9-step social media checklist for startups: How to talk with your tribe
You already know that social media is a huge part of today’s online world. But can your business really benefit from social networks? It can if you use this social media checklist to align your business’s social activity with your overall content marketing strategy.
The social media pot of gold
Done well, social media can create value as part of a larger content strategy. Among other gains, social interaction can broaden exposure for your business, help you find new prospects and customers, drive more website traffic, and establish a dialog about needs and pain points (thought leadership).
At its core, social media connects you with people who care about what you have to say – your tribe. That’s like gold in any marketing effort.
Most of this value can be generated without spending much (or any) money on social media. But it will take time and effort on your part. I hope this social media checklist will help.
Why you need a social media checklist
Over half of the more than 3.5 billion global Internet users are on Facebook (January 2017). Countless other networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Snap, YouTube and more – add up to make the digital socio-sphere incredibly vast and complex.
It’s a tempting, large audience. But to tap this phenomenon wisely and effectively, you can’t just flail about in the social universe without direction.
Instead you need to be intentional, proactive and efficient. In other words, you need a plan: a social media checklist that gets your business in the social game without overwhelming you with work.
My un-patented – but tested – social media checklist
I’m by no means a social media expert. But I’ve used social media successfully for my own businesses and clients over the last ten years or so – and made some mistakes along the way as well.
This checklist of nine actions is the result of that experience, both good and bad.
Are there really only nine things you need to do? Well, no. Social media is too rich and dynamic for that level of simplicity. So what I’ve tried to do is highlight the most important first tactics that are relatively easy and affordable for startups and small businesses. These basic steps will get you well underway as a social content marketer. Your own results will then help you decide where to go after that.
Without further ado, here’s the list.
1. Get strategic: The first step in your social media checklist
If you’ve read my lesson on The 5 Stages of Content Marketing you know that effective content marketing starts with strategy. It should come as no surprise, then, that the first step in your social media checklist is to get your overall content strategy in place.
That means you need to clearly define your unique business topic (focus) and profile your ideal customers (aim) before embarking on a social media effort.
Said another way: Think before you speak.
A clear business niche will help you select the best social networks for your strategy. It will also guide the conversations you’re going to create using social media.
Insightful customer profiles (personas) will also help you find the right networks for your social activity. Where are people discussing the specific needs and pains you’ve identified? That’s where you’ll want to have a presence.
The exception to this recommendation is that you could use social media as a research tool before you kick off a social campaign, to see what people in your target tribe are struggling with or to hone your topic. But that’s a listening exercise, not a social conversation.
2. Establish a business social presence
Once you have a good idea about where your ideal tribe hangs out online, get your business on those channels. (Choose channels based on target persona characteristics – where are they likely to be active?)
Start small – maybe two or three social networks total. That will give you enough feedback to see if your conversations resonate, without having to maintain too many profiles or discussions. It’s more important to manage a limited social presence well than to be everywhere and out of control.
Here are my top three suggestions on where to start:
Facebook business page. Although it skews toward consumers, B2C and B2B businesses alike are finding success on Facebook. With over 1.8 billion active users (January 2017) it’s by far the largest social network out there. Just don’t use your own personal profile on Facebook for your business. Instead, set up a Facebook business page. It’s free.
LinkedIn company page. As of late 2016 there were more than 460 million LinkedIn members. This business-oriented audience can be a good place for B2B startups and small companies to find prospects in their niche. A good way to put your business on LinkedIn is with a free company page. Unlike Facebook, it’s feasible to also use your own personal profile for LinkedIn social discussions – especially if you link them back to posts on your company page.
LinkedIn group. LinkedIn groups allow you to narrow in on specific audiences such as freelance writers, online business owners or accountants. There are often multiple groups with similar membership, so look for as many as you can in your niche by varying your search terms. You can join as many groups as you like (as an individual, not a company) and can then start discussions or participate in conversations started by other group members. You can also create your own group, which might help you attract exactly the types of people you’re targeting.
A few other top contenders:
Twitter account. Although Twitter has had its ups and downs, it’s still a popular social channel, with over 300 million active users (January 2017). Twitter posts (tweets) are limited to 140 characters, but can include links to web pages, images and even videos. Anyone can follow anyone else on Twitter; there’s no need (or way) to approve someone as a friend or connection before they can see your content.
Google+ While I don’t have much experience with this network, almost 500 million other people are active users on it. Given its size, I plan to research Google+ a bit more to see if it will help my CMS social strategy, and will report more details later.
Pinterest board. If your product, service or topic lends itself to visual images, check out Pinterest. It has over 189 million active users, 85% of which are female. If that matches your target persona, Pinterest could be a very good social channel for you.
YouTube, Instagram, Snap (formerly Snapchat). These video and image networks might fit your business niche well. Don’t overlook them as you consider where to establish your business presence.
3. Link to your social profiles
Once you’ve set up initial social profiles for your business, link to them on your website. This will create a connection between the content (and visitors) on your website to the content (and discussions) in your social networks. It’s a good multiplier effect.
If you’re using Divi from Elegant Themes as your WordPress theme (as I do), you’ll have a couple of ways to create these links.
Use Divi’s configuration options to enter your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profile URLs. This will place social icons linked to your profiles at the top and bottom of every page on your site. (I chose to only show them on the bottom of this site, in the dark gray bar.)
Use Divi’s Social Follow Module to add links to any additional social networks you have. You can place these anywhere on any page on your site.
Once you complete this step in your social media checklist, take a few minutes to make sure you also have correct links back to your website from each of your social business profiles.
4. Join the conversation the easy way
You don’t have to write original articles or post numerous updates to your social business profiles in order to interact socially (although it helps if you do). An easy way to get started is to simply participate in discussions started by others in your networks.
You can offer an opinion, answer a question, pose an alternative, suggest a resource, or just thank someone for his or her insight.
This is a great way to get comfortable with the nuances of social business interaction. It will also help you start to establish your own voice and viewpoint.
It’s best not to get too self-promotional when you do this. Keep your comments helpful, informative and educational rather than pushy. And of course, remain courteous and respectful of others in the conversation.
5. Amplify your blog
Once you start writing your business blog your social media activity can really kick in. You do that by promoting your blog with social media.
First publish a blog article on your site. Copy the URL for that page. Then place social posts on all your networks that link back to the URL of the original article.
Besides the backlink itself, your social posts should include a brief introduction to the content in the article. Write an intro that gives a taste of the content and invites the viewer to read more on your blog.
I’m in the early stages of using this tactic for Content Marketing Startup since I launched the business four weeks ago. The results are starting to show: my social posts are currently driving more website traffic than any other source. Most of this traffic is from LinkedIn.
6. Multiply your presence: Curate other content
You can use social media to share content beside your own, a process called curating.
Curated material could be a blog article, a research report, a web page, a tweet, an infographic, a news item or almost anything else as long as it fits your niche and isn’t from one of your competitors.
Curating saves content authoring time, while strengthening your association with relevant topics. It also helps people who follow you (and who care about what you have to say) obtain more educational content than you could ever produce on your own. The fact that you’re providing the content builds your social brand.
When you share curated material, always include your own perspective on why you think others should view it. And always give the original author credit by mentioning him or her in your post.
To find material worth curating, conduct your own online research. Use Google searches, or even easier, Google Alerts. With a Google Alert you tell Google which keywords to search for, and Google will send you a regular email with links to recent web material that matches. All for free.
Up your game. Curating has one downside: When you share others’ material, your readers leave your social post and go to someone else’s site. You can combat this with a tool called Sniply. Sniply automatically places a call-to-action banner on any link you share, with a link back to your site or social profile. I just started using Sniply for my curated content and will report on results soon. But at first glance it’s a really cool and useful tool! There’s a free version, with paid subscriptions starting at $29/month.
7. Create a social posting calendar
Plan on posting to your social business networks at least daily. Mornings are probably the best time to post for B2B firms; after work hours might work better for B2C firms.
To stay organized without spending any money, create a posting calendar in a spreadsheet or use a dedicated digital calendar.
Try to stick with your schedule as much as you can. As in blogging, consistency is important.
Up your game. Manual calendars and manual posting can get tedious and time consuming, especially as you expand your networks or increase your posting frequency. Hootsuite, Buffer and Post Planner are three tools that bring some welcome automation to the task. They’re each a bit different, but usually help you post to multiple networks and schedule posts for future automated delivery. Buffer and Hootsuite have free options and low-cost subscriptions; Post Planner doesn’t have a free option but subscriptions start at a low $9/month.
8. Use proper etiquette
I touched on this earlier in my social media checklist, but etiquette and courtesy go a long way in social media. It is, after all, a social endeavor not a competition or street-corner protest. Accordingly:
Thank others who share your material.
Mention authors whose material you share.
Keep your tone civil and helpful.
If you can’t say anything positive or constructive, don’t say anything.
Avoid touchy controversial topics: politics, religion, sexuality, biases or prejudice.
Keep it business-like.
9. Make it easy to share your content socially
After writing your heart out in a blog post, make it easy for your tribe to share that great content in their social networks. Do this by placing social sharing buttons within easy reach of your articles.
Elegant Themes (publisher of my recommended WordPress theme, Divi) makes this incredibly simple with their Monarch website plugin.
Monarch lets you add graphical sharing links for over 20 different social networks on any page or post. When a reader clicks on one of these icons, he or she will be presented with a pop-up to share their commentary and the link to your content on their social network.
You can control the graphical appearance, page location and behavior of these icons on your site. Take a look at the left side and the bottom of this blog post to see examples of the Monarch social sharing buttons.
The Monarch plugin comes as part of the Elegant Themes Developer subscription ($89/year) or Lifetime subscription ($249 one time) which also include Divi and 86 other great WordPress themes. (Full disclosure: I like Monarch so much that I became an Elegant Themes affiliate, which means I earn a commission if you follow my links and end up purchasing it.)
Are you ready to get social?
Social media can be fantastically fruitful for startups and small businesses! It’s a vital part of an overall content marketing strategy.
I hope this social media checklist has given you some actionable, sensible ways to put social media to work for your business.
If you found this checklist useful, please share it by clicking on one or more of the social sharing buttons below, or by submitting a comment. Hey, it’s good social media practice!
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