnership, negotiate a price, payment will be sent, and then the influencer will create a post and share it with their audience.

Over time, this becomes hard to manage and keep track of.

That’s why there are now apps like Tapinfluence and Upfluence, which help businesses find influencers and then manage workflows with each of those people.

Most businesses who are taking their influencer marketing efforts seriously will be using some kind of tool like this to help them. These are designed to save you time, and help you track performance, so you can see which of your campaigns are the best performers.

Best practices for creating content

There are a number of different ways to utilise influencers and expose your product to a new audience.

  1. Influencer shares your product with their audience

This is where the influencer creates a product or service review, a product placement shot, or creates a video of themselves using your product.

Chances are, the influencer will know what works best for their audience, and where you will get the most engagement. So trust them, and allow them to inject their personality into it.

This will help build a stronger partnership, and make them likely to want to partner with you again in the future.

  1. Influencer creates content for your account

When an influencer takes over your account, their audience will follow them to it.

They can go ‘live’ on your Facebook or Instagram platforms, or create posts using your product which is then sent to you to post on your account in your own time.

  1. Join together and create a competition

This is a great way to build a stronger relationship with the influencer, and bring a lot of engagement to your account.

This might be done on either one of your accounts, or both to create an even bigger audience.

Create value

The whole point of using an influencer is you’re able to capitalise on their personality, and current lifestyle, which their audience has already bought into.

So, if you’re able to show your product in a way that highlights the benefits in their life, without it looking like an ad, you’re likely to see much better results.

After all, no one likes the feeling of knowing they’re being sold to.

A piece of great content will always create some kind of emotion in the audience, whether that’s entertainment, education, or something else.

So get clear on the story you want to tell with your offering. How can you tell it in a fun and creative way that’s going to capture people’s attention?

Measure your ROI

At the end of the day, businesses engage in influencer marketing to increase sales and generate more revenue. If you’re not seeing results, it’s your precious money going down the drain.

So how do you make sure you avoid this?

As we mentioned briefly earlier, there are tools you can use to track campaign metrics. It’s also vital you’re using UTM parameters (tags you add to a URL, which is tracked when that link is clicked on) so that you can track the specific actions of all visitors that are driven by the influencer to your site.

Some businesses also choose to give each influencer their own promo code which they share with their audience and are then able to track exact revenue figures to each influencer.

This will help you to see what’s not working, and what is so that you can make adjustments to your strategy in the future.

Focus on building real relationships with influencers

Influencer marketing is continuing to grow at a fast pace, so there’s no better time than now to start planning your strategy and building your team of influencers.

Businesses will see the best results by building real, long-term relationships with the influencers they work with. Because these are the people who are likely to be loyal to your brand and promote you with a more authentic enthusiasm, which will naturally be felt by their audience.

What results have you seen from your influencer marketing efforts so far?

Let us know in the comments below!

Are We Using Social Media to its Full Potential?

There’s no question that marketing has shifted into the digital along with everything else. While most of us can accept that, there’s still a certain stigma attached to bringing up platforms like Facebook and Twitter in a marketing meeting.

Make no mistake, to disregard social media as a legitimate source of marketing for our businesses is a huge mistake. Marketing is all about promoting our products where the attention is – and the attention is all on these platforms, so why wouldn’t we take them seriously?

The fact that other businesses dismiss them is to our advantage. Let them waste their money working with obsolete marketing strategies and ignoring better ones. Meanwhile, we can reap the rewards simply by paying attention to what works.

Why is Social Media the Way to Go?

Word of mouth has always had an impact on businesses. Whether a customer has a great experience or a terrible one, we know that a dozen people close to them are going to hear about it.

If that’s true, imagine the impact when sharing an experience through platforms like Facebook or Twitter. These comments, photos, or videos have the potential to reach limitless numbers of eyes and ears, which means they can’t be ignored. The worst thing we can do is leave it out of our control.

Platforms like Facebook give businesses an opportunity to connect with the consumer like never before. This is great news because we can use this means of communication to bring in even more customers.

Here’s how to use social media to its full potential . . .

Develop a Following

We’ve created our Twitter account, or our Facebook page, or our Instagram profile, now what?

First things first, we need a following – fans who eagerly await our new promotions. After all, what’s the purpose of sharing our current deals, events, or product changes if there’s no audience to see it?

Lucky for us, we already have fans; customers walk into our business every day! What we need to do is entice these customers to follow us online or subscribe.

We could, for instance, offer an incentive to our customers – “Get 15% off any product by following our [Facebook] page!”

It’s important to invite our employees to follow us, too. An employee who takes a selfie in their uniform and asks their friends to come visit them that night is free marketing. They’re also generally the first ones to share, like, or comment on our posts or to promote an exciting new product.

What we don’t want to do, however, is pressure our employees to market for us. This will lead to resentment and is likely to hurt our reputation.

Don’t Just Promote!

A big mistake businesses make when jumping to social media is constantly promoting themselves. They forget the “social” in social media and instead focus on jamming their deals down people’s throats.

By consistently promoting, people will tire of us and simply unfollow our pages. If that happens, we disappear.

Marketing with social media is a new game and staying relevant is the goal. To increase our customers and our sales, we must start by getting noticed and maintaining that interest. Many of these platforms like Facebook have algorithms which increase the rankings for posts with more likes, comments, and shares. Staying high on this ladder means we’ll be seen more often and by more people.

Thus, engagement with our fans is everything. The secret is to develop a presence on these platforms that our fans can become familiar with.

The Key to Engagement

While posting about promotions, product changes, and events is essential to our business, it should play only a small role in our social media marketing. So, if not endless promoting, what should we be posting?

How about introducing a new member of our team or sharing a favorite quote? We could upload a photo of our employees hard at work, or an Instagram story of the behind-the-scenes activities. Thank employees by name for their hard work or upload a video from the last work party where they embarrassed themselves in a chicken wing contest – the possibilities are endless.

But more than that, it’s about engaging with the community. This means posting a supportive message for our city’s sports team, wishing people a happy holiday, or warning them of the incoming storm.

How else can we engage? By replying to people’s comments on our posts and having real conversations with them.

Ultimately, we want to develop a personality – that’s what social media is all about! Every now and then, we can mention a promotion or a special event to get people through our doors, but we want to keep the focus on connecting with our fans.

How much should we post? We don’t want to take over anyone’s newsfeed, but we do want to keep their attention. In general, talking to our followers should be a daily thing.

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Utilizing social media as a marketing strategy is not just essential, it’s a no-brainer. With it, there’s no middleman between us and our customers and it costs nothing to maintain. It’s also the most effective way to keep consumer attention.

People aren’t just fast forwarding commercials on their TiVo anymore; they’re watching shows on their smartphones through their various apps. They’re muting and skipping ahead after five seconds of YouTube advertising and scrolling past the annoying sponsor ads on their newsfeeds.

We must keep ourselves educated and avoid falling into the trap of, “I can’t keep up with all this stuff anymore!” This attitude hurts business owners who are trying to stay relevant, today. If we don’t understand or pay attention to the modern consumer, how can we expect them to listen to what we have to say?

Read This if you Want to Stay Ahead in the Marketing Game

Nothing is more depressing than seeing a dip in the sales chart or having five or six servers on with no activity whatsoever. We want our business booming!

We must promote ourselves if we want those phones to ring. If we aren’t marketing, we aren’t bringing in enough customers.

This can be a bit daunting, sure. A lot of us might be thinking, “My focus is on running an efficient business . . . Now I need to learn to advertise?”

The great news is that it doesn’t take much to stay ahead of the crowd. Some businesses aren’t doing it at all and most that are doing it are doing it wrong.

In a world where everyone is nose-deep into their smartphones, old-school marketing tactics like TV commercials, newspaper and magazine ads, even signs in windows or giant banners on the highways are obsolete. The world has shifted to the digital age and we must be willing to follow the trends.

Without learning to market online, our business is bound to fall behind. Here are six methods of digital marketing to keep us ahead of the game.

Personal Website

Ever tried to search for a local business and found nothing but Google Maps coordinates and a phone number? It’s almost as surprising as it is frustrating. Our website is where we represent ourselves online. It’s where people go to find out about our products and services.

Of course, on its own, a website is not a marketing tool that will bring massive amounts of customers in, but it is our foundation in this new digital reality and the place where our marketing strategies will lead them.

We might try, for example, vlogs or blogs as a form of free content to drive traffic to our website. Keeping a focus on SEO will keep our rankings high so that it’s more likely our website will show on the first page results of Google.

Pay-Per-Clicks

Just like it is with our business, no one’s going to enter our website if they don’t know about it. PPC advertising is a great way to get our business noticed – every time someone clicks on one of these ads such as with Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, they will be brought to our site.

PPC advertisements can often be filtered so that our ads only show up for certain demographics, locations, and times. We may pay for the clicks, but the price is worth spreading the word and getting more people interested.

Social Media Platforms

Even if we don’t like platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, we must respect them as an incredible means of communication between us and our customers. Since marketing is all about putting our products where the attention is, these platforms are a game changer for us.

Having a Facebook profile, for example, is just as essential as having a website. But, it’s important to realize that merely having one is not marketing – it’s just the beginning.

To utilize it effectively, we want to engage with fans on a regular basis – posting daily and gathering likes, shares, and followers so that our videos, comments, and promotions are ranked higher and seen by more people. And replying to our fans is a must – even celebrities like Taylor Swift reply to their fans!

Email

How great would it be to send out a newsletter whenever we have special events, product or service changes, or promotions? With free services like MailChimp and AWeber, we can essentially collect a list of email addresses and send out information whenever we want.

The key to email marketing is to entice people somehow to subscribe:

“Subscribe to our email list to stay updated – and receive 15% off!”

Once we have our subscribers, we have our audience.

Mobile Marketing

Everyone has a phone and nearly all of us check our texts as soon as we feel the buzz. Thus, mobile marketing is by far the quickest means to reach customers directly and the cost is next to nothing.

While it’s useful for making bookings, purchases, and tracking our deliveries, it’s also a great way to market for time-sensitive promotions that we want our customers to know about immediately.

Like email and social networking, the key is gathering a list – this time in the form of phone numbers.

Apps

Apps like Google Maps and Yelp have been around for a while now and having our business listed ensures we are easy to find and gives us an opportunity to respond to reviews from customers. We should be checking these apps regularly because we want to be replying to all comments, negative or not.

Some apps may lose traction while others may rise in popularity. Regardless, marketing is all about testing different strategies and measuring the ROI. Apps are here to stay and by putting effort into them, we are promoting ourselves without spending a dime.

* * *

The question isn’t whether we should market or not; marketing is a must. We just need to market properly – in the areas where people are paying attention. Those areas are all online and it’s not difficult to stand out.

Many businesses are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to promoting themselves and even those that have shifted to digital marketing are not doing it properly. This gives us an advantage!

The game has changed and it’s an absolute necessity to learn how all of this works so that we can stay ahead of our competitors, fill those

Theme Week: How to Socialize Your Posts for Maximum Effect

Today as part of our exploration of things to do after you’ve hit publish on blog posts, I want us to take a look at the topic of ‘socializing’ our content.

Most bloggers have at least some kind of strategy in place when it comes to sharing our blog posts on social media, but it is an area that most of us also know we could improve upon.

I for one know that even after 12 months of a real concerted effort with developing a social media strategy for Digital Photography School, that there are areas I could drastically improve upon!

So today I challenge you (and me) to spend a little time doing a critical review of your approach to sharing content on social media and to choose 1-2 areas that you could improve.

Notethis post will not present a complete social strategy. Social media is useful for many things (including engaging readers, building profile, networking with others in your niche), but today we’re just focusing upon the topic of sharing/promoting the new blog posts we write.

The two main areas that I would suggest you review when it comes to thinking about socialising of your blog’s content are:

  • which social networks?
  • developing a rhythm of sharing

Which Social Networks?

The choice before us as bloggers as to which social networks to engage in can feel a little overwhelming. As a result I see bloggers falling into numerous traps.

Some feel so overwhelmed that they opt out altogether and don’t engage in any social media.

Others feel the need to engage in every social network and end up either burning themselves out or engaging so much on social that their blogging suffers.

Others still engage widely on lots of social media sites but spread themselves so thin that they don’t do it very well.

There’s no blueprint or formula for choosing which social media to engage in but a few questions come to mind to help you make this decision:

1. How much Time do you Have?

If you’re time-poor, choose one network to focus on primarily, but secure accounts for other networks so that if/when you do want to engage on them you’re ready to go.

If you do choose one network to engage on primarily you might also want to consider more automated sharing of your content on the other networks. For example if you choose Facebook as your primary social network, you could set up an RSS to Twitter tool that automatically tweets links to new posts on your Twitter account any time you publish.

While these automated tools don’t help you build relationships with Twitter followers, they at least get your content out there and you will find some followers appreciate them.

ExampleSeth Godin’s Twitter Account is perhaps the best example of this. He follows nobody and every tweet he does is simply an update from his blog. While not engaging, every update is retweeted many times and his account is followed by over 376,000 people. Seth’s Facebook page does the same thing.

This is exactly what I did on the dPS Twitter account for more than two years before I started using that Twitter account in a more strategic way. While I knew I could use the account better, by doing the automated Tweets I did drive traffic and actually saw our Twitter numbers increase so that when I stated to use the account more intentionally, we already had a network.

If you have more time on your hands, you can of course choose to engage in more social networks. Just don’t overcommit and end up spreading yourself too thin!

2. What Social Networks are Relevant to Your Readers?

Get 10 successful bloggers from different niches in a room and ask them which social networks are best for driving traffic to their blogs, and you’ll get a different answer from each one as to where their readers hang out in greatest numbers.

My own two blogs are quite different. For ProBlogger I find most of my readers are engaging most on Twitter. Facebook would be second, followed by Google+ and then LinkedIn.

On Digital Photography School, Facebook is king. Twitter and Google+ would be numbers two and three, and Pinterest would also be close.

This of course changes over time as new networks emerge, so keep assessing it and find ways to find out where your readers hang out (I run annual surveys on my blogs to get this data).

3. What Social Networks are Relevant to Your Content

In addition to assessing where your readers hang out, think about the type of content you produce because it may be more suited to one network than others.

For example, on Digital Photography School our content is very visual. While most social networks these days allow you to share visual content, each network is slightly different in how you can present it.

For example, Twitter limits how much you can write (140 characters), Facebook lets you write more and present multiple images in an update, Google+ allows you to write as much as you want and embeds video and images nicely. Pinterest is obviously great for visual content.

4. Where are Your Competitors?

I’m not a big fan of looking at other bloggers as ‘competitors’ (learning to see other bloggers as potential allies is a powerful thing) but doing some analysis of what others are doing is useful in making decisions.

Firstly it can help you work out where your potential readers are if you see all other bloggers in your niche doing well in one particular network) but also you might find a gap where no other bloggers are doing anything which could present an opportunity.

While a lack of presence in a network by other bloggers might be a signal of it being a place where there’s no traction you might find doing some experiments with the network worthwhile too!

Other Factors?

Lots more could be said about choosing which network to engage in. I’d love to hear how you made the decision below.

Here’s a cool little info graphic from Leverage Media with a good breakdown of some of the main different networks and their advantages:

NewImage

Develop a Rhythm of Sharing

Once you’ve done some analysis on which networks to build a presence on, the question becomes HOW to share content on those networks.

One of the things that I’d highly recommend you ponder when it comes to this is to think about developing a rhythm to your sharing.

Let me illustrate the power of rhythm with a snippet from an email from one of my readers at dPS that I received a few weeks back. The email came in on a day I’d been sick and had missed scheduling a couple of status updates to Facebook.

“Dear dPS team. I just wanted to check if everything was ok with you? I noticed that your 6am and 11am Facebook updates didn’t go out today. I miss them! – Susan”

That email made me so happy and illustrated to me the power of developing a rhythm to social media updates. Not only had Susan noticed I’d not made a couple of updates, she’d actually noticed that I published updates at the same time every day – something I thought only I’d noticed!

Over the last year I’ve slowly developed a rhythm of posting to the dPS Facebook page (I wrote a little about it here). I usually post five times a day to our page and have assigned times to when I want each post to go live. The reason I came up with the times was to help me space out my posts during the times that most of my readers are online – but also to help me be more disciplined with posting.

I’d never have guessed that my readers would begin to notice when we updated – and that some would even be looking out for those updates at those times!

While I’m sure most of our readers don’t notice the exact timing of our updates they do notice if we go missing for a day or if we post too much in a 24-hour period. Regularity and rhythm are a powerful thing.

So what rhythm will you develop to your social media sharing of your content?

For me it is quite different from social media network to network. While Facebook is five times a day, I try to hit a higher rate of sharing on the dPS Twitter account (I’m aiming for 10-15 posts a day there). On our Pinterest accountJade (our Pinterest magician) aims for around 12-15 pins per day – scattered through the day.

Of course not all of our Pins, tweets and updates are sharing of our new content – we ask questions, share other people’s posts as well as resharing some of the content in our archives – but developing a rhythm is important.

Of course the other thing to consider within this rhythm is how often you’ll share the same piece of content?

Different bloggers have quite different approaches to this.

I recently shared this Kissmetrics graphic that suggests a starting point for social sharing of the same piece of content.

NewImage

My own approach is less aggressive than this as I rarely reshare anything on social more than once within even a week or so – unless it is a post that is going very well for some reason. Having said this, at dPS we publish 14 posts per week, so there’s always something fresh to share and with over 4500 posts in the archives there is no shortage of good evergreen content to share on any given day alongside our new stuff.

There is no right or wrong answer to how often you can share content on social media but do keep in mind these two factors:

  1. each social network is different – for example on Twitter you can probably get away with sharing the same content more times as tweets don’t have as long a life as on other networks.
  2. pay attention to the reaction of your audience to your updates – there does come a point where those who follow you will begin to disengage with you if you share the same stuff over and over. Sometimes they’ll tell you if you’re sharing too much but most times I suspect they simply stop following you or at least become a little blind to your updates. Tread carefully!

If you do decide to share the same piece of content multiple times try to mix up the messaging of your sharing.

Again from the same Kissmetrics post mentioned above comes this great graphic to illustrate 5 different ways of sharing the same content on Twitter:

NewImage

Dan Zarella has found that tweets with images are 60% more likely to be retweeted (we definitely see this on dPS, in fact last time I looked it was 100-200% more likely). The same is true on other social networks – images are powerful!

Of course the other thing to do when you’re resharing the same piece of content is to mix up the timings of your updates. If you first tweet a piece of content at 9am – at least wait a few hours to reshare it so that others in different parts of the world are likely to be online. The same thing applies to other networks (although I’d wait longer than a few hours to reshare on networks like Facebook or Google+).

Also consider avoiding sharing during those times of the day that are particularly ‘noisy’. Sometimes sharing during times that you’d think your audience isn’t online is actually best. Dan Zarrella calls this ‘contra-competitive timing’ and has some great data on the topic here.

There are so many factors to consider when writing posts, but hitting “publish” shouldn’t signal the time to stop thinking about them. Where can they go, and how can you promote them for maximum results? I hope these tips and the ones we will introduce across the week will help you shape the best social strategy for your situation.

Source: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2014/06/02/theme-week-how-to-socialize-your-post-for-maximum-effect/

Prospecting on LinkedIn: 3 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Clients

By now you know that LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, is the best online tool for B2B prospecting and finding your ideal clients. But many people fumble about the site, not quite sure what to do, so they begin by connecting to the people they know, such as friends and family. Now what?

Step 1: Make a wish list of companies you want to do business with

After making your list, use the search box to find their company page. I’ll use an example of a commercial cleaning company prospecting for local banks. They’re trying to find a way in but don’t know any of the players.  After finding the company page, click on the yellow Follow button, to start receiving notification of their company posts.  This will keep you connected and up to date on what is happening with their company.

Step 2: See how you’re connected

Next, look at “How You’re Connected” to see if you have any 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connections. If you do, take a look at these people to see if you know any of them personally.  If so, you could contact that person either through LinkedIn or by picking up the phone and requesting a third party introduction to the person responsible for hiring cleaning services — or perhaps to a person in the company who would know who that decision maker is.

If you don’t have any close connections to the company, click on the “Followers” link next to the yellow Follow button, and you’ll see everyone that is following company updates. Most likely, key company employees will be following their own company status updates.

Step 3: Look for common ground

Start looking at the profiles of key players in the company that you could potentially connect with. In the example below, I’ve found a company Vice-President, and see that he has advanced non-profit fund raising skills.  If I were active in any local non-profit activities, I might keep this in mind if I’m in need of any advice regarding fund raising for that non-profit.

As you review the profile, also pay attention to companies they’ve worked for and educational institutions they’ve attended. Perhaps you’ll spot a common connection. If they belong to any Associations such as the local Chamber of Commerce, send an invitation to connect and mention the common membership. This also applies to any common networking or volunteer organizations you both may belong to. Most people will accept your invitation to connect if you mention something you have in common.

And finally, look at the LinkedIn groups they belong to.  In the example below, this person belongs to a group called “Hockey players doing business together”.  Since we are in Minnesota (the land of hockey), you just might have found a common interest, and could join the group and start building a relationship with not only this particular prospect, but other members of the group.

As you can see, LinkedIn can be a very powerful tool for prospecting and finding your ideal clients. But it’s not simply a numbers game where you go through and collect as many names as you can in order to blast them with sales pitches. Rather, it’s a slow moving process of building meaningful connections with targeted prospects.

Once you’ve connected with these prospects, begin engaging them by following the 4-1-1 Rule, which is a concept created by Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute.  This is a concept originally created with Twitter in mind, but it can be applied to all social media status updates. The concept is that “for every one self-serving tweet, you should retweet one relevant tweet and most importantly share four pieces of relevant content written by others.”   This way, your followers won’t feel bombarded with desperate attempts at selling them your products or services. Instead, they’ll see you as a helpful resource that always provides relevant, useful information. And when the time is right, it’s YOU they will contact.

 

Original Source: http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2014/05/15/linkedin-finding-ideal-clients/

Social Media 101 for New Businesses

Congratulations! You’ve started your own business. You have invested your time and money while sacrificing some sanity to make your dream a reality. Now what?
Kudos to you for getting your business up and running; now make sure it stays that way by creating some quick revenue to pay the bills. It’s time to fire up your computer and create some social media accounts.

What is social media? By definition, social media are websites or online applications that businesses and individuals use to communicate and distribute information. If you were unaware of social media up until this point, that’s OK; it’s only in the last ten years or so that it has exploded onto the scene. What’s not OK is ignoring it today as a new business owner.

There are hundreds of social media accounts for your consideration. I suggest you start with the top three: FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Obviously, you want to connect with your target audience. As of February 2016, there are 1.1 billion Facebook users, 310 million users for Twitter and 255 million for LinkedIn. Chances are, your target audience is there and since all three are free to join, what a great way to market! Now, what do you want to say to them?

Marketing your business is complex, and if you don’t think it is, you are probably doing it wrong. Careful thought and consideration must be given to every last detail from the color of your logo to your promises to the public. This may seem daunting and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are three questions to ask yourself before you start investing in social media:

1) Who are you?
More importantly, who do you want your customer to think you are? A good old fashion SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis will determine how you should position yourself against your competition. Be confident in who you are (aka your brand) before you try to explain it to your customer, or else you’ll both end up confused.

2) What’s your style?
Every social media account needs to present a unified look. What is yours? You need a logo, a slogan, a tagline, advertising copy, perhaps a spokesperson…whatever. However you want to present your business must be reflected the same in all your advertising. If not, you will look like a rookie and lose credibility; not to mention dollars. If you don’t have a talented graphic designer or marketing guru in your family, hire someone who knows how to create your vision. It’s that important.

3) Who’s in charge?
Every social media account must be synced. This means when you post an update about an upcoming sale on FaceBook that same post must also appear on Twitter and LinkedIn. You want to present to the public a well-oiled marketing machine that is always delivering timely, interesting, and useful information. This machine cannot have many operators. The more people that are managing accounts, the greater the possibility of error. Do yourself a favor and hire an expert to handle all your marketing. Your business is that important, and I’m pretty sure you like money. Make sure you earn a lot of it by taking care of your brand.

Businesses no longer have the luxury of deciding whether or not to engage in social media. If you want to succeed, you have to be online and actively reach out to your customers because most likely they are online searching for you. Now ask yourself those questions to figure out what to say to them and how to say it.