By Rebekah Radice

The online world is rapidly changing. Innovation that was a dream only a short time ago is now reality. As a startup or small business, ensuring that the wave of change doesn’t pull you under is more important than ever.

Adopting a future-proof social media strategy–one that becomes your first line of defense–helps you overcome the uncomfortable truth that 50 percent of all businesses fail within their first five years.

To protect yourself, use social media as an insulator from negative outside forces. How can you do this? Here are four ways you can use social media to future-proof your business right now:

1. Don’t depend on one social network.

With so many social networks, how do you choose? From Facebook to Instagram, Twitter to YouTube, knowing what should earn your attention is harder than ever.

The challenge for many is managing multiple social channels. This is also where the problem begins. In what seems like the simple solution, you settle on one, build an audience, and before you know it, it’s your social bread and butter. Big mistake.

Remember Ello, Xanga or Orkut? Probably not, and why should you? As quickly as they burst on the scene, each one fizzled out. But imagine if you’d put all of your social eggs into one of their baskets? Making a social comeback would be a long and arduous process.

Instead, incorporate a multi-channel strategy that integrates each of the top social networks. From here, begin a listening campaign. Look for those forces (both internal and external), that can be managed through a diverse and strategic social media strategy.

2. Build rock-solid relationships.

Another key ingredient to future-proofing your business with the help of social media is through relationship marketing. Nowadays, it’s no longer enough to hop on social media and begin pushing out content.

If you want a longer shelf life, you must commit to establishing rock solid relationships. And no, this can’t be accomplished through a hands-off approach.

Sam Hurley, a digital marketing expert and the managing director of Optim-Eyez, agrees. “I built my entire personal brand, presence, and consequent business using social media, without a functional website of my own,” Hurley says. “That alone speaks volumes. It may be true that social networks can change at any given time–but nothing can take away the highly-valuable relationships it enables you to forge with your followers, fans and closer connections. ”

3. Commit to the long game.

Do you clearly understand your social media objectives and how they support business growth? And not just today, but tomorrow, and every day in between? The line of defense becomes blurred when you haven’t taken time to outline your strategic social media approach.

Katie Lance, author of Get Social Smart: How to Hone Your Social Media Strategy, explains why social media isn’t a short-term investment. “Social media is a marathon, not a sprint,” Lance says. “The more great content you create and share over time, [the more it] will help to showcase to your audience your expertise and what it feels like to work with you.”

4. Invest in your audience.

If you want to future-proof your business, you must become obsessed with excelling at social customer care. With 78 percent of customers bailing on a transaction or company because of poor customer service, social media is a gateway to improved sentiment.

How can you improve your social media customer care? Set processes early on. Begin by making a commitment to be where your customers are. If they spend time on Facebook, then you need to be there too.

Next, determine how you’ll monitor mentions, respond to them, and interact with your audience. And finally, get it into your calendar. What isn’t scheduled doesn’t get done, and monitoring social media is every bit as important as posting to it.

Spend at least 30 minutes each day on this. Listen to your audience’s needs and share valuable feedback–let them know you care. Future-proofing is a daily commitment to surprising and delighting your social media community. And that, as Ted Rubin, CMO of Brand Innovators points out, is the backbone of social media: “A network gives you reach, but a community gives you power!” #NoLetUp!

IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

By Rebekah Radice

Sourced from Inc.

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