This post is part of our “5 questions” series, helping merchants ask the right questions before making key business decisions. Read the entire series here on the Clover blog, and explore for more better business tips and tactics.
Pew Research reports that nearly two-thirds of the United States population is active on social media, making it an intriguing way to increase word-of-mouth marketing and get more exposure for small businesses. Starting and engaging in social media is free, but building and maintaining a strong social following can be time consuming. Businesses should carefully consider a platform before diving in.
Here are five questions businesses should ask and answer before starting a presence on a social media platform.
1. Do we have a dedicated resource to post unique content at least three times a week?
According to Business Insider, only about 25 percent of Twitter users log into their account at least once a month. Carefully consider whether you have the time or resources to keep up a cadence of posts that are tailored to the platform you’re using. Adopt a platform only if you have the resources and strategy to use it on a regular basis.
2. Will this social media platform reach my target audience?
Consider the demographics of each social media platform and whether it represents your target audience. According to Pew Research, Facebook is used by 71 percent of American adults, including 56 percent of internet users aged 65 and up. The same study shows the Twitter population to be slightly younger, more college educated and more often living in urban areas, whereas Pinterest tends to attract more women, especially ones who are interested in arts, crafts and cooking.
Know your target demographics and determine which social channel they are likely to engage in. (Need help on determining your target audience? Here are 8 steps to get you started.)
3. Is my content strategy ready to launch?
Each social platform is subtly unique with its own tone, demographics and type of content that works best. Using the exact same content on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is not going to work well.
Before signing up for a social platform, determine the goals of your social campaigns, who you’re trying to reach, what is most likely to interest them and what type of content will work best in that channel. Develop a plan on what to post and how frequently. Will you post daily lunch specials? Photos of fans? Featured merchandise? Quotes that convey your brand’s character? What content is most likely to engage your customers, and what is your plan for creating that content on a consistent basis?
Read more: Marketing & Promotions tips and tactics
4. Will this platform help us generate leads in a trackable way?
Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin are great because they can feature links showing engagement, click-throughs, and even which customers purchase products online. Instagram is highly visible, but can’t include clickable links in individual posts and is therefore harder to track.
Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin offer paid promotions, or “sponsored content,” to help you get in front of new customers. Instagram also allows you to advertise, but does so through Facebook’s self-serve interface. Facebook and Linkedin can be very effective at generating leads and building up your email lists. Think about what your goals are for each social network, and whether you’ll get the information required to tell you that you’re succeeding,
5. Will this platform help us “own” the lead?
Having a large following on social media is great, but consider that a short-term goal. Although customers can “follow” your business, your posts won’t necessarily show in their feed. Or they could abandon their account or move to a new social platform.
Building a following should be the first step toward a long-term goal such as building up your contact database. Ultimately you’ll want full contact information so you can reach customers and prospects through other marketing channels. Consider how social media helps you build “owned” assets like email and postal mailing lists, or downloads of your own mobile app. Clover apps, such as Promos, can help you collect contact information for customers and build up your mailing lists.
In our “5 Questions” series, we boil down the questions you should ask and answer to help you make the right calls as you run your business.
Check out Clover’s app market for more ideas on how to facilitate your social media plan.[image: life is what happens by Florian Schwalsberger on flickr]