The Basic System to Rock Any Social Media Platform Part 1: The 3 Phases of Social Media Success

ThreePhasesOfSocialMediaSuccess

Anyone worth their salt as a consultant will tell you that you need a plan to get the most out of social media. This is absolutely crucial to your success. What’s missing from most social media plans, though, is a system. A set of rules, if you will that governs how effective a plan can be. It’s a way to implement the goals that you have and an order to do them in.

I’ve seen and built a lot of social media plans. Some were successful, and some were not. The ones that were successful had one thing in common: they setup their plan with a systemized approach. In other words, everything in the plan is built to fulfill a specific purpose. Nothing in the plan deviates from that purpose.

There is a better word than purpose, though. Some people like to call them “goals”. I like to call them “phases”, because you can have multiple goals within a phase and still be working towards that one purpose.

There’s really only three major phases that you can shoot for in social media. They are:

  1. Building an Audience
  2. Building Engagement
  3. Converting Followers

Want to know what the most successful social media plans had going for them? They tackled these phases one a time and in order.

Phase 1: Build Your Audience

When I first started in social media, the company I was working for didn’t have a social media presence. Since this was my first social media job, I had to learn how to set them up and make them work. I had read a lot of stuff about how social media was so powerful. About how it could increase your sales and popularity far beyond what you could achieve normally. So, I had hope that it would work.

When we first started with Facebook, it was still pretty early for businesses to be jumping on. It was easier to build an audience then. But that’s not what I was focused on. Instead, I was doing all kinds of things. And I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting the engagement that I had heard about. Or why I wasn’t getting people to bring in the coupons we would post, or respond to our online sales.

It wasn’t until we ran a big “Like Us” contest that I really started to see engagement and conversions on our Page. In fact, our audience grew so much from that contest, that the engagement and conversions had also skyrocketed. It was then, that I understood how social media works.

See, the simple truth is, you have to have an audience that will support the engagement and conversions. If you don’t, it won’t happen. No amount of pie in the sky thinking will deliver that for you.

No matter what platform you’re on, you have to build an audience first. Unfortunately, building an audience is actually one of the hardest parts of the whole process because it’s a step that consists of three separate objectives.

The first objective is to get people to show up. The second is to get them to pay attention. The third is to get them to want to come back and read more. We’ll tackle how to get all of these to work together in a later post. For now, let’s just look at the basic activities you need to do to get started.

  1. Post content consistently.
  2. Use the basic tools of the platform (e.g. Twitter = hashtags, Facebook = shares and likes).
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Be funny.
  5. Be real.
  6. Use what’s working on the platform now (e.g. Facebook = video)
  7. Look outside of the platform for followers (e.g. Facebook Like Button)
  8. Run a Contest or Promotion to generate excitement.
  9. Find your voice.

Phase 2: Build Engagement

The next phase to tackle once you’ve built your audience is to get them engaged. If they’re already engaged, then that just means you have an advantage. But if they’re not, you may have a hard road ahead of you.

My first success had really taught me that you could be achieve your goals with social media if you focused on the right phase at the right time. But, later, I struggled with building engagement on other platforms and social media accounts.

A couple of years after I started doing social media, I started to take on other clients on a freelance basis. I thought I knew what I was doing by that point. After a few months, though, it became clear that I really didn’t.

I used what I knew worked: I focused on building an audience before building engagement. But I wasn’t getting the same results. I didn’t understand why it seemed to only work once. I thought, that must have been a fluke. But I questioned that assumption, because I had read so many articles telling me different. So, I decided to dig deeper and figure out why it had worked so well the first time. I did this by trying a ton of different things to build engagement (including running more contests).

My conclusion was this: in those early days we had grown our audience so fast by harnessing the excitement that a contest produces. This meant that our audience was already engaged. It gave us a leg up when it was time to move to this next phase. Because we were also posting consistently to Facebook, and we understood what was working on the platform, we were able to keep that engagement going.

Once I understood that, I knew that the key to getting more engagement was to give it a kick-start. Contests work well for this purpose, but they’re not the only answer. Sometimes, they’re not even the right answer for the client.

There are lots of activities that build engagement. Most of these same activities you’ll notice are also ones that are used to build an audience. That’s because the same characteristics of social media that build connections, also help spread those connections farther than they would normally go.

Below are a list of activities that you can use to build engagement.

  1. Post content consistently.
  2. Run a Contest or Promotion to generate excitement. In fact, run these multiple times throughout the year to get the most benefit out of them.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Be funny.
  5. Be real.
  6. Find your voice.
  7. Connect with your audience.
  8. Use tools outside of the platform (e.g. share buttons on your blog)
  9. Use the basic tools of the platform (e.g. Twitter = hashtags, Facebook = shares and likes).
  10. Use what’s working on the platform now (e.g. Facebook = video, Twitter = Twitter chats)
  11. Bring them into your sales funnel.

Step 3: Convert

Conversions matter in social media. It’s the return part of “Return on Investment” that we’ve been hoping for. That doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling and the connections we make with our community. Those are important, too, and can keep us going when the conversions aren’t happening like they should. But most of us want to get something more out of it. Most of us want to be able to justify the time we’re spending talking with people, researching content, posting, spending money on ads, and the hundreds of other things you need to do to keep up with your social media accounts.

Conversions are tough to achieve, especially on social media. That’s mostly to do with a glaring difference between a business’ motivation and a person’s motivation on social media. People get on social media to connect, or to find out what’s going on, or even just to unwind. Businesses on the other hand want to connect with their customers, but they also want to make the sale. Those motivations just don’t line up. Often times, this means that social media posts by businesses can be seen as an intrusion. Or at the very least, they can seem out of place.

So if conversions are our goal, then how do we go about getting them?

Some of the same things you do to build an audience and build engagement also work for making conversions on social media. Again, this is because of the way social media works. The main thing that companies who make conversions on social media do, though, is they connect with their followers. They learn what their audience likes to hear, and what they like to talk about. Then they take that information and they apply it to how they sell their product. That’s why these same activities can work for conversions, just as well as building an audience and engagement.

Here’s the list of activities that will help convert your followers into customers:

  1. Post Consistently (tired of seeing that yet?)
  2. Post a sale or a promotion
  3. Run a contest (yep, contests can even be used for conversions!)
  4. Ask questions.
  5. Be funny.
  6. Be real.
  7. Find your voice.
  8. Connect with your audience.
  9. Use the basic tools of the platform (e.g. Twitter = hashtags, Facebook = shares and likes).
  10. Use what’s working on the platform now (e.g. Facebook = video, Twitter = Twitter chats)
  11. Ask for the sale
  12. Run ads or use other promotional tools.
  13. Bring them into your sales funnel.

As you can see, the main difference in most of these phases isn’t the activities, it’s the intention and execution. It’s the focus of the conversation.

I have been successful and have seen others be successful in social media from following other systems. But I’ve achieved the most success when I followed this system step-by-step.

Your turn. Have you found a system that works for you? Are you having trouble building an audience, your engagement, or your conversions? Have you seen success when you focused on one goal at a time? Let me know in the comments below.

Buying Facebook Likes Doesn’t Buy Engagement or Sales

I know you’ve seen the ads, or even just hBuying Facebook Likes Doesn't Buy Engagement Or Saleseard about “buying Likes”. At first it sounds like a good idea, especially if you’re having a hard time building those fans. Why not plunk down $25, $50, maybe even $200 if it will get you a bunch more fans all of a sudden? Wouldn’t that mean that more people are willing to Like your page, because they see that a lot of other people already Like you? While this is certainly true, the cost of buying those Likes goes way beyond the initial payment you made. Let me tell you a story as an example.

When I went out on my own for the first time it took me a while before I got an actual “social media management” client. I had taken other jobs, but no one wanted to pay me the money to manage their posting and engagement. This type of work requires a high-level of trust. Even though, I had four years experience doing this for multiple companies, I hadn’t been networking long enough to convince someone to take this over. Finally, though, I landed my first client. We talked over strategy and what types of posts I’d be running, as well as ideas on how the business could help to supply some of that content, since they were out doing the job every day. We agreed on a number of posts per month and the type of content that would run. I was stoked. After so long pitching and not getting anything, the actual “strategy session” was a breeze.

So, off I went. Like a good little social media manager, I grabbed content from other sites and their own, mixing it together in the right combination like a wizard mixing a potion. Then I scheduled the posts and waited for the engagement to happen. I wasn’t worried about the engagement. After all, I could see how many Likes they had. From my previous experience, I knew that this was a very good number for engagement. I also knew that it might take a little time for the engagement to pick back up since they hadn’t posted in a while. I checked the Page everyday and all I heard was crickets. There were a few Likes here and there, and even a comment, but nothing like what I expected. At the end of the month, I reported the stats and mentioned in my report that it would take a little time for the engagement to pick back up.

During the second month, the same thing happened. We got a bit more engagement, but, again, it was not what I expected. I also checked the reach of the posts and noticed that it was much lower than I anticipated. My second month’s report looked pretty much the same as the first. The business owner didn’t say anything. For the third month’s content I really dug into what was getting the most engagement, and when it was getting the most engagement, and tried to recreate that. Again, though, the same thing happened. I was devastated. This had never happened before. I had always been able to create content that people responded to and build on that.

So, before I delivered my third month’s report, I asked the business owner if we could meet. When we sat down I explained the problem to him. I outlined what had happened and why it was such a weird issue. Then I asked the question, “Did you pay for some of your Likes in the past?”

The owner paused for a second and said, “Yes, is that bad?”

Why Buying Likes Doesn’t Buy Engagement or Sales

Those Likes that you buy are sold by companies who do two different things: they create bots that act like real humans which create Facebook accounts and then Like pages, or they are actual human beings that are paid to click Like. Oftentimes these Likes come from countries such as Indonesia. If you’re a small business owner in the Midwest who only has a brick and mortar location and no online store, are people from that country really interested in what you sell?

Don’t be fooled by the ones who say that they are selling you “real Likes”. Even if a human is clicking Like on your business page, it doesn’t mean that they are interested in your product. Be smart, and get Likes that will become part of your customer base.

And the last reason that buying likes is bad for your business, is that many of these likes will never engage with your Page, so you’re getting nothing out of them. How does it look if someone comes to your Page, sees you have 1,000 likes, but only a few likes, comments, and shares on your posts over the last month? Seems pretty weird, huh?

Is there a Way to Legitimately Buy Likes?

Yes, there is. Facebook has a specific ad type that aids you in getting more Likes for your Page. If you know what you’re doing with the targeting you can even target those people who are going to be more interested in your product or service. This is one of the best ways to “buy” Likes. Don’t, however, buy them off some guy on Fiverr or another site that is promising x number of Likes. Those sites are likely using Like Farms to get you those Likes.

What About Other Ways to Get Facebook Likes?

There’s a ton, actually. You can install a Like button on your website where visitors can Like your Facebook Page without ever leaving. You can invite your friends and business colleagues to Like your Page. You can, even, promote your Page on your business cards or other print marketing pieces. Here are 20 more ways you can legitimately get Facebook Likes.

The bottom line: don’t be tempted to build your Facebook Page by buying Likes. You are only hurting yourself in the long run, especially if you want to get more out of it (like sales).

Why Voice is So Important in Your Social Media Plan

Your voice matters. I can’t say that enough. In fact, let me say it again. Your. Voice. Matters. When you separate out the words like that, it not only looks more important, it sounds different. There’s a reason for this. Each word means something all by itself. Let’s tackle them one by one to get a deeper meaning.

Your.

This is an obvious word, but does bare a deeper look. First of all your voice will be different than anyone else’s. I think this should go without saying, but sometimes saying it helps us to understand that each of us has something unique to say. Let’s look at an example. We have two different business owners: Steve and Bob. Steve and Bob are the same age. They both grew up in the same small town. They went to the same school, and they had (for the most part) the same friends. They graduated in the same year and went to the same college in a neighboring city. Early on, they both realized that they loved to cook. So, when they got out of college they both started restaurants. But Steve and Bob are different people. Steve’s family life was not so great. He had a brother and a sister, and a mother and father who fought a lot. So, he learned to cook at an early age because that was his job and it was how he kept his family together. Bob is an only child. His parents were like a dream come true. In fact, they are his best friends. Bob learned to cook from his uncle who was a chef and used to visit in between trips around the world. Bob was fascinated by the dishes his uncle prepared, which were often exotic. Bob grew up trying to imitate the dishes his uncle would create during his visits. Steve’s necessity in cooking grew into a love of providing food to bring people closer together. Bob’s love of cooking grew into a passion for introducing exotic food to his small town. Can you start to see how each of these two men would not only open a different kind of restaurant but how they might have a completely different opinion on what to serve in those restaurants? Now imagine what each of these men’s blogs would be about. Do you think they would be different? Do you think they might even cover different subjects? Maybe Steve would write about his own budding family and how he is teaching his children to cook and prepare meals in a family setting. Maybe Bob would showcase a different meal he’s prepared each week.

The point is that each person is different for many different reasons. And that’s a good thing, because that means that content written by each person would not be a carbon-copy of someone else’s. Can you imagine what it would be like if you landed on a blog about cooking and found that it was almost exactly like another blog that you read about cooking? How boring and annoying would that be?

Find out what sets you apart or makes you different, and then put that into whatever you write.

Voice.

Voice itself is important because voice, sometimes even more than opinion, is what sets you apart from someone else. This can be influenced by opinion, but is more to do with your writing style and the words you use. I write in a more conversational tone. Someone else might write in a more formal one. Even if we wrote an article about the same subject, it would read in a completely different way because we used different words. You should choose a voice that feels comfortable to you when you write. If you like to tell jokes, then make sure you put jokes in your writing. It will make it much easier to produce content because it comes more naturally to you. Whatever you do, make sure your voice is consistent. That doesn’t mean that you can’t deviate occasionally. What it does mean is that your content will be recognizable to people across different platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, your blog). It also means that someone who is used to reading what you write does not have to work as hard to understand what you’re saying. When you remove that obstacle, it makes reading much more enjoyable and they will be more likely to come back for more.

Matters.

Your voice does matter. What you say matters. The way you say it matters. And if you want to do something that matters, then using your unique voice to talk about it is the only way to connect with people. You don’t have to change the world to do something that matters. You just need to do something that matters to you. Once you know what that is, making sure that it shows up in your writing is key. In other words, write whatever you are passionate about. Writing about things that matter to you will also make the writing easier, because you already know and are excited about the subject. People also connect better with someone who writes passionately about a subject, because they can read that in your writing.

How Can You Apply This to Your Social Media Plan?

There is nothing better you can do for your social media plan than to find your unique voice and subject matter. It is one of the main things that will make you stand out from your competitors. Just posting is not enough you have to stand out. Use these three steps below to create content for your social media plan and you’ll see results.

1. Find your.

Figure out what makes you different. Write those facts down and use that angle to make what you say unique to you.

2. Your Voice.

Choose a voice that you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to win a Pulitzer with your voice. That would be awesome, though, right? You just need to find a voice that fits you and your audience.

3. What Matters.

Even with their similarities, the two men in the example above had different things that mattered to them. It’s part of what would set their different content apart. Find out what matters to you and make sure you write about it.

I’d like to know your results.

If you will or have implemented these steps, let me know what your results are in the comments below.