Social media is a powerful tool for reaching your target audiences. However, while it’s easy to think that simply posting anything to Twitter or LinkedIn a few times a week is essentially covering your social media bases, you could end up a little disappointed if you don't get the results you're looking for. In order to get the most out of your social media activity, you're going to need to really understand your objectives and the resources you have available to try and achieve them. This will allow you to create a realistic tactical plan that will deliver success against metrics you can measure and track.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
- Sun Tzu
Another way to give yourself the best chance of success is to really think about the nature of your posts, and specifically your audience: what are they interested in? What do they want to read? What will they share with their followers?
What’s more, time is money so it literally pays to optimise your time spent on social media. You want 360 degree media awareness, with rapid responses to comments and interactions, an eagle eye for facts and a razor wit (although we can settle for a solid sense of humour!): in short, you want to be a social media ninja.
None of us have the time to spend years in an isolated mountain dojo learning the ‘Ways of Social Media’, so we’ve attempted to do some of the work for you with these ninja tips.
Identify your targets
If you don’t know where your targets are, how can you go after them? Start by using an online search engine to look for influencers in your sphere of interest. By honing your Google Fu skills you can start to tease out much more specific information. You should then begin assembling your list of those influencers you want to interact with.
You can make use of the many powerful metrics currently at your disposable; Klout, Follwerwonk, SocialBro and Twello for example will allow you to analyse social networks for people and topics you may want to investigate further. Identifying influencers can be time consuming, but your patience will be rewarded when you can quickly identify those you should definitely be paying attention to.
"He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened."
- Tao Te Ching
Know the landscape and how to leverage it
Once you’ve identified your targets you need to devise a plan that will allow you to get their attention. “Why should I pay attention to you?” is what anyone you first encounter will be thinking. It’s a natural and logical response (and you need to overcome that barrier). Use the social media landscape to put yourself in a position of power.
"Those who are unaware that they are walking in darkness will never seek the light."
- Bruce Lee
Start contributing to conversations your influencers are engaged in: you can strategically @mention as a good first step. Don’t become a ‘fanboy’ here, no one likes a clingy partner so be sure to keep a professional distance. Outside of Twitter you can write about topics you know will be relevant to your shared audiences. It’s all about meeting on an intelligent middle ground.
Make clever use of all the tools at your disposal; that means social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but also blog and guest blog posts, emailers, slideshares, webinars and real events. With every extra follower or visitor to your website you increase your reach by a significant amount.
“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”
- Sun Tzu
Image: Flickr/Jason Howle/Social media apps/CC BY 2.0
Be a master of content creation
You cannot attract high quality interest with low quality content. With an understanding of the available tools, it’s important to make sure that you are using them well. Just because you have what you believe to be a remarkable tale about your weekend trip to Vegas, doesn't means it’s the type of content you should be sharing.
It’s important that you show you have the creative flare necessary in this industry by generating a diverse range of content that appeals to a variety of people. It’s equally important that you show you can generate high quality, relevant information. It may be well-written/designed but if it’s too far off-topic then it still won’t be successful with your target audience.
“Train tirelessly to defeat the greatest enemy, yourself, and to discover the greatest master, yourself.”
- Shi Su Yan
Avoid deadly pitfalls
It’s important that you don’t fall prey to many of the common mistakes when communicating online - just one major slip up can seriously damage your brand. Do you really understand how mentions, replies and messages work? Are you aware of exactly who can see your shared material? Being aware of the various social media faux pas is key to maintaining your persona as a knowledgeable online user who is worthy of attention.
"Beware of the anger of the mouth. Master your words. Let them serve truth."
Let the knowledge of your prowess travel far and wide by adding value everywhere you go
With everything in place, you need to let your content spread throughout numerous, yet relevant, communities. With a continued generation of high quality content you will slowly become recognisable as a source of valuable information, and people are much more likely to respond positively to a recognisable figure than a brand new one (people develop a preference for something familiar simply because they’ve had more exposure with it). This is known as the mere-exposure effect and it should be at the front of your mind when devising social media and content plans i.e. frequency of exposure and quality of insight are both essential for success.
If you succeed as a social media ninja you can very effectively become a trusted and respected brand unto yourself. Face each other, bow, begin!