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Advanced Social Media

The following article builds on my mega-guide by discussing how to develop your social media influence and other advanced topics. I also talk about social media management, outsourcing and the last section is on creating a Daily Action Plan for your social media activities.

How Do You Build Your Social Media Influence?

We’ve seen how important social media influence can be for the average business. So, given this importance, how exactly do you, a business owner, go about building up your influence when it comes to social media? In a word, carefully. The thing with social media is that it’s so easy to use that the temptation is to, well, overuse it. The only thing that is worse than talking to an audience who isn’t listening is wearing out your welcome with a receptive audience. In this section of the book we’re going to give you some solid tips and tricks that are guaranteed to grab a social media audience and keep them engaged and attentive right through a sale and beyond.

What’s That You’re Saying?

Before you can begin to build you social media influence, you have to have something compelling to say. In other words, how are you going to position your business when it comes to the audience you’re trying to reach? This position is your message and the message is what you’ll be communicating to an audience via the various social media platforms. Your message is simply how you market yourself to the general public, both online and off.

Many businesses make the mistake of beginning to communicate on social media without first developing a clear message, or clear way to communicate that message. Other businesses make the mistake of falling off point when it comes to their message. Either way, a business that makes these mistakes will likely not be able to build social media influence, since they are confusing any potential audience in regard to what they are saying.

Think about your message in terms of a political campaign. Politicians have talking points and they stick to these points no matter what and no matter the question they are asked. This helps drive home their message in the minds of their potential constituents. Your business’ social media message has to be as pointed, consistent and clear as a politician’s talking points. When you talk on social media, there can be no doubt in the minds of those listening about what your business is, what it does and the level of service and expertise it provides. The take away here is that when it comes to social media, think before you speak.

Control dial set to 11

Turn Your Message Up To Eleven

If you’re in business, then you are in the business of solving problems. No matter which way you cut it, every business takes a customer’s problem and makes it go away. That’s what businesses do. The businesses that most efficiently solve the problems that their customers face are the businesses that become the most successful. It’s that simple and that straightforward.

If your business has solved customer problems to their satisfaction in the past, then those successes and those satisfied customers are the basis of your marketing efforts. Potential customers want to be able to trust that you will take care of their particular problem quickly and cleanly. Pointing out examples of previously satisfied customers lends legitimacy to the rest of your marketing message. As they say, nothing succeeds like success.

What does all this have to do with social media influence? In a nutshell, a great deal. You see, social media is not an isolated means of marketing your business. Instead, it should be cleanly integrated into a cohesive marketing campaign. In other words, you should be using social media to amplify your message, not to broadcast an entirely new and different message.

A lot of businesses become obsessed with social media. As a result they spend way too much time worrying and fiddling with various social media platforms. They actually spend too much time on social media, engaging in all the wrong kinds of communications. When you use social media to magnify what you already are saying, you should find the time spent on social media decreasing. In other words, it is quality communication that counts, not the number of times you make a post.

Talk, but Don’t Converse

Social media is all about creating engagement with an audience. This engagement leads to communication which, in turn, leads to trust. The thing is the communication portion of that formula does not mean that you are holding a conversation with your audience members or, worse yet, chatting with them. Instead, proper use of social media means that any conversation is one way – you talk and they listen.

Social media, when used properly, will create authority. You broadcast you message and prove to people that you can solve problems, as we discussed above. A problem occurs when business owners confuse their personal use of social media with their business’ use of social media. In the one case chatting, disagreeing and even arguing are perfectly permissible. In the other, such behavior is instant death when it comes to influence. Authority figures do not chat, defend their positions or argue about the validity of what they have to say. As soon as a figure of authority engages in conversational behavior, they begin to lose weight and influence.

Talk to your audience on social media, don’t talk with them. This doesn’t mean that you are talking down to your audience or talking at them. It simply means that you are reinforcing your business’ expertise in the minds of your audience as a problem solving organization. The take away here is that you don’t want to even try to connect with everyone on social media, you only want to connect with those people who will resonate to your message.

How to Measure Your Social Media Influence

Once you’ve begun to grow your social media influence you’re going to need to measure how much influence you actually wield. Luckily, there are several different ways to get the metrics that will tell you how successful your social media efforts have been.

Spending time on social media platforms is good for business, but just how good is what you should be asking. While there are multitudes of different ways to measure the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts, here we’ll discuss the most popular and widely-used social media analytics tools.

These tools measure not just the effectiveness of your posts, but keywords used in conversations, conversations about your brand, and geographical data regarding your followers. Needless to say, the amount of information one can glean from using these tools can be used to directly influence marketing campaigns.

New tools are being brought to the table each day, and you can research to find these yourself, or rely on the services of a social media manager to handle the data collection, and run your social media accounts for you.

Here is a breakdown of six of the most used social media analytics tools:

Klout

Klout specifically measures engagement over a range of social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and then awards each Klout user a rating or score. You may hear people discussing their Klout score on social media sites. While Klout generally measures engagement, it also takes into account your network size, what type of content you tend to post, and how others share or like that content.

Klout also provides links to curated content that you, as a user, can share based on your expertise and interests. It’s an easy way to grab and share a link with content relevant to your niche.

BrandWatch

BrandWatch offers social media analytics services, and their data is especially useful in a handful of areas. With BrandWatch, you’ll not only be able to measure the effectiveness of your current social media marketing campaigns, but you’ll be able to keep an analytical eye on your competitors as well.

Identifying major influencers within your niche is priceless, and BrandWatch will accomplish this, as well as help you reach out to them, connect with them, and engage with them.

Market research is a large part of the BrandWatch suite of services, and will allow you to discover areas of your market that you can explore with social media campaigns.

Reputation management is a service that BrandWatch offers that will show you where your business is being criticized, and allow you to take control of those situations by engaging with your customer base.

Topsy

Topsy allows you to analyze social media conversations based on keywords of your choosing. You can utilize Topsy.com to search for posts and content that has been shared on social media (mostly Google+ and Twitter) and it will give you a ranking that is based on an algorithm measuring the positive support you receive for what you post. One drawback is that Topsy uses the entire archive of Twitter Tweets going all the way back to 2007 in their algorithm, so numbers may not reflect the most recent social atmosphere.

UberVU

For the uber-advanced analytics addict, there is UberVU, now a part of Hootsuite. Utilizing over 100 million data sources, UberVU will hone in on exactly how your audience feels about you and your brand/business, and then break up those results based on variables that you choose. UberVU does all this is real time, so if a negative issue pops up surrounding your brand, it can be dealt with immediately.

UberVU will tell you when your brand is mentioned on social media, and will also help you discover trending topics that you’ll want to get involved in. And with all this info generated onto charts, graphs, and maps, you’ll be able to take actionable steps with your business based on completely accurate data.

Kred

Measures both your influence and your reach in terms of social media. It does so by assessing your Twitter activity including the number of mentions, replies, retweets, and new followers you receive. You are also awarded a score which takes into account how often you engage with others, and how often you, yourself, reply, retweet, etc.

Kred is currently undergoing a revamp, and who knows what will be offered next!

Klear

Klear actually collects information from multiple social media sources to compile information and data that is a social media analytics dream! From telling you who the major influencers are in your niche to breaking down data on each influencer, Klear is well, clearly the choice for anyone who wants to get serious about their social media influence.

Klear will also analyze what your competitors are up to, and deliver deep data that you can then utilize to your own businesses advantage.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg where Klear is concerned. This platform delivers amazing amounts of data, and is geared towards higher-level users.

With all the metrics you can collect via these platforms, there is no reason to not be working smarter, not harder, on social media. Make the most of your own social media reach by studying the data given to create a solid plan of action for your business.

Organizing Your Social Media Groups

One of the first steps to managing your social media is to get organized. It’s nearly impossible to be efficient with your social media profile when your contacts are lumped into one big crowd. Organizing contacts puts you in control of sharing, updating, following others’ updates, making announcements, offering deals, and so on.

You can separate your contacts list into customers, clients, associates, and friends, or even segment each of those categories into specific lists like customers of a certain age or friends from a certain time of your life. If you don’t organize your list, you’re likely to end up sending messages to contacts that they find irrelevant, and they’ll begin tuning you out.

Each social media site has its own way to keep your contacts organized. We’ll just cover the major ones in this section.

Twitter

Twitter lets you organize your contacts using lists and hashtags. Your account comes with up to 1,000 lists and you can choose a theme for each one. You can have up to 5,000 users per list at the time of writing this guide. However, you shouldn’t need even close to that many lists and it’s a bad idea to go list-crazy. The key to effective organizing is to use as few as possible so you can keep them all straight.

You can make your lists Public or Private. With public lists, anyone can find them, follow them, and read the tweets from people in those lists. With private lists, no one know about them except yourself. This is great for following competitors or customers.

Hashtags are words or phrases that start with the hash symbol, #. An example of a hashtag would be #TwitterTips. When you put specific hashtags on your updates, you create a category of posts that your contacts can subscribe to and follow. Also, you can easily search for those hashtags to see who else is talking about that subject.

Facebook

Facebook offers both lists and groups. Your profile gives you the option of creating a list right next to your News Feed. Just scroll down the left-hand menu and click on Friends. Click on ‘Create List’ at the top. First, you name the list, and then you select the contacts you’d like to put into it. Whenever you want to use that list, you can click on the list name on the left-hand sidebar and your feed will change so that you only see messages from that list.

You can also choose a specific list to send a message to by clicking on the down-arrow under your status update before you send it. You’ll have the option of Public, Friends, or More Options. Click on the last one to see all your lists.

For groups, there’s a bit more involved. You have to create the group and then invite people to join. You’ll find the menu item for creating groups on the left-hand sidebar under ‘Groups’.

Don’t forget about my comprehensive guide on Facebook Groups: The complete guide to Facebook Groups

Google +

Google + has the easiest system for organizing contacts and that’s one of its main advantages over other social media sites. Your contact lists are called ‘circles’ and whenever you add a new contact, you have to place them in a circle. Just drag and drop their profile icon.

You can organize and add circles by clicking on the down-arrow under the Google+ logo (at time of writing this guide). Click on ‘People’ and explore the options and suggestions Google offers. If you click on the top menu item that says ‘Your Circles’, you’ll get a visual representation of your circles and you can add or remove people. Click on the circle with the ‘+’ sign is one quick way to create a new circle.

You can also create Google+ Communities, which are similar to Facebook Groups. All you have to do is click on the down-arrow in your right-hand menu and click on Communities. Then click on ‘Create community’ and follow the directions to start.

Here’s a comprehensive tutorial on using Google+ communities:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn doesn’t have lists, but it has tags. You can tag each contact using your own chosen keywords by going to Connections (top menu). When you hover over a person’s name, you’ll have the option to ‘Tag’ them.

You can also Tag someone by going to their Profile page. There will be an option in the top section under their basic information and in the information about your Relationship. Just click on ‘Tag’.

When you want to view your tagged contacts, simply search for the keyword tag you used. This is an even better way to segment your contacts because you can add multiple tags for each keyword that applies to them. In other words, you can put one contact into any number of categories.

LinkedIn also has groups, but their primary purpose is for networking with like-minded people. By joining groups that focus on topics you’re interested in, you can find contacts who have the same interests and then send a request to connect with them. You can also form your own groups and invite people to join.

Here’s a video tutorial on using LinkedIn groups:

How to Segment Your Contacts

The best way to segment your contacts is to start with goals and objectives. What do you want to accomplish with each group? For example, one group may be new prospects you want to turn into customers. Another might be mentors who you want to follow and network with. Create your lists, groups, pages and communities with these goals in mind.

Other Networks

Aside from the networks we mentioned in this section, there are plenty of others that you might be using and want to organize. For example, in Pinterest you can set up ‘boards’ based on different themes. People will then follow individual boards, vs. following all of yours. You can do the same by following only specific boards of other people.

For YouTube, you can set up ‘playlists’ of videos on a specific topic. Your followers will then be able to subscribe to either your channel or specific playlists, or both.

Explore the organization features of each of the main social networks you use. These networks are always changing and new features are added regularly.

Finding the Right App for Managing Your Social Media

Social media apps and dashboard programs help you keep your accounts under control and easy to manage. They take a lot of the work out of your routine daily tasks. However, there are a slew of different programs out there that can help you in different ways, and it can drive you crazy sifting through all the reviews to find the right one. Here are five of the most popular and highly recommended platforms.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a dashboard program that you can use to manage all of your media sites, searches, lists and more. You don’t have to log in to each one to monitor activity or send out updates. When you make one update on Hootsuite, you can send it to all of your accounts or pick and choose only certain ones. You can manage up to five accounts at once using a free account, but many more with the paid account.

With Hootsuite, you can schedule your updates so that you don’t have to send them out manually. This is a great labor saving tool and it also improves your campaign by letting you select the best times to send out messages. Hootsuite also gives you customized reports that let you analyze activity among your followers across all networks.

Hootsuite integrates with many other platforms, so you can use it to share content from your phone, iPad, browser toolbar, inside other apps, and multiple places.

For an in-depth look at using Hootsuite and how to let this tool do your social media heavy lifting for you (as I have for years), see my guide and tutorials with video: Learn how to get the most from Hootsuite

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is for Twitter only. It organizes your feeds, filtering, scheduling and monitoring. Its dashboard lets you see all of your Twitter activity at once, which is especially helpful when you’ve gone from hundreds to thousands of followers. Once you hit the thousand mark, clicking the refresh button turns into a nightmare. It’s too much to take in at once, and Tweetdeck makes it more digestible.

You can segment your followers using Tweetdeck, creating columns based around certain categories. You can also use it to get data on any individual user with just a click. These features make it useful for getting to know your followers better.

Sprout Social

Like Hootsuite, Sprout Social lets you manage all social media profiles in one place. It has a free 30-day trial so that you can try it out first. What makes Sprout Social special are its mobile applications. It offers a number of location-based features that work with Foursquare and other geo-local sites.

Sprout Social is also good for reputation management. You can set it so that it alerts you anytime your brand or certain keywords are mentioned.

Postling

Postling’s dashboard lets you see all social media activity at once and lets you make one post that goes to all social media sites. It’s great for seeing all comments or questions across networks so that you can reply quickly to them. You can also integrate it with your email so that its notifications come straight into your inbox. Like Sprout Social, it has an alerts function which is much faster than Google Alerts. You’re notified almost instantly when someone mentions your brand. Postling has a 30-day trial for $1.

Crowdbooster

Crowdbooster’s strength is in its analytics. It shows detailed statistics for your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Crowdbooster is particularly great for measuring follower engagement. Not only does it show how you’re doing, it also recommends actions you can take to increase customer engagement, saving you the time thinking of ideas yourself. It also has a feature that makes searching for influencers on both social media networks quick and easy.

When choosing a social media management program to use, start by deciding which features are most important to you. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that best meets those needs.

What Should I Share? Content Ideas for Social Media

In order to run a successful social media marketing campaign, you need to give your followers regular content that keeps them engaged. Even if you’re not entirely new to the world of social, you may be wondering where to start and what to share. Here are three types of content that are typically shared on social networks.

Make Them Think, Make Them Laugh

The best way to think of content to share is to put yourself in your target market’s shoes and ask yourself, ‘What would I like to see?’ The best content to share is that which makes them think or just gives them a good laugh.

Try to find things that will get a good reaction from your audience. Your ideal goal is to get a discussion going. If you’re just getting started or you don’t know your market well, this might take some studying at first. With time, you will eventually get a good sense of what gets your followers thinking and sharing their opinions.

It’s never wrong to share something just for laughs. Funny content is what usually goes viral. Again, you’ll learn what works in time. The key is to focus on your market and their entertainment rather than your business.

Your Own Content

Although you don’t want every update to be about you and your business, it’s fine to do periodically. Many businesses use their social media profiles to alert fans when a new blog post is up, new pictures are posted, or other content has been added. Give them a short tweet with a link and tell them what they can expect from following that link. Most of your blog readers don’t have time to check for updates on your site, but they’re always on their social media.

The great thing about short updates is that you can automate much of the update process so that you never have to do it manually. Set up an RSS feed so that each time you blog, it’ll automatically let everybody know.

You and Your Products

Just as with your blog content, your fans would be interested in knowing about your business and your products from time to time. Tell them something about your company that helps to impart its vision or brand it. You can also use your content to highlight products or services you offer or special deals that you’ve got going. One clever way to do this without appearing self-promotional is to show them different ways your products can be used to make their lives easier.

Social Media Content Don’ts

There are a few practices you should avoid. First, don’t update too much. You want fresh content on a regular basis but too much can be overkill. If your followers are overwhelmed by your updates, they’ll stop paying attention. Even Twitter, which has a more constant stream of updates, can suffer from overkill by bombarding people with the same information over and over.

Avoid controversial topics that are of a political, religious, sexual, or taboo nature – unless that’s part of your brand. It’s incredibly easy to alienate your followers if you’re not careful. One off-the-cuff political remark can lose you hundreds of followers or more.

Finally, as we’ve said before, don’t just self-promote. It’s good to showcase your products, offer special deals, and announce a new blog post, but make sure you’re sharing other interesting and engaging content as well.

Here is a special video on the types of content that works well on social media:

Set It and Forget It – Automating Your Social Media Content

Maintaining your social media presence can take a great deal of time if you want to cover your bases and maximize your efforts. Once you’re set up and ready to post, there are all kinds of daily tasks that need to be done. The most time-draining is constantly posting fresh content for your followers to enjoy. Although content needs to be fresh, there are some ways that you can make the most out of the content you have and cut some corners so that it doesn’t take up so much of your time.

Automating Blog Updates

When you post a new article on your blog, it’s good to let everyone on your social media sites know. You can take a shortcut by automating this through RSS integration. There are many ways to do this but one is to use a social media dashboard program like Hootsuite. RSS integration is a common feature of these programs. Whenever you post, it automatically sends out an update.

Socialize Your Emails

Another good content shortcut is to use your autoresponder emails as social media updates. Some autoresponder programs like Aweber have a feature that lets you do this. You can choose which messages you’d like sent to your social media sites. Include a link in your update to a sign-up form and you can use these messages to get more subscribers. Aweber makes it easy. Under ‘List Settings,’ you’ll find a button that says ‘connect to Facebook.’ There’s another that lets you ‘connect to Twitter.’

Social Widgets and Plugins for Your Blog

Social media updates can also be posted on your blog through widgets and plugins. For example, you can get a feed that shows recent activity on your Facebook or Twitter profile. One plugin shows visitors if any of their friends have liked or shared your content. Both Facebook and Twitter offer these apps in their apps sections. Once you sign-up, they’ll give you the code to install it on your blog.

Cross-Posting Do’s and Don’ts

A content shortcut that many businesses use is cross-posting. This means posting the exact same update on multiple social media profiles. There’s nothing wrong with doing this and your fans who follow you on more than one profile won’t mind, but there’s also a certain amount of etiquette to it.

Be especially careful about cross-posting updates that use site-specific jargon; for example, things like ‘like’ or ‘tweet.’ It looks pretty odd if you ask your Twitter followers to like your link or for your Facebook fans to re-tweet. It’s confusing and can also look like spam. Twitter, especially, has some special terminology that often ends up on other sites due to somebody’s carelessness.

Automating your updates saves you time and work, but you shouldn’t operate on complete autopilot. Make sure you’re aware of what’s going out where and you’re in control of what you’re posting. Also, make sure that even though you’re automating your content, you’re replying to comments and questions regarding your posts.

Setting Your Status Update Schedule

Social media profiles require daily maintenance to be effective. However, you can schedule your updates so that you don’t have to do it every day. Even if you’re away from the computer, you’re still visible to your fans and followers. You can stay on their radar without creating new content constantly.

Scheduling your updates is also a good technique for marketing to people in different time zones. You can segment your list into different parts of the globe and schedule your updates for times when they’re online.

Scheduling Apps

There are a variety of different apps that let you schedule your updates. You load them up with the content and the times you want it sent out, and the program handles it for you. These work like an autoresponder software program that’s used to manage email lists. A good free app that does this is Bufferapp. You’ll also find this as a common feature with dashboard programs that help you manage multiple social media sites.

Finding the Sweet Spot

The key to scheduling effectively is to find out what time of day is best. This is the time when your audience is most receptive. The best way to find this time is to experiment. Set your update schedule for different times and see where you get the best response. One effective way to do this is to segment your list randomly and assign each one a different time. Then, monitor the results and they’ll tell you when to send messages. In addition to times of day, experiment with different days of the week.

Responding to Comments

Sending out updates can be scheduled and run on autopilot, but there’s an equally important task that can’t ever be automated – replying to comments. You don’t need to send out content daily, but at least once a day you should be checking your profile for comments and mentions. Many apps have features that send alerts directly to your email inbox. Make an effort to reply to comments as quickly as possible because this shows that you’re responsive and you like to engage with your audience.

Keep It Human

Like an email list, you should plan your updates well. Take some time to decide which content will go out first, which next, and so on. One of the big challenges here is that you don’t want your updates to appear automated or robotic. Load up your content in your scheduler, but be ready to change it if necessary. You might find a hot topic that’s trending right now, or you may want to create content in response to somebody else’s content or a comment.

The best way to manage your updates is to set aside a regular time for creating your content and setting an update schedule. For example, choose a certain morning each week for getting the foundation of that week’s content ready. This way, you’ll be sure to have a steady flow of status updates during the week and can focus the rest of your social time on conversations and engagement.

Engaging Your Followers on Social Media

As part of your social media strategy, you should make it a point to engage your customers in conversations on each platform each day. Why? Because social media is all about engagement. The more you’re there interacting with your followers and others, the better results you’ll get.

The questions is – How do you start a conversation? There are a myriad of ways to do this and they all can be used effectively to get some interaction going.

Ask Questions

Questions are an almost guaranteed way to get engagement because they give your followers something to think about, discuss or debate. Everybody loves to give their opinion. Your question could be something closely connected to your business or it could be something that’s not really relevant at all. Just make sure it’s a question that will be intriguing to them. Also, avoid anything that’s controversial like religious or political topics, unless that’s your niche.

Comment on a Post

An easy way to engage with your customers is to comment on something someone else posted. When you comment on posts, avoid anything too generic like, ‘nice!’ Try to add something to it or ask another question about the content of the post. Keep in mind that what you add is what’s going to make your comment stand apart from all the others. It gets you exposure with their fans. For example, if their post offers tips, tell them the tips were helpful and offer your own.

Reply to Questions

When you see questions other users have asked, offer an answer. If someone asks you a question directly, answer it as quickly as possible. This should be your first priority each day. There’s nothing worse than leaving a question hanging for too long. When you respond quickly, it shows that you’re friendly, responsive, and helpful, which is great for branding and building trust.

Reply to Mentions

Whenever someone mentions your name or brand in a post, reply to it. Social media applications allow you to set alerts so that you can find out whenever someone has mentioned you. When you reply, thank them for mentioning you and offer your two cents on the topic of discussion.

Share Content

You can get a good discussion going by sharing content you found somewhere else. This could be an infographic, an image, a video, or a news article. If your followers are interested in it, they’ll comment. When sharing, make sure you offer your own comment about what you’re sharing. Use this to encourage discussion.

Know Your People

In order to engage your customers in the best way possible, it’s really important to know them and their social media habits well. What are they doing when they’re on social media? They could be watching TV, on break from work, shopping online looking for deals, etc. If you know what they’re doing, you can engage them by being relevant to that. For example, if they’re watching TV, comment on something that you’re watching right now.

Be Personable

The whole idea of social engagement is to meet your customers on a personal level. Don’t just use your posts to promote your business or repeat the exact same marketing message you’ve got elsewhere. This is a unique opportunity to engage on a more intimate level. Make your social media activity fun, entertaining and educational for everyone in your market.

Using Your Mobile to Manage Your Social Media

What are people always doing on their mobile devices? The number one activity is spending time on social media sites. Major social media sites have been focusing on mobiles in the last few years and the result is an even better user experience.

Mobile devices are great for keeping up with your social media activities without taking away from your more focused work time. It’s too easy for all the little social media tasks to distract you when you’re trying to concentrate on completing a larger project. The main advantage of a mobile is that it lets you take care of some of these smaller tasks when you’re on the go. You can use your out-of-the-office time more efficiently.

When to Socialize

You can schedule your social media tasks for any time of day that you want, and not just when you’re in front of your desktop computer. Great times to get social include waiting in line, riding in a car (not driving), riding on public transit, waiting for kids to get out of a dance lesson, or any other downtime you have throughout the day. There are bad times to socialize on your mobile also, such as while walking, at work, or when with friends.

Managing Social Media on Your Mobile

Virtually all social media sites are designed to be used on mobile devices. There are also lots of alternative social apps you can use on your mobile that make it easier. Some of the best apps include Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Tweetbot. Most of these tools help you manage multiple accounts simultaneously, saving you considerable time. You can do everything across platforms with just one dashboard. There are also RSS apps like Reader and Flipboard which let you share content directly to your social profiles.

Make Use of Mobile Capabilities

It’s awkward at first to start socializing on your mobile, but once you do, you’ll find all kinds of different things you can do with it. You can take advantage of features that are exclusive to mobile. Instagram, for example, lets you take a picture and share it immediately with your fans. If you use a social media app, you can post it to all of your profiles with just one click. Some apps take advantage of the GPS capabilities of mobiles. You can tell your fans where you are and what you’re doing.

It All Starts with a Plan

Get started by making a plan for managing your social media from your phone. First, decide which things you can and which you can’t easily do on your mobile. Entering text, for example, is something that’s not easy with all mobile devices. You should save tasks that require entering a lot of text for when you’re at the computer. However, accepting friend requests, reading others’ updates, sharing articles, and checking statistics are just a few things you can do anywhere. You can split your social media time into computer and mobile time, making the best use of both.

Monitoring Your Social Media Stats

The ultimate key to using social media effectively is to monitor your stats on a regular basis. When you look at your analytics, they will tell you exactly what’s working and what’s not, and then you can change your strategy accordingly. It also means learning what your followers like and don’t like so that you know how to better market to them.

Monitoring Tools

There are a number of tools to help you monitor your social media activity. These typically come in the form of social media apps. Most social media sites come with their own built-in analytics, but the information they provide is thin compared to the robust details of professional third-party applications.

Social monitoring apps can track keywords, hashtags, follower engagement, and other vital stats and give you regular reports. Many programs give you detailed demographic data on your followers and identify key influencers for you. Some apps, like Crowdbooster, even offer suggestions on making your socializing more effective.

What Stats to Look for

What should you be paying attention to? It all depends on your specific social media goals. Start with the end result and work backwards. What would you like to achieve? What indicators will tell you when you’ve achieved that?

One common goal is customer engagement. See which posts get the best response and try to raise all of your posts’ engagement level to that point. Check which times of day get the best results so you can focus on posting at those times. Other statistics to track include number of new followers, likes, shares, email sign-ups, and the time your followers spend on your social media profile.

Ultimately, your most important statistics will be those that directly impact your business. Look for ways to measure conversion rates for things like email opt-ins, calls to action, customer conversions, etc. For example, look at the number of people who are signing up to your email list from Facebook. Or look at the number of people coming from Twitter who are then becoming customers.

Customized Reports

Tracking programs will give you detailed reports, but you probably don’t need every bit of data. Decide on an overall goal for your social media efforts and focus on statistics that tell you whether or not you’re reaching that. Do the same for each activity or daily task. Your overall goal may be traffic, engagement, number of likes, number of followers, or sales conversions. The goal for a specific update could be something like getting new email list subscribers or X number of likes for the update. Make these goals as specific as possible so that you’ll know whether or not you’ve reached them.

Some programs create customized reports for you and send them directly to your email inbox, saving you the time checking. Customized reports allow you to choose which data is important to you so that you don’t have to sift through the rest.

Making Time for Analytics

Set aside time each day or week for monitoring your progress along with all the other tasks you have to do. Make it part of your routine. It’s good to do a quick analytics check daily or every couple of days. Then do a detailed analysis every month or few months. This would involve several hours of looking at your social media stats over a longer period of time, looking for bigger trends.

Outsourcing Your Social Media Management

Fortunately, there is a way to get all the advantages of social media without having to do all the heavy lifting yourself. All you need to do is outsource it to a competent social media manager, who specializes in managing pages and accounts for businesses like yours. It doesn’t have to be very expensive, and the upsides are many.

The concept of outsourcing your social media needs is simple enough. You simply bring in a specialist whose expertise is building and managing social media properties, and keeping an audience of fans and followers engaged and interested. This allows you to focus your efforts elsewhere, knowing that your social media pages are properly taken care of, regularly updated and constantly tweaked and optimized.

Why outsource social media?

The advantages of outsourcing social media management are many. It frees up your time, allowing you to work on building your business without worrying about social media. It also ensures you get the best possible results from your social media efforts (assuming you find a talented and professional manager, of course).

Many social media managers have enough experience to know what works and what doesn’t. They know what an audience responds to, and they have the ability to give them what they want. Were you to do it all yourself you could find yourself in a long period of trial-and-error before finding the routines and techniques that produce the best results.

Competition for eyeballs on the popular social networks is ever increasing too, and you need to bring your best game in order to keep the attention of users. A skilled social media manager helps you do that, and together you can map out a plan that will ensure that your business becomes the dominating force in your niche on social networks.

Any disadvantages?

As with all kinds of outsourcing, you have to be prepared to give up some control over the process and let your new manager do his/her thing. If you try to micromanage the whole process it will only cause trouble for both of you, and the project will be much less likely to succeed. You have to let them do the job they were hired to do. Of course you should still give your input and make sure their process aligns with your business goals.

There are a few other disadvantages too. One is that your social media manager will never know your business and your industry as well as you do. Even if they’ve got some previous experience in the niche there are still many things that vary from company to company. The easiest way to resolve this problem is telling them to always ask you if they’re the least bit uncertain about something, instead of just acting on their own and hoping for the best. This is especially important when communicating with customers through social media.

Another potential problem to watch out for is unprofessional managers who take shortcuts and cut corners (like copying posts or media from others), and generally don’t have your company’s best interests in mind. This risk can be minimized by carefully researching the person before deciding to hire them, and making sure their other clients are all happy with their performance. You are leaving a big part of your business up to this person so you better be certain that they can be trusted. Poor handling of your social media properties will not only make you look bad in the short term, but can also harm your business in the long term and reduce customer confidence in your company.

How much does it cost?

Good social media managers aren’t cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive either unless you’re looking for the “best of the best”. A native English-speaking manager should start at around $20/hour, but the very best might cost $100/hour or even more. You can get a cheaper manager by hiring someone from a developing country, but that might cause more problems than it’s worth if you’re not careful (more about that in the “What to look for” section).

You have to decide for yourself whether you think the money is worth it. Keep in mind though that it is likely not a full-time position you’re hiring for, but rather an hour or two per day in most cases (unless your social media pages are extremely active and you have a huge following).

Getting started

We’ll go over in detail how to hire a social media manager in later sections, but at this point you may be interested in knowing how the process works once you’ve hired someone.

Once you’re ready to get started with your new hire you should draw up a plan together, that combines your own goals with what they deem would be effective for your business. They’ll be happy if you give them input, but as stated before don’t try to micromanage them too much. The best way might be coming up with an overall strategy together but leaving the individual postings up to their best judgment.

You should also establish what your end goal is. Are you looking for more sales? Better customer service through social media? Perhaps you’re mostly looking to build customer loyalty and send out great offers once in a while? Regardless of your goals, it’s imperative that you discuss them with your social media manager and come up with a plan together on how to best reach them.

Don’t expect immediate results

It will most likely take time before you start seeing some real results from the efforts put in by your social media manager, and at first it can feel like you’re just throwing money away without a tangible upside. Don’t be discouraged though – you should be prepared for at least a few months to let your manager lay the groundwork and figure out the optimal strategy. Unfortunately a lot of people aren’t patient enough to allow for this, meaning they risk giving up just as they’re getting close to reaching the critical point where their social presence starts snowballing and growing almost effortlessly.

Also keep in mind that it’s not just up to your manager to grow and promote your social pages. You should also do your best to promote them wherever you can; on your website, in your e-mail correspondence and so on. That’s how you get the best results.

Do I Need Help?

Hiring a social media manager doesn’t make sense for every business. Ask yourself the questions in this section to determine if you should handle it all yourself, or if you would be better off outsourcing your social media tasks.

Do you enjoy social media?

This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. The truth is a lot of people simply don’t enjoy participating on social networks, and if you’re one of them you may find it difficult to keep going in the long run. Remember that a strong social media presence isn’t built in a week, but requires a steady effort for a long time for best results. If you don’t enjoy updating your social media pages you will likely just give up long before reaching critical mass.

Another potential issue is that your lack of enthusiasm might lead to less interesting updates and ultimately less interested followers. Keep in mind that you’re competing with many other businesses for user attention on social media, and a half-baked attempt is likely not going to cut it.

If you enjoy one platform more than the others, it can also be a good idea to hire a social media manager to handle those you like less. Say you’re a fan of Twitter but don’t like updating your Facebook page, then you could focus all your efforts on your Twitter account and outsource Facebook to someone who’s better at it.

You could also choose to outsource the majority of updates but not all of them. Maybe you’d enjoy posting once or twice a week, and then letting someone else handle the others. All kinds of variations are possible, you just need to figure out the best strategy that suits you and your particular situation.

Do you have time for it?

Social media can be very time consuming, and as a business owner you may not be able to squeeze it into your daily schedule. An aggressive social media strategy requires you to update your properties at least daily, ideally even more than that. Once you’ve gained a respectable following you’ll find that questions and comments will be coming in at all hours of the day, and people don’t like to sit around waiting for answers. If you handle it all yourself you may find yourself constantly interrupted and it may very well interfere with your regular tasks.

It’s just not the time it takes to update pages and respond to followers either. You also need to stay current on the trends in social media, and learn new techniques as they are invented. Many platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are also constantly evolving, meaning what works today may not be the best approach tomorrow. Keeping up with all this will require much of your time and attention, and ultimately you may find that it’s just not possible to combine with your other responsibilities.

Also keep in mind that even if you technically could find the time to handle all the social media needs in your business, it may not be the best use of your time to do so. As a business owner you will often be better off delegating tasks to others and focusing mainly on big picture stuff, like devising strategies and growing your company.

Are you a decent writer?

No, you don’t have to be the next Hemingway to update your social media properties, but you definitely do need decent grammar and spelling if you want your audience to take you seriously. Even small mistakes can be enough to make your followers see you as unprofessional, and you have to be prepared that some people greatly enjoy pointing out mistakes made by others. Being good at writing will also help you construct better posts that receive more likes, shares and comments.

This will also depend on your platform(s) of choice. On Twitter, for example, you’re limited to 140 characters meaning you can’t exactly write a novel in your updates. It’s even fine to use poor grammar and spelling in some cases in order to reduce the number of characters and save space.

Are you a “people person”?

Let’s face it: social media is all about people. If you’re easily frustrated by dealing with difficult people, and simply don’t have the patience for it, handling your own social media presence may not be the best choice.

All you need to do to determine whether you could handle it or not is hitting up one of the fan pages or Twitter accounts of a major brand and looking at their interactions with their followers. This could be a real eye-opener, showing the less fun parts of social media. For example, how would you respond to a follower that repeatedly bashes your brand in public? Could you defuse the situation without becoming angry and agitated, or would you take it personally and try to “strike back”?

This is just one of the things a professional social media manager is experienced with, and a big reason why you should consider hiring one. A single incident handled poorly can have a large impact on the reputation of your business and cause long-term damage, so it’s very important to handle these situations well.

How important is social media to your business?

Some businesses rely heavily on social media, both for marketing and supporting customers. Others see it more as a bonus that may bring in some extra sales and increase customer loyalty over time. What’s important to remember is that if you don’t see social media as an integral part of your business, you may not be able to justify hiring a manager to handle it for you.

While outsourcing social media doesn’t have to cost much in most cases, it’s still another expense that you have to be able to justify in your business. If social media isn’t important enough to you, that may be hard to do.

What about the future?

Even if social media isn’t that important to you at the moment, where do you see it going in the future? Maybe it’s a step your company simply has to take to keep up with the competition.

If you think it’s just going to be more and more important in the coming years to have a strong social media presence, maybe it would make sense to start working on the best possible strategy as soon as possible? Starting today by hiring a skilled social media manager may be the best way to ensure longevity for your business, giving you a head start versus your competitors who haven’t gotten started yet.

Of course the opposite could be true as well; maybe you don’t see social media becoming that important in your niche/industry. In that case it might be enough to start with a low-effort strategy, perhaps handling it yourself and sticking to updating just a couple of times per week. Just because “everyone else” is focusing heavily on social media it doesn’t mean that it’s right for your business.

What to look for

So you’ve decided to hire a social media manager? Congratulations! Now you just need to find the perfect candidate for your needs. This may be easier said than done, unfortunately, as there are many people out there claiming to be “experts” on social media, but not all of them live up to the label they’ve given themselves.

There are a number of traits you should look for in your ideal candidate. Keep in mind that every business and situation is unique so these are meant more as guidelines than hard rules that you must follow. Some of them might be common sense too, but they’re still worth mentioning as that doesn’t make them any less important.

Friendly and patient personality

This should almost go without saying, but a social media manager should have a friendly, service-minded demeanor and be a master of communication. It also helps if they have lots of patience as users/followers can sometimes be a handful to deal with, and they must remain calm and professional at all times. It also helps if they have a generally positive attitude and seem to enjoy what they do (if they don’t it will surely affect their work and your social media pages will suffer as a result).

Relevant niche/industry knowledge and passion

Just because someone is good with “social media”, it doesn’t automatically mean they would be a good fit for you. Ideally you’re looking for someone who has at least some prior experience with the niche/industry you’re in. This is important because your fans and followers may use your social media pages to ask presales questions or for customer support, and if your social media manager is unable to answer even simple questions he/she will have to pass everything on to you. It’s simply not an efficient workflow and you may actually end up doing most of the work yourself anyway.

If you can find a social media manager who’s not just knowledgeable in your niche, but is even passionate about it, you’ll be in excellent shape. That passion will fuel their postings and lead to better and more interesting content for your followers. Of course it’s not always easy to find passionate workers, especially if your niche is one that few people are passionate about, but it’s generally better to spend some extra time looking than settling for a social media manager that’s really not that interested in your business or niche.

Master more than one platform

Most successful social media strategies utilize more than one platform (even if the main focus is on just one of them, usually Facebook or Twitter). For the majority of businesses it doesn’t make sense to hire a separate manager for each of them, meaning the person you decide to hire should ideally be able to confidently manage all of these platforms. Some might use special software that easily lets them stay on top of their clients and their pages on multiple platforms; there’s no harm in that but make sure you understand their workflow completely before hiring to reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

Available throughout the day

When your followers interact with your brand on social media you don’t want to let them wait for hours (or days!) before getting a response. That’s why the ideal social media manager is one that can check in several times per day, as needed, both to reply to comments and post new content. You don’t need to hire them full time for that – you’ll find many candidates who handle social media for a range of businesses, meaning they can easily fill their time even if your particular assignment only requires an hour or so per day in total. Some will even be prepared to update your pages on weekends when many of your followers will be at home browsing the web, and this should definitely be working in their favor when you’re deciding on whom to hire.

Ability to learn and update their methods

The social media world is constantly evolving, and the methods and best practices are always changing too. That’s why you need your social media manager to be a fast learner with the ability to pick up new skills and techniques with minimal input from you.

Ideally the person you hire is passionate enough about social media to both keep up with current trends and be prepared for what’s coming up around the corner. If he/she is the type of person that just keeps doing the same old thing over and over with little thought as to whether it works well or not, you will most likely run into issues sooner or later.

Flawless spelling and grammar

It should go without saying that your social media manager needs to be able to write like a native person. It can often be tempting to outsource tasks like these to countries where labor is cheap, but doing so can actually end up harming your brand unless you’re extremely careful about who you hire. Make sure they can show you samples of other social media accounts they manage so you can see for yourself how their writing looks. It can also be a good idea to schedule a Skype chat if you need more proof of their writing abilities, as that would be very difficult to fake. If you want to be completely certain, however, you’ll have to spend the money to get a native speaker. It doesn’t always cost that much more, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing the postings will be of high quality.

Complementary skills

There are a few additional skills that can be very useful for a social media manager. For example, it’s great if they have some ability to manipulate images and photos as that can be very helpful when posting. You don’t want them to get stuck on little things like that – the more work they can do on their own without help from you or anyone else, the better. Similarly, if they’re reasonably good at design they can handle things like your Facebook fan page and Twitter account design. Otherwise you’ll have to hire another person to do these things.

It’s also useful if they’re skilled researchers so they can easily find new content to post to your properties. This kind of research ability is actually not a given – some wannabe social media managers might expect you to go out and research their postings for them, delivering it to them in a ready-to-post format. Needless to say, these people wouldn’t be of much use as you’d be doing most of the heavy lifting for them. As you would expect, it’s often the most inexpensive providers that lack these basic research capabilities.

Another great skill to have is basic video editing and perhaps even recording and voiceovers. These skills would allow them to create and post unique videos to your social media properties, which can be a great addition that few other companies have the ability to match. It would also allow you to fully use Youtube as another social media outlet where you can build up a loyal following in your niche. Uploading useful videos is a great way to establish your business as an authority in your industry, and drive qualified traffic to your website.

Agency, freelancer or employee?

This is something you may want to think about before you start your search. There are pros and cons of each. In general an agency will be more expensive and the relationship will be quite different compared to hiring a freelancer or employee, as with an agency you’ll be the client buying a service, and with the other options you’re an employer hiring an individual. The dynamic is completely different, so put some thought into which option you think you’d prefer.

Where?

Once you’ve decided that you’re going to outsource your social media tasks, it’s time to start thinking about where to look. There are a few choices, each with their own pros and cons.

Freelancing sites

Websites like oDesk, Elance and Freelancer.com have hundreds of skilled social media experts ready to work with you, and this is probably the route that most people take when they’re looking to outsource something. Generally it’s as simple as putting up a job post detailing your requirements and then waiting for bids to come in.

One issue with these sites is the large number of applications from less qualified individuals – expect to get dozens of these bidding on your job. Many of them will be from developing countries, allowing them to bid just a few dollars per hour. This may seem like a tempting proposition in theory but do keep in mind that their English is generally not that good, making them less suited for social media manager positions.

Make sure you read all the applications carefully (at least the ones that look interesting) and ask plenty of follow-up questions before inviting your favorites to an interview. Also look at their feedback from previous clients on the site. If they aren’t displaying any examples in their portfolio, ask them which pages/accounts they’ve managed previously and, if possible, if they could provide you with proof or references.

Search engines

Of course lots of potential candidates can be uncovered with a simple Google search using terms like ‘outsource social media’, ‘social media management’ and so on. Check out both the paid ads section (top and sidebar) as well as the organic results. Generally these will be larger agencies rather than individuals, but you may find a few of the latter too scattered among the results.

Once you’ve assembled a list of interesting candidates it’s just a matter of contacting them and letting them tell you more about their services and give you a reason why you should pick them. Just as when hiring from freelancing sites you should request that they show other pages they’ve managed so you can see their style and assess their skills. If it’s an agency they shouldn’t have a problem disclosing some other clients they’ve worked with previously to establish some trust.

Asking around

If you have friends with their own businesses, it doesn’t hurt to ask around how they’re handling their social media pages. Chances are some of them are already outsourcing it successfully, in which case you could ask them for recommendations. Unless you’re directly competing with them in the same industry they’ll more than likely be happy to refer you to their provider.

This method is great because most of the hard work has already been done for you (the looking around, interviewing, etc). Of course it isn’t guaranteed that this person will be exactly right for your particular situation, but there’s a very good chance.

“Outsourcing” in-house

If you already have employees working in your business you may actually find that the best solution is just “outsourcing” it to one of them. As social media tasks usually don’t take that much time and is best tackled in smaller batches throughout the day, it may not be too much of a burden to let an existing employee add it to their daily routine. You could even train more than one so the whole thing doesn’t come to a stop if one gets sick and is unable to work.

If you’re going to do this, however, you need to understand that there will be days when the social media duties will leave less time for this employee’s regular tasks. This means you probably shouldn’t be assigning it to a person whose daily work is critical for your business. Of course there will also be some days when the social media duties are quickly and easily taken care of, so in the end it should even out.

While this route may be tempting as it will require a minimum of effort on your part (no time spent hiring a new person), it’s important to keep in mind that you need to be positive that the person you choose actually stack up well against professional social media managers. It may seem like an easy gig on paper but not everyone is suited for it (as seen in the previous section where we went over the traits you should look for). In the long run you may actually end up shooting yourself in the foot if you go with a person who doesn’t have the proper qualifications.

The important thing to remember is that hiring a social media manager is not a magic bullet that guarantees fast, effortless success. Building a sustainable social media presence will always take time and require dedication, both from yourself and those who work for you. The key is being patient and realizing that you may not see an immediate ROI (return on investment) you spend.

Also keep in mind that you can always start small. It’s been stated previously in this guide that the most effective strategies require attention several times per day, but if you’re just starting out you may not need to be 100% effective from the get-go. Maybe you could get a social manager to update your pages just a couple of times per week? That wouldn’t cost much, but you’d still hopefully see some benefits, and you could always scale up later.

Managing Social Media – Your Daily Action Plan

You may know exactly what you need to do to get the best results from social media, but actually managing multiple social media profiles is a challenge that requires quite a bit of organization. You can take control of all your social media tasks by creating a daily and weekly action plan.

Your daily plan is for outlining the tasks that need to be done each and every day. The weekly plan is for those activities that you need to make sure are accomplished each week, whether they’re spread out or done all in one day. You can also use the weekly plan to determine what needs to be done on specific weeks during the month.

Use the following tips to help you fill out your daily and weekly action plans.

How Many Sites Can You Handle?

For best results, many experts will tell you to sign up for every social media site you can. When a new site like Pinterest comes along, you should be the first of your friends to sign up. The only trouble is that each social media site requires your presence daily if you want to see results. Keep this in mind as you sign up for any new platforms. You may even want to tentatively sign up on a new site as a trial period, and only start devoting serious time if that social network takes off.

Daily Posts

When it comes to posting and updating your status on social media, consistency is key. The more you post, the more your customers and potential customers see you. When you update regularly, they come to expect it and they look out for you.

Decide how often you’d like to post and work it into your daily schedule. Again, keep in mind that it’s the consistency that matters, not how many updates you make. In fact, updating too frequently can lose you followers on some platforms. While a network like Twitter requires frequent updates so that you’re seen in the stream of posts, LinkedIn users might find all those updates annoying.

Replying to Your People

Replying to comments and questions from your customers should be your number one priority. Never drop out of a conversation. Stay engaged with your audience and keep the interaction going. When you don’t reply to people, it looks strange or even rude. The last thing you want to do is disappear or offend someone because they think you’re ignoring them.

Gathering Followers

Once you have a steady fan base, you’ll need a strategy for continually getting new followers. Work some type of daily actions into your schedule that help you do this. Set a goal for how many new followers you want to get per day or week. These efforts don’t have to be done on social media. For example, they may be links to your social profiles on your website or offline promotions that lead people to your social media profile.

Analyzing Your Results

Monitoring of your social profiles should be done regularly. This means not only checking your statistics to see if you’re reaching your goals, but also setting alerts so that you can see what people are saying about you. If negative comments appear, they need to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Moving Forward

Social media isn’t something you set on autopilot and forget about. It takes daily maintenance to keep things going. You also have to be on the lookout for new strategies, features, apps, and methods of engaging your audience. Your social media presence has to grow and expand, just as your business grows. Avoid relying on the same methods day in and day out. Instead, always look for new ways to use your social media profiles.

Be Flexible

Set a detailed schedule and stick to it closely, but don’t be afraid to change course if your efforts aren’t getting you results. Monitoring your social media efforts will tell you when you need to make changes. Don’t get too attached to your routine.

Your Social Media Goals

Start by sitting down with a pen and paper and listing your social media goals. What do you want your presence there to do for your business? Make these goals as specific as possible, and make different goals for different networks. Include dates and figures. Let this list guide all of your social media decisions.

Try using the Content Planner and Editorial Calendar spreadsheet for planning themes for your daily content and for creating your social media content for the next month.

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