social media icons including camera, shopping cart, like button, cell phone, and chat bubbles.

Be careful what you wish for: Social media is a beast that needs feeding.

We sometimes have clients come to us and ask for advice in building a social media strategy for business. This isn’t a bad question to be asking, but it sometimes comes with some backwards assumptions. The problem is that many people hear about social media and see advertisements and success cases in their own feed. They want to start before asking whether they have the energy and resources to commit to a social media strategy.

To handle this question, we’re going to take a step back. Let’s assess what building a social media following for your business might take. And while we’re at it, we’ll clarify what kind of businesses should make social media a higher priority.

What social media doesn’t do for you.

One of the key reasons we direct clients toward building their blogging presence before focusing on social media is that social has a fast expiry date. In order to keep your channel alive, you need to have constant and consistent output. Without this, your social media strategy is not only wasting your resources. It’s also telegraphing to anyone who takes the time to look that you don’t have the time, interest, or resources to keep it running. A dead feed does more harm than no feed at all.

Social also doesn’t do much for your SEO. While having active channels liked to your website can do you some good, none of the text that you put out on Facebook or Twitter makes it onto your website in any permanent way. It can certainly benefit your business in other ways and draw traffic to your website, but the long-term effect can be quite fleeting.

Your content works for you for as long as it takes someone to get tired of scrolling down your channel feed. Very few people have the time or motivation to dig further back for old posts (unless they’re trying to drag back something embarrassing that you posted several years ago). So when it comes to your social media content, top of feed is top of mind. And don’t forget: whenever you put out content, you will need to invest some resources in managing customer comments.

How a social media strategy can help your business.

None of this is to say that building a social media strategy for business is a waste of time. On the contrary: there is absolutely a good way for you to benefit from your social media channels, and you should take the time to invest in it. But the importance of social for your business will depend a lot on what it is you do. And it would be difficult to nail down any kind of social media strategy without a firm assessment of your businesses goals.

The best thing social media can do for almost any business is draw more traffic to your content. In fact, good content production through blogging, podcasting, or video gives you an active social media channel almost by default. You don’t need to go out of your way to generate new content, you just have to publish the content you already have!

A live channel also helps when you go to advertise. Since you need a channel to run ads anyway, it’s better to have one full of active, engaging content. Otherwise you could turn away the prospects you are literally paying to come your way.

Facebook is also taking long strides in enabling users to purchase products directly from business pages, rather than having to navigate away from Facebook to another location. This is good for Facebook, in that it encourages users to stay on their site. But it is also good for any business who can get that model running efficiently. As Facebook morphs into an ecommerce platform, retail businesses especially can benefit from showing off their wares on a well-run channel.

What kind of social media strategy should your business use?

Roughly speaking, let’s look at business according to two metrics: B2B vs. B2C, and businesses which sell products vs. those which sell services.

B2B Service Businesses

You do high-level professional consulting, and your content goes deep to show off your knowledge expertise. Your sales process usually takes a while, because your services are expensive and your clients need to make a slow, informed decision. Because of this, your main goal is to build brand awareness and establish thought leadership. You want to focus the bulk of your content strategy on creating blog posts and downloadable content, maybe developing webinars or infographics as well. Your most relevant channels are LinkedIn and Facebook (because everyone’s on Facebook). If you have the energy for it, Twitter would be a good third option.

B2B Product Businesses

B2B product businesses get more out of social media, but will probably focus on the same channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They should still offer plenty of content, but theirs may not have to go as deep as the consulting company. They would also benefit from more specific product promotion on social media, especially if they have a shorter sales cycle and a focus on ecommerce.

B2C Service Businesses

Depending on the services you offer, your social media strategy may closely resemble either of the B2B models. For instance, a financial consultant or a realtor offer high value, high cost services that need the long, in-depth, content-heavy approach. On the other hand, a salon more closely resembles the product model, in that many customers can be convinced to book an appointment on the spot. An active social media channel can also do more good for these businesses, because it allows for them to cultivate a stronger bond with their core audience. So while the high-level consultants may want to focus more on LinkedIn, the salon will get more from Instagram. (And both should be on Facebook.)

B2C Product Businesses

The more a product can be described as an impulse purchase, the more it should be on social media. And the more aesthetically pleasing a product is, the more it should be on Instagram. This is probably the only area where a social media budget may need more time and attention than the rest of your content marketing, but even that isn’t a sure thing. For instance, your product may require complicated instructions, or you could have a lot of tips to share about how to use it. All of this can be blog content that helps convince visitors to try your product out. Either way, you probably need less time on LinkedIn, more time on Facebook an Instagram.

Engagement is as deep as your content.

As we’ve hinted, engagement on social media can be shallow and fleeting. There’s a reason why we measure “impressions” in our metrics. But deeper content can draw more meaningful interest. And with enough activity, even brief impressions can build into a strong reputation. The key to a successful social media strategy for business is to understand what you expect to get as a return for your efforts, and to promote your brand intelligently. With proper management, social media can become a key element in your content marketing strategy.

Published 04/21/17 by Laura Lynch