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With any new business, not only are we to have the pieces in place to efficiently produce a product or service, but we must also identify ways to reach our audience. One of those ways is by utilizing social media.

As many of you may know, I’ve recently launched a new business called¬†The Bassline Group, which is a marketing and branding firm that assists entertainers and creatives with developing and managing their brand, then creating a marketing strategy that resonates with their targeted audience.

I must admit. I’m guilty of not drafting a formal social media plan when it came to my own personal social media activity. I would jot notes and ideas down on paper and keep the rest in my head, but I failed at taking the time to develop a formal written plan for my personal accounts. It wasn’t because I didn’t know how (I could ramble off a strategy off the top of my head once I gather all of the information I need), it was due to me downplaying my social activity and saying “well, it’s my personal account, I don’t need to be formal“, when in fact I do. And even more so now that I’ve launched a new business.

With that being said, I’d like to share with you the steps to take in creating your own social media plan to ensure that you’re consistently sharing good info to prompt others to follow and engage with you.

1. Listen

The first step with developing a social media plan of action is to simply listen. It is very important to understand how to listen for useful information that is coming from your audience, which can include customers, prospects, competitors, and other industry influencers. It can be hard and useless to engage in a conversation within a particular industry without knowing the topic of discussion and having the ability to form your own opinion to share that speaks volumes.

To listen, I follow industry influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn, set up key alerts and monitor industry related hashtags to see what others are saying, and I also follow and read industry related blogs. To keep up with blogs, I’ll either subscribe to their updates so I get them delivered straight to my inbox, or I add them to my Feedly RSS Reader account.

2. Curate

You’ve listened and gathered all of this information, now you’re left with trying to figure out what to do with it. The next step would be to curate the content that you’ve come across so that you could share it with your audience. This step is very crucial because it will provide you with an opportunity to become a great source of insight to your customers or audience and help them cut through the clutter online. I know some people may be concerned with sharing other people’s tweets or blog articles. I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly fine. In fact, I recommend it because you’re now placing yourself on the influencers’ radar because you were kind enough to share their work. For example, I recently shared a video by well-known music producer Ryan Leslie from my business Twitter account and he “favorite” the tweet. Yes, I was excited because that meant that he saw it and is now aware of my business. Just be sure to tag them in the status update.

To curate content on Twitter, I will mark the tweet as a “favorite” so that I can refer back to it later. If I find content that I’d like to share from another source outside of Twitter, I will either bookmark it through my browser or upload it to my Buffer account.

3. Share

In order to develop a strong following on social media, you must share and post frequently. I’ve personally noticed that the more you post, the more followers you’ll get. No one wants to follow an account that is not active. Would you? So it is imperative that you post and share all of this good content that you’ve gathered. In addition to the content you’ve gathered in the previous steps, you also want to sprinkle in your own original content. Such content would include quotes, random thoughts, your own blog posts, videos, shout outs, and any promotional information. The sky is really the limit as to what you can share, but the key is to share ONLY what your audience would want to hear. If you don’t know what they want to hear or read from you, then you must spend a little more time on Step 1.

Use Hashtags

I also recommend using industry-related hashtags in all of your posts to increase your reach. A hashtag is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet, and is a way to categorize messages. A hashtag is also a search term. So it is imperative to use them so that you can be a result in someone else’s search. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, #graphicdesign is a hashtag that you should use in case someone is looking for someone who does graphic design. I tend to use #socialmedia, #branding and #marketing a lot because those are topics that I typically tweet. Using those hashtags has helped in growing my personal accounts tremendously and has resulted in great offline business relationships as well.

If you’re unsure of which hashtags to use, the wonderful folks over at Buffer wrote a great blog post on how to identify your hashtags here.

When To Share

The times to post varies depending on who you’re targeting and where. Are you in the United States but are targeting people in another country? If so, then you must keep their time zone in mind and share posts during their waking hours. The same goes for those who are on the east coast with a large west coast following. Some people will also share an important post multiple times in one day to ensure that those across all time zones will see it. Just make sure to alter the post slightly because Twitter doesn’t allow duplicate posts within a 24hr period.

I love the folks over at Buffer not only because they have a great posting tool, but they also have a VERY informative blog. They recently wrote an extensive blog post on how to identify the best times to post, covering all social networks. You can find it here. For Twitter, I personally use Followerwonk. Although I choose my own times, I will still use them to get a general idea.

4. Engage

Last but not least, you must engage! Engaging on social media consists of not only sharing a post and then responding to those who commented or responded to your original post. But also engaging in other conversations that others have started. As I mentioned earlier, be sure to monitor common hashtags within your industry and engage with those who have shared a message that you could respond to. Twitter Chats are also a great way to grow your following and connect with other like-minded individuals. I’ve participated in many, such as #blogchat on Sundays, #custserv on Tuesdays and #smallbiz on Wednesdays. But my favorite is #ggchat on Thursdays. You can find a list of Twitter Chats here.

Some of these Twitter Chats can be fast-paced, if there are a lot of people participating. To keep up and engage in the conversation, I use TweetDeck. Check out my video tutorial that I created a few months ago that shows how you could use TweetDeck for Twitter Chats.

Social media is one small piece to the marketing puzzle. There is so much more involved with social media such as running campaigns, setting measurable goals, cross promotion, marketing plan integration, etc. But I wanted to at least get you all started on selecting the right networks to be on and then getting in the habit of being consistent. ¬†Remember that you don’t have to be on every social media network that was created. I know all of this can be a bit overwhelming as each social network is not created equal. Focus on the networks where your targeted audience and ideal client are on, and go from there.¬†

Be social, add value and HAVE FUN!