Traditional social media marketing campaigns tend to follow a similar outline. They start with setting up accounts and posting content. Then, as your messaging get stronger and your audience grows, more and more potential buyers are exposed to your business. By sprinkling in occasional offers, events, and discount codes, you pull them into your business (literally or figuratively).
That’s a nice plan, and lots of business owners are using social media marketing to be effective in this way. However, the strategy doesn’t always work. And that can leave entrepreneurs feeling as if social networking is a dead end.
There are plenty of reasons why traditional social media marketing strategies can fail to produce results. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all pretty crowded, so it’s easy to see your messaging get crowded out. In addition, it can be difficult to stand out in a world where everyone is trying to outdo their peers and neighbors. And finally, it takes a great deal of time—and even more patience—to grow an organic following in many areas of everyday business.
Put all of these factors together and you can see why so many small and medium-sized companies give up on the idea of finding buyers through social media channels. However, even though the path from posts to fans and customers is well-worn, it isn’t the only way you can generate measurable success. In fact, we think a lot of business owners would be better off working on a social strategy that moves the other way around.
Interested in knowing how that would work? Read on so we can fill you in.
Flipping the Social Media Marketing Script
As we have covered, traditional social media marketing is built on the idea that you’re going to generate followers from your content and then use that audience to drive leads or sales. But things don’t have to work that way. They can be easier if you move in the other direction.
Imagine for a moment that you reversed the order of operations in our social equation. Suppose you started with a handful of fans and followers. These would be men and women you already do business with. If you could get them to support your page initially, then you’d have a base of fans who would like your posts, participate in polls and quizzes, and generally drive up your social engagement numbers.
This is an important detail. In the same way that Google uses advanced search algorithms to decide which websites are more knowledge-filled and authoritative than others, Facebook and the other social platforms do something similar. They know they can’t show users everything, so they prioritize content that gets attention. That’s especially true if the attention comes in the form of shares and comments. For that reason, it can be much better for your long-term visibility to have a small number of committed fans than it is to have a wide audience filled with people who don’t know you, won’t interact with your post, and/or aren’t real prospects for your company.
Once you have those initial fans and followers in place, you could attract others like them. How? You could add links to your email messages and newsletters. You might try posting QR codes in your retail location. You could even sign people up at trade shows or community events. The point is that there are lots of ways you could leverage person-to-person interactions and increase the size of your reach across a handful of social platforms that are relevant to your business.
At that point, a couple of great things could happen. The first is that you might be able to keep growing your following in an organic way. Those people you got to follow you will all have friends, colleagues, and family members. If you generate enough interesting content, your initial fans will react. Their contacts will see that and might join in.
The second thing that could happen quickly is that you could use the more personal nature of your business’s social following to create partnerships and sales opportunities. Because the people in your network actually know you, they’ll be more interested to know about sales, specials, and offers you present them with. And let’s not forget: that should be the primary goal of your social media marketing plan to begin with.
Doing social media “backwards” is all about using your existing contacts and reputation to get more followers online. Once you do, you can use your social channels to stay in touch with those people, keep on the top of their minds, and move them to action when you have something new to offer.
The Benefits of a Reversed Social Media Marketing Plan
At this point, you might be excited about the notion of trying to build your social following from the ground up. Or, maybe you’re so sick of the hype around various efforts to work through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram that you aren’t convinced they could work for you. Either way, let’s examine some of the benefits so you can decide whether it might be a viable path for you or not.
The first reason to go at social media marketing backwards is that it’s simply more practical than the traditional route. If you already have existing relationships, a retail space, and/or a presence at events, then it just makes sense to use what you’ve got. Why concentrate on posting five times every day when you could simply sign up more of your existing customers and contacts instead?
As a side note, it’s also worth pointing out that getting a follow on a social media channel is a fairly easy conversion step. Not everyone wants to give you their email address, for example, but may follow you on Facebook if they’ve gotten good service from your business in the past. By asking for something small, you plant the seeds for a bigger relationship in the future.
In addition to being practical, a reversed social media marketing plan can be structured in a way that’s realistic. This isn’t to say that other strategies can’t be, but it isn’t unusual for business owners to overshoot on their early goals. For instance, they may tell themselves that they are going to gain tens of thousands of followers on Instagram in their first few months by sharing images. That could happen, but it’s not likely. Conversely, if you already know how many people you interact with on a weekly basis through the normal course of doing business, then you could simply aim to add a certain percentage into your list of followers. That helps you set more reachable targets.
The big reason to reverse your social media marketing plan is that it’s simply more profitable. Would you rather have 10,000 followers who barely pay attention to your brand or 50 dedicated fans who were likely to buy from you every time you posted something unique? Which option would you expect to add more revenue to your business? It’s easy to get lost in the vanity metrics of social media. Everyone likes to have tons of followers and likes. But at the end of the day, it’s revenue that drives business growth performance. That’s what you should be looking for across all of your social channels.
And finally, let’s look at one more bonus benefit: a reversed social media marketing strategy is less stressful. In the same way that it’s easier to give a toast in a room full of friends than it is a speech to a group of strangers, you’ll have a much easier time generating content when you know who your followers are. You can be sure you will choose the right topics and strike the right tone because you’re aiming for a defined group rather than some subset of “everyone.” As a byproduct, your messaging becomes more focused and engaging.
By starting with existing contacts, you can devise a workable social media plan that’s designed to generate real results without overwhelming you. Are you feeling convinced yet? Let’s move on and examine what you can do to get started.
How to Get Started With a Ground-Up Social Plan
Having given you all the reasons why you might want to handle social media marketing differently than your peers and competitors, let’s get to the how. It turns out it’s not all that different or difficult to grow through handshakes rather than clicks. You even start the same way. Here is an overview of the steps to follow:
- Begin by setting up accounts on all the social platforms that are most relevant to your business. Relevant means your customers use them and would consider interacting with you on them, not that they simply happen to be the ones you like best.
- Fill those accounts in with photos, maps, directions, phone numbers, links to your website, and any other details that would help prove that your business is the one you say it is. This will help make your content more trustworthy. It will also encourage your social followers to visit your website, retail shop, etc.
- Find your first 20-50 contacts by inviting people you already know or do business with. Tell them about your plans and ask them to share or comment on your posts when it seems like a good fit. You don’t want to pester anyone. Instead, you simply want to be sure they understand you will be offering something different – in the form of new information, discounts, or something else of value – through social channels.
- Post regularly. Don’t just add generic content to your social feeds. Post items that would be of interest to that small audience you built. You should know what kinds of things they like and respond to, so it won’t be a huge challenge to come up with ideas or set up an organized editorial calendar.
- Consider growing your reach in two ways. First, by inviting more customers and contacts to follow you through their favorite social channels. And second, by boosting and promoting your posts through small investments (think a few dollars at a time). This will improve visibility and boost engagement, particularly as your audience gets bigger and bigger.
- Grow! At some point your social media marketing efforts will take on a life of their own. You will have hit the critical mass everyone else is looking for, but without the stress and setbacks so many business owners endure.
- And finally, keep an eye on the results. Online marketing of any kind should be driven by a combination of instincts and analytics. If you find that one channel or content is consistently paying off, then keep moving in that direction.
This isn’t a complicated plan, but it’s one that can work. If you follow these steps you’ll soon find that social media marketing will go from an afterthought to a cornerstone of your sales efforts.
Don’t take our word for it, though. Try what we’ve outlined for yourself. If it doesn’t work, then you can move on and say we are wrong. But if it does, we hope you’ll come back to us for more great advice – or maybe even a one-on-one strategy session.
That’s as good a reminder as any that we need to move to our final point. Namely, that you don’t have to do this all on your own.
Want to Bring Your Social Media Action Plan to Life?
Social media marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require a bit of time and focus. And, it can sometimes make sense to work with experts who can speed the process up so you can enjoy the tangible benefits a little faster.
Many of our new clients are shocked at how little it takes – in terms of both time and money – to get moving with a reversed social media marketing strategy. If you’d like to talk about whether this sort of approach is right for your business, and how we can help, then we invite you to contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
It won’t cost you more than a short meeting, and you just might discover a way to transform the future of your business. Why not give us a shot and reach out now?