Most businesses that I work with these days have one thing in common; they all have business strategy. Typically they have developed an operational plan, a sales strategy, a strategy to manage their cash flow and, of course a the plan to make profit. These are the key components of a business strategy.

But it surprises me that integrating social media into a business plan has confused so many small businesses.. Like any small business use of social media has to operate with efficiency and productivity. Working in social media can be a time vampire if you don’t have the proper strategy. Social media is a marketing tool, and like a marketing or branding tool you shouldn’t push your hard sell through it.

I think of social media like going to high school for the first time. When you first enter a new school you don’t know anyone, there are groups of people in different cliques, from the nerds to the jocks, and everything in between. If you walked into that high school on your first day and yelled down the hallway between classes to everyone that you’ve got something they all should purchase, you will be labeled as the school idiot and it will be a long time to get that identity changed.

Social media works like high school in this manner because you have to grow your relationships. Let people share your message and introduce you to others in the group. When you build that trust in your relationship, sharing the information gets passed along seamlessly without an agenda. Using the same high school example you would walk up to someone in a band and say, “Hi, I play the guitar. I’d love to jam with you guys sometime.” You wouldn’t approach them and say, “I’m the best guitar player ever. Pay me $800 to play with you?” You build this relationship and grow it, and it takes time. Social media should not be a chore, it should be something that you can connect with and where people can connect with you and hear your message.

The first step in a social media strategy is to determine what it is you want to say and also how to deliver it. You need to have a plan that you can execute yourself or delegate to your team. The first step is to determine the amount of time that you have available to spend working on your social media. You are an expert in your own field, so make sure if you want that to be your message, that you stress your expertise.

Choose social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter) that interest you personally. You don’t need to do everything! You can be just as effective going with 1 or 2 mediums as opposed to trying to use all of them. If you don’t like doing videos, then YouTube shouldn’t be your focus. However, maybe you like to write about your business, then build a blog that feeds to your website. If you like images, then build categories and build on them through Pinterest, showcase your products and describe it to your followers.

Without a well-thought out social media strategy, you’re screaming down an empty hallway in the hopes someone hears your message. Start with a Goal. What do you want to achieve? Then define your objectives; how do you want to be perceived online? What are your areas of expertise? Social Media success is built over time and it’s deserved matter of earning trust. Trust is not automatic just because you are using social media.

Remember, social media is all about communications and networking and less about the hard sell. It’s about connecting with those that have interests similar to you and what letting them know the value you can bring to them. Define who you are and stick by that message in your network. Make sure you always start with a strategy that matches your business plan.

Adam Oldfield is the president of FPM marketing and design a full-service online marketing agency and consults small business in marketing and strategy planning with head office in Hamilton and locations through the USA and Ontario.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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