We're going to start this one off with some gross generalizations. In my post about laying the foundation for a successful social media strategy, we defined our example marketing persona Jack as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a midsize enterprise. For the sake of our example let's say that demographic research indicates that CTOs are often middle-age men, upper middle class, with teenage or college-age children. Nice house, nice family, nice job. Jack likes to golf in his free time, and probably doesn't spend much free time learning about new technology.
The question now is: on what social networks are you most likely to reach all the Jacks? According to the Pew Research Center, our target demographic primarily uses LinkedIn and Facebook. These are two very different platforms, and you'll have to develop your strategies a bit differently for each. Basically, LinkedIn is more professionally focused, and Facebook is more personally focused.
Connecting on LinkedIn
Chances are good that you already have a personal LinkedIn profile. Start by cleaning up your profile and using it to make professional connections with existing clients and your portfolio clients. (Portfolio clients are those for whom you've successfully completed projects in the past, and both the final product and the client's happiness with your work are worthy of showing off.)
If your company has a blog or other online publishing outlet where you regularly create useful, original content, LinkedIn is a great place to share that information. To do so, create a company profile on LinkedIn and provide links to your original content two or three times a week. LinkedIn is less demanding in terms of fresh content than other social networks.
Connecting on Facebook
You should use Facebook to make more personal connections with clients and potential customers. Whereas you need to stick to a more professional tone and manner on LinkedIn, Facebook offers an opportunity to relax a little, and have some fun. Remember that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy... and it will make your Facebook stream dull as well. If you have a marketing department, now is the time to ask them to enlighten you on the company's official persona. If you have been put in the position to handle the organization's social media and you have no marketing experience, then you might not have a marketing department at all. If this is the case, ask your boss to help you define the company's personality, tone, and manner. If you are the boss, congratulations — you can make this decision yourself. Whatever tone and manner you choose for the company, make sure it is in line with the branding and that you can sustain it. Don't decide you're going with funny if you aren't naturally funny; you'll end up struggling for content and it will show.
Create a content plan before you begin. Start by deciding what your key messages are. If you are a software solutions firm, your key messages might include reasons that custom software is good for enterprise, sharing your corporate culture (humanizing the organization is vital in today's market), and why your organization is best suited for client needs. Don't beat these messages into peoples' heads — use social media to spread your messages in a way that is comfortable, friendly, and inviting. Make it the potential client's idea that you're the best company for the job.
Once you identify key messages, you need to start deciding how you'll deliver them. This is where a little search engine optimization (SEO) comes in; after all, you can message all day, but nobody is going to hear it unless they can find it. Hopefully you have somebody trained in SEO to help, but many organizations do not. SEO is complex, and you'll learn those skills over time, but for now start by considering what your target audience would type into a search engine if they are looking for what you provide. A great way to do this is to look at competitors' pages and see what terminology they use.
For example, do your clients search for "software solutions"? Possibly, but it is more likely that they search for more specific items than that. What kind of software solutions does your company specialize in? In this example, let's go with warehousing software solutions. Congratulations! You just identified your first key term. Write it down, because you'll want to refer back to it as your social media strategy progresses.
Now I'm going to let you in on a little SEO industry secret: Take that key term you just identified and plug it into Google AdWords. This nifty tool tells us all kinds of things, including how often a key term is searched, whether there is much competition for that key term in searches, and it even offers related key terms, which you should add to your list because you'll need them later. Bookmark Google AdWords, as you'll use it frequently for SEO purposes.
Integrating your identified SEO key terms isn't difficult — the trick is to remember to use them but don't overuse them. Write in a friendly, conversational tone and use the SEO terms as jumping off points for your content topics. Like this:Key term: warehousing software solutions Key message: how our company provides the best warehousing software solutions Publishable content (remember Jack likes to golf, so incorporate his hobby into the content): "Is finding inventory in your warehouse like searching sand traps for lost balls? We'll create your perfect software solution so you can spend more time searching sand traps and less time looking for inventory." Attach an image of a golf ball in a sand trap to the message, and you have your first Facebook post.
Notice that your SEO key term doesn't have to be all connected. Thanks to search engine improvements in recent years, messages are now ranked based on legitimacy. In fact, your organization can be penalized in search rankings for junky, fake content. Identify a key term, but use it naturally.
Plan to post to Facebook about once a day. It helps to write out your posts for the week in advance. Pick a central topic each week and provide quality content that helps people solve a problem or entertains them. This is a great way to begin your online conversation. You'll grow your strategy over time, but start by drawing people to your page with high-quality content. Once you have a small audience, you can begin to expand your efforts.
Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conducting science experiments at home. Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Transylvania University, and has experience in copywriting for education, print, business, and the web. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter via @HuTerra.