Starting out in social media marketing can be both daunting and exciting. On the one hand you have a fresh start for your business online; a blank page to be filled, and on the other hand, blank pages can cause writer’s block and cause you indecision.

It really important to realize that first impressions count just as much online as they do in what we have come to know as the offline world.

Neither do you have all the time in the world to try out every social media platform for size. Your social media marketing campaigns need to produce measurable results.

Getting started isn’t something you should worry unduly about. There are six criteria you can use to help form a coherent marketing strategy.

Decide what networks to join

The big players in the social arena constantly shuffle for first place and they nearly always seem to hit the news with their latest leap in popularity, but the same six players are key in terms of volume of users – Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Understanding the demographics of each platform’s users and where they intersect with your target audience will decide for you whether you should enter a specific social media platform or not.

Decide who’s in charge of posting updates

Chances are, you’re going to need a virtual assistant to look after your social media. The internet doesn’t sleep, and if your market is global the chances are you will have to state your business hours publicly and hire someone to engage with your fans or customers from 9-5 each day.

This is one time when giving the job to your newest intern is not a good idea. Your social media manager should have a firm grip on best practices, customer service, and be both polite and patient as they are the best asset you have online.

Research and plan what to post

It’s strange, but sometimes what we actually think our customers want from us and what they actually want from us can be miles apart. Do your homework, figure out what kinds of posts go down the best with your target audience and give them what they want, remember its always about your audience and never about you.

Always monitor your analytics to both help create more of the content that gets the most engagement and to look out for trends your business should follow.

Make a decision on advertising: paid or free?

If you’re a new business, or have been badly affected by the downturn in global economy, you may not want to invest in advertising. But understanding how it works can offer some very cheap marketing opportunities, as social media advertising is the most cost-effective there is at the moment, in my opinion however you need to understand how to make it work to generate that return on investment.

Understand how to deal with negativity

Unfortunately, being on the other side of an anonymous void, armed with a keyboard can make some people feel they can do and say what they want with some degree of anonymity.

This is actually a myth thanks to the many different social search tools and aggregators online. Don’t feed the trolls that come to cause trouble. Remain calm and make use of the immediacy of social media to offer customer service in a timely and friendly manner. You may never appease the originator of any negative comments, but the world that watches may be impressed enough by your attitude and response that they will choose to do business with you in the future.

Plan on how to benefit from the growth of your customer base

There’s little point in growing a large list of fans or followers on any social media platform, unless you leverage it by engaging your followers and encouraging them to share your content. Create some fun around your brand; offer quizzes, photo ops, competitions, fill-in-the-blank slogans. Anything that surprises your fans with an engaging activity. Even companies that sell washing powder have done this by sharing specific tips on how to best use the washing powder for certain types of stains.

Whichever social media platform you decide to use, don’t be swayed by size alone you’ll be spending a lot of time there, so also follow your passion. Different social media platforms have differences in gender and age group that more than make up for overall numbers, so make sure you also do your homework first and create a realistic customer profile that fits with the social media platform you choose.

Getting Started in Social Media
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