Many people think that the common ways of advertising and marketing, such as flyers and brochures are things of the past. Although, I don't necessarily agree, I have to acknowledge that, if you have a business, being online and having social media sites is absolutely crucial in the age we live in. This is why I decided to gather some of the milestones of a social media marketing strategy. So fasten your seatbelt, there's a bumpy road ahead of us.

- Be online, be everywhere

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is have accounts on the main social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. Creating accounts and profiles for your business is the first step toward 'social' success.

                        

- Plan

The pillar of every successful strategy is a good plan. Therefore you need to have a solid plan. I think that brainstorming is one of the best practices when it comes to planning something. You should gather a team, and start asking the members to share their thoughts on social media marketing. This is useful, because they are not only familiar with the products and services that have to be promoted, but most probably, they also have some personal experience with social media sites.

- Prepare - check out the competition

Take a look at the social sites that your competitors have, in order to be ready to fight. If you do this research, you will surely find out what the niche is that you target likes and finds worth reading or sharing. Don't underestimate the competition and learn from their mistakes at the same time.

- Execute

Naturally, this is far from enough, since you need to be active and engage in the social activities of these channels. This is the hardest part. You have to be aware of the unique opportunities that each social media platform has to offer. For example, if you want to post a short, news-like message, tweeting would be the solution, but if you want an article-like post, Facebook or Google+ is the right choice. Furthermore, use your LinkedIn profile to share strictly business-related information. There are so many social media sites that have different purposes. Take advantage of the possibilities they provide and post/share accordingly.

Remember, the visitors will be more trusting, if they see that your profile pages are always updated and that there are actual people behind them. This means that you should share/post or tweet in a usual manner, not like a robot. Spice it up with some funny stories about your business. Don't forget to post a lot of pictures about your products, and things like 'the thought of the day', which will also help in raising attention.

- Lure in the customers

The point of all this is gaining new customers and promoting your business. You need to be different from the others. You have to bring something new to the table, something that will attract customers. How? Well, as the unwritten rule goes: offer them something and if it's good enough, they will come back. This goes for your social media platforms as well. You have to make these sites interesting by creating promotions, organising contests or even making videos about your business.

I will try to illustrate the idea with the example of a bakery. The owner of a bakery should have: - promotions like: 'Want to taste our delicious cupcakes? We offer 6 cupcakes to every 10th visitor, who likes our Facebook page or joins our community on Google+' - contests like: 'Would you like to win a basket filled with our delicious bakery products? Send in/share your favourite cake recipe on our Facebook wall. Our followers will vote for the best recipe and if yours is the winner, just sit back and wait for the delivery guy.' Keep in mind that holidays and special occasions are also good ways of attracting customers.

- Pay attention

You are not finished yet, there is one more obstacle you have to deal with. We all know that the customer is always right, but the new aspect that social media added to this thought is that the customer is also angry if he/she doesn't get immediate answers. So, you should strive to offer excellent customer support, not only on your website, but on your social sites as well. Always check if someone left a message, or had a question regarding your business and attend to them as soon as possible. Moreover, if somebody posts something regarding your business or shares a feedback, thank him/her for it. Even if it's a negative comment you have to deal with it, don't just ignore it. If you answer politely you will make a good impression. If you are active on many social media channels, and you don't have time to personally do all this, it would be recommended to have an employee, who can do it for you.

That's about it! We have reached our destination, you can unbuckle your seatbelt. Now you have some tips regarding social media, hopefully they will come in handy!

Marketing