Tips for Planning a Social Media Marketing Campaign on a Budget

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If your startup has been bootstrapping for a while, or your small business shares its marketing budget with the design, development, and food budget, or you simply want a no-frills, cost-effective social media campaign, this article is for you.

Stage 1
Tip 1 – Develop a Strategy

Never create a social media profile before you’ve got a social media marketing strategy.  The better your social media marketing strategy, the better your chances are for success. Social media marketing demands the same three things that your small business does: time, energy, and creativity.  Because of this, you need to focus on strategy first. Why is your company on social media? Is it to promote your brand? To provide early-stage customer service? Or to help you discover brand ambassadors that you can recruit?  Whatever your reason, building a strategy is one of the first steps to identifying your audience, which is the best social network to reach that audience, and the type of engagement your business is after. Save yourself time and avoid re-creating the wheel by using a strategy template like these free ones provided by Hootsuite.

Tip 2 – Establish Process

Social media success is gradual and isn’t controlled by an on/off switch. Much like your business, just because you built it, doesn’t mean that they will come. The more effective you are with your process, the less time and money you’ll have to spend on putting out social media fires (both internal and external). Check your bookkeeping software before you begin this process to determine how much money you can reasonably spend implementing a social media marketing strategy.

The following two spreadsheets will give you a great start to building a strong process:

  1. An audit of existing (and proposed) social media networks. Your column titles should be:
    1. Name of the network
    2. URL
    3. Who is going to be the owner of each one (ie. who will ensure the goal, brand voice and content is managed)
    4. What type of content is going to be posted on the profile, and
    5. The goal of that network (hint: you should have different goals for each one).
  2. A monthly editorial calendar that is divided into the following columns:
    1. Topic
    2. Author
    3. Deadline
    4. Publish Time
    5. Images (and their sources)
    6. Publishing Channels (is this a Tweet, a Facebook post, a LinkedIn article, etc…)

Tip 3 – Build Creative Assets

Every social media network needs assets that must be built to spec. These include backgrounds, profile pics and design themes that incorporate your company logo and colours. You can save some money by doing this in-house, but depending on your level of proficiency when it comes to design, that could take more time than it’s worth. If you know you want to out-source but you’re not sure where to start, an option might be to use a website like 99designs.com or Elance, where you can set your price and freelancers can apply to work on your project. Even better (and sometimes cheaper), consider investing in local talent and hiring a student designer. Whichever method you choose, it’s better to get your creative assets sorted early so that it doesn’t interrupt your marketing efforts later on.

 Stage 2

What you need to do to implement your campaign.

Tip 4 – Start a Blog

Starting a blog is an easy and cost-effective way to get your brand and content shared amongst your audience. There are two types of content that you can share: content you create and content that others have created. A good social media marketing campaign does a bit of both.  A great social media marketing campaign does more of the former than the latter. Three companies who’ve put this strategy into action are Buffer, the now offline OKTrends and Airbnb. Write great content on your blog that your audience would enjoy reading and sharing and you’ll be off to a great start. Use articles, videos, infographics – whatever you need to create compelling (and share-worthy) content. As with original content, you should only share the content of others if it appeals to your audience. 

Tip 5 – Optimize Sharing

There are remarkable sharing platforms available that are accessible on any device and platform. Some are free, most are not, but many have reasonable cost structures for entry-level services. Generally, the more features you want, the pricier things can get. These platforms allow you to schedule posts, view the response rate of your shared content and help you identify ambassadors who are resonating with the content you’re sharing. Here’s a good list to get you started.

Tip 6 – Stop Selling

Counterintuitive, perhaps, but it’s the truth! Your social media efforts should result in engagement that will hopefully lead to the conversion goals you’ve set up for your marketing channels. Nobody wants to constantly hear from a sales person. Be personal. Your audience values authenticity and so should you. Storytelling remains one of the most powerful tools to engage your customers – don’t take it for granted.

Ultimately, building an active user or customer base takes time. Don’t make social media marketing an afterthought; use social networks to reach out to your users and customers sooner rather than later. Remember, people always buy the benefit or value that you’re giving them, not the feature.

Small businesses can benefit from optimizing their on-page, off-page, and local SEO. Some business owners don’t have the time to dedicate to optimizing title tags, searching out external link opportunities, and ensure the accuracy of local citations. If you don’t have employees you can put in charge of the project, determine what aspects of your businesses SEO needs you can accomplish yourself. For the rest, check your bookkeeping software to determine if you have any excess money to hire a professional to accomplish a few SEO tasks.

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