If you’re doing business in today’s economy and don’t have a social media presence, you don’t exist. Big words, but they aren’t meant to scare you. Instead, you should feel excited about the wide-open possibility the right social media presence offers today’s businesses.

Whether you’ve just started or updating your business for the true modern age, social media can increase engagement, build brand awareness and create loyal followers ready to share your content and brand.

You’re convinced, of course, but the opportunities are endless… meaning overwhelming choices. How do you know which one(s) to use? How do you create the right content? Do you respond to each comment right away? How do you even reach your ideal customers, and when you do, how do you create a sustainable social media presence?

Here’s what you need to know to take the first step (the hardest one, we know). You can make social media your partner in this online business/eCommerce world and make your marketing and outreach efforts just a little easier.

Step 1 — Analyze Your Audience

Before you open a single account, you need to know who your content will be for. There are so many prospects online, but counterintuitively, you aren’t looking for the widest net possible. Instead, you’re narrowing things down to your ideal customer or client.

Think of it like this. Before the internet, people were limited by location. Most brick and mortar stores had to cater to a broad audience because they had a limited-by-location audience and those people couldn’t just pack up to head around the world looking for exactly what they want.

Today, people can do just that. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone — attracting no one in the process — your research should tell you who your ideal client is to create content only for them.

Analysis also tells you where your target audience is, relieving you from having to be everywhere at once. You’ve narrowed your platform down to just a few and eliminated half the overwhelm in one step.

Step 2 — Brainstorm Your Content

Once you’ve settled on your target audience and platform, it’s time to decide what content you’ll produce and how often. This gives you consistency, translating to brand recognition and a sense of trust from your followers.

Your content will reflect your brand, your solution and your mission or personality as a business. You’ll want to pin down:

  • Content-type — Videos, infographics and longer copy, for example
  • Brand design — The color, theme and types of content in your plan
  • Activity level — How often you post and respond (and how you respond)
  • What you sell (if you do) — Selling directly on the platform, directing others to a website, etc

You must create a plan for your content so that you can measure the data. You’ll refine what posts your audience responds to, which posts direct the most traffic and what content leads to the most significant sales.

Step 3 — Communicate Consistently

Now that you’ve identified your target audience and the ideal platforms. It’s time to start creating your content. Stick to the plan you created in the last step so that you develop trust with your audience.

Consistency accomplishes two things. First, your target audience knows what to expect, and they come back for more. Second, you’ll get a good idea of what type of content gets the most engagement and refine little by little.

Ensure that your brand information and message are the same no matter what platform you’re on. Create recognizable graphics, profile pictures, store hours, website information and anything else your customer would need.

As your audience finds you and gets to know you, it becomes easier to recognize you on other platforms. This concept builds your engagement and your following, increasing prospects along the way.

Even after you’ve been on social media for a while, you need to continue to build your presence consistently. Your audience trusts your brand, and consistency equals credibility. Sudden changes can make them doubt you or become confused.

Step 4 — Create unique content

Take all these elements together, and put together your content calendar. Work out several weeks to several months in advance to offer consistency, and you can determine what types of content work.

Ensure that all your content serves a purpose — not just selling. Ask yourself:

  • Am I answering a question my target audience frequently has?
  • Am I solving a problem for my target audience?
  • Am I educating or informing?

Content created with these questions in mind helps keep your primary mission, serve your target audience and enrich their lives. From there, sales can happen as an outgrowth of your audience, finding value in your content and your brand.

If you can’t answer yes to at least one of those questions with a new post, it’s time to reformulate. Consider the perspective of your audience; they don’t have to stick around for content that isn’t providing value to their lives. Edit and audit your content calendar to ensure this stays in place.

Step 5 — Connect Everything Together

The purpose of your social media is to connect back to your website and newsletter, things you have control over. Think of social media as borrowed real estate. It could shut down at any moment, and you’d lose your audience.

Instead, all your efforts on social media should be driving your customer to safer real estate. Your email list, website and online store are all places where you have a lot more control over how things go.

Create consistent calls to action where customers can head to your website. Make sure your information is correct and current in all your bio descriptions and for all “about” sections. By connecting it all together, you’ll attract the right customers and help keep them long term.

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