Whether you run a business employing one person or work for a corporation of 250,000, you'll need a social media strategy for 2012. As more people embrace Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other networks, it's time to make social media an integral part of your marketing strategy.
1. Claim Your Name Everywhere
The social media world is no longer limited to Facebook and Twitter. You'll want to stake your claim on Google+ and LinkedIn with a company page as well. Make sure you are taking advantage of any directories available on the websites of any professional associations you belong to, as these valuable links back to your website help build your credibility both with potential customers and the search engines.
Even if you can't commit the resources to updating a Google+ or LinkedIn page, at least get them started so that you have the link and more relevant results for your company show up when a potential client is searching for you.
2. Do a Month-By-Month Plan With Clear Goals
Come up with a clear goal for what you want to do with social media. Do you want to help customers, make more sales, drive more people to your website, or a combination of all three? Then come up with a plan to meet those goals month-to-month and assign the proper resources to it. If you want to make more sales using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, make sure your sales force is trained in social media tools early in the year.
3. Find a Way to Measure Results
Planning is futile without a way to measure results. Get familiar with Google Analytics and Hootsuite. Google Analytics lets you track visitors to your site for free. For example, I can see how many visitors came to my site from LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Google recently revamped Analytics to include real-time tracking data. Google Analytics let you see how many visitors came to your website from Twitter, but you can't specifically see which campaigns drove them there (at least not yet; Twitter's analytics tool isn't likely to roll out fully until 2012). For beginners, Klout is a good way of measuring how effective your social media efforts are, with a number and practical suggestions for improvement on a week-to-week-basis.
Hootsuite is the best free tool for managing multiple social media platforms, with a professional version available at $5.99 a month if you need to monitor more than the five different profiles allowed on the free version. While there is no Google+ support yet, users are pushing hard for it. SayitSocial starts at $9.99 a month for 15 social profiles. SocialVolt is more of a mid-range agency solution, starting at $250 a month. Both SayitSocial and SocialVolt are looking at incorporating Google+ early in 2012.
If your company has the budget, Adobe's SocialAnalytics starts at about $20,000 a year. With this, for example, you can see that 400 people hit your Facebook page, and out of that 120 went on to your website, and that out of that number, 20 made a purchase. Attaching a proper ROI number to your sales is worth the budget spend. Granted, if you spent enough time doing custom reports with Google Analytics, you could approximate these results, but only as percentages rather than as hard numbers.
You could log in to Hootsuite to monitor multiple accounts across various channels, but not with the same level of detail. Adobe's tool allows for close, top-down monitoring of social media all in one dashboard without the need to produce complex reports for simple inquiries.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Outsource
At a small or midsize business, people power usually comes at a premium. It's easy to let personnel who should be handling sales or customer service wander off into social media land. However, these people are much better at doing what you hired them to do: sell products or services, and help customers. This is where outsourcing comes in.
Ask your Web design firm either to quote you on social media services or recommend someone who does it. When it comes to hiring for this position, you'll want to go with someone referred to you since it is too easy for anyone to hang out a shingle and call themselves a social media consultant. Ask which companies they've worked for, what their results have been, and how they measure results--essentially questions they should answer easily if they've done the job correctly.
5. Add Your Social Media Links to Online and Printed Collateral
Once you've got your social media profiles set up and launched, make sure that you're adding your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ pages to business cards, brochures, fliers, and any other printed materials. Make sure that links to all of your social media profiles are on your own website and any other Web properties your company may run. If you want a custom Facebook URL instead of just letters and numbers, you need to set up a user name for your company Facebook page. Google+ is a bit more problematic; you can embed the URL online, but for printed material it may be easier to say, "Look us up on Google+". Hopefully Google+ will fix this issue in 2012.
In the end, if you are making any kind of an effort on social media where you weren't making one before, you will see results. Just make sure to measure results so you can evaluate and use the data to plan for 2013.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest and Facebook.
This story, "Five tips for your 2012 social media strategy" was originally published by PCWorld.