Let’s begin by dispelling a fundamental misconception: Everyone but you is not making serious money promoting their small businesses on social media. Lots of businesses are trying, and some are generating sales; but very few do it well. That’s actually good news, because you are not as far behind the social media marketing curve as you think.
That said, you can’t sit on the sidelines any longer. Social network marketing is the most powerful marketing force in human history, and if your competition isn’t already involved, they soon will be. But rest easy, because in the time it takes you to complete this tutorial, about an hour, you will be marketing via social media every bit as effectively as your competition, if not more so. And it won’t cost you a dime.
This tutorial will introduce you to the most basic tasks involved in social media marketing using social media management software. It is intentionally limited in scope to avoid the information overload that novice online marketers frequently find intimidating. The goal is to prove to you that you absolutely can turn your social networks into marketing tools, and you don’t have to be a technology wiz to do it.
A word about social media management software (SMMS), of which there are several to choose from with new ones emerging every month. I’m using Hootsuite for this tutorial, because it is a solid piece of software, and because you can create a free account that allows you to manage three social networks — just the right number for a beginning marketer. Also, Hootsuite offers the tools necessary to create and implement a truly sophisticated marketing campaign, and while we will not cover most of them, I encourage you to explore their potential, thereby accelerating your development as a social media marketing pro. But, as I said, a variety of SMMS is available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Once you get a feel for what works for you and your business, you definitely should take some time to evaluate other platforms and choose the one that best fits your needs.
Let’s get started!
Using this tutorial you will:
- Create a free Hootsuite account
- Connect three social media networks to that account
- Create streams to monitor activity and engage your audiences
- Post a message to multiple networks at the same time
- Schedule messages to be posted at future intervals
NOTE: You will need the usernames and passwords of the social network accounts you wish to connect.
1. Create a free Hootsuite account
Click on this link or cut and paste it into a new browser tab: https://hootsuite.com/create-free-account#/
NOTE: This link bypasses Hootsuite’s homepage and their sales pitch regarding the paid plans they offer. You can go back and check out those later if you like.
Click the “Sign up now” link. Complete the sign up form that appears, and click the “Create my Free Account” button.
And there you have it! Your personal social media management dashboard.
In the lower right-hand corner is a wiseguide widget that will provide valuable tips and tricks to help you learn the software’s features, but leave that for another day. Click the arrow in the corner of the widget to collapse it.
You can see there’s a lot going on with the Hootsuite dashboard, but we’re not going to let that intimidate us. Instead, we’re going to focus just on the functions that will allow you to start posting like a pro right away.
2. Connect three social media networks
In order for any SMMS to work, you must give it permission to access the social networks you want to manage. These will be your “connected networks”.
Click the “Send To” field in the upper left-hand corner. In the “Add social network” box that appears, select a social network you want to add.
You can add up to three networks with this free account, but must add them one at a time. Each time you choose to connect a network, you will need to provide the username and password for that account.
NOTE: It is not absolutely necessary to add three networks at this time, but if you do not add at least two, you will not be able to see and fully appreciate the joy of posting to multiple networks with one click.
Once you’ve added your networks, hover over the “Send To” field again, and you will see them listed there. These connected networks can be managed from your Hootsuite dashboard individually or at the same time.
3. Create streams to monitor and engage
In simplest terms, streams are a running display of the content appearing on your social network sites. But they are much more than that. So much more, in fact, that we will discuss their purpose only briefly. I encourage you to thoroughly explore them later. For now, just know that streams allow you aggregate the activity on your social networks and display the results in literally dozens of ways, all for the purpose of determining how best to turn you social network followers into paying customers.
For this tutorial, we’re going to create a simple stream that displays the messages posted on your three connected sites.
At the far left edge of your dashboard is the Navigation Menu. Hover over it, and click the word “Streams” at the top. Doing so would bring up your streams, if you had any. Since we haven’t created any, the dashboard defaults to a single tab which we will rename and to which we’ll add a basic stream from our three connected networks.
Click on the words “New Tab”, and you will be able to rename the tab. For now, just name it “Home”. Then, click on the “Add Stream” button. The Add Stream window will appear and from it you should select one of your connected networks on the left and then, from the list of stream types, select the first item in that list. Then, select a second connected network, and again select the first stream type in the list. Repeat these steps until you have created a stream for each of your connected networks.
When you are done, your dashboard should look something like this:
4. Post to multiple networks at the same time
Posting messages to several networks at once is to social media marketing what trout lines are to commercial fisherman: drop a single line and multiple hooks enter the water! Doing so also significantly cuts the time you spend crafting messages.
There are multiple ways to post messages, but we’re going to focus on the simplest method. Click the green “New Post” button at the top of the page.
Click the “Social Networks” drop down menu to see your connect networks. Select all three networks, then click anywhere outside the box to close it.
Your message is composed in the “Text” box. If the message will consist of text only, once you type it into the box, you’re ready to post. BUT WAIT! The best messages consist of both text and images and sometimes video. Of course, there will be times when a text only message is appropriate, but as a rule you should try to include an image with every post and videos whenever possible.
Type your message into the “Text” box, and then attach the image or video that will accompany it. This can be done in one of two ways. You’ll notice there is an “Open Media Library” link. Hootsuite allows you to upload images and videos that are maintained online in your virtual library. I recommend only adding images and videos to the library that you expect to use on a recurring basis; a business logo, for example. Otherwise, you can upload images from your computer either by clicking the “Select a File to Upload” link or by simply dragging the image file from your computer and dropping it into the drag and drop area.
To share content that is already on the internet, copy the content’s link, and paste it into Text box.
On the right side of the screen you can see previews of how your messages will appear on their respective networks.
When you’re satisfied with the message you’ve composed, click the “Post Now” button and in a few seconds, voila! You just posted to three social networks at one time!
5. Schedule messages to be posted in the future
Now, let’s take the ability to post to multiple networks simultaneously to the next level and schedule a message to be posted in the future. From an efficiency standpoint, this is the key to getting the greatest return on the time you invest in planning and crafting your messages. As discussed, eventually you will need to devise a long term social network marketing strategy. A big part of that strategy will be identifying the best dates and times to engage your audiences. Examples include holiday sales, weekly specials or important local events, such as Mardi Gras. These are things you can plan for well in advance and should, therefore, craft especially effective marketing efforts.
Click on the “New Post” button again, and craft another message. But this time, instead of “Post Now”, click the “Schedule for later” button. As you can see, you can schedule a message to be posted to multiple networks at any point in the future, right down to the minute if you wish. There is virtually no limit to the number of scheduled posts you can create or how far in advance you can plan them.
And there you have it. In about an hour you went from having little or no social media marketing skills to posting to multiple social networks simultaneously, scheduling messages for future posts and creating streams to facilitate engagement and analytics. These are three of the four pillars to a successful social media marketing strategy.
The fourth pillar is analytics. In order to engage your audience in ways that inspire them to react positively to your social network marketing, your campaigns must be data driven. For the time being, just be aware that you need to create sufficient activity on all your networks — by regularly posting and engaging your audiences for weeks or, even better, a few months — before there is sufficient data for those tools to be of any real use.
Social media marketing is still marketing. It requires strategy, and frankly, a far more sophisticated strategy than, say, buying a printed ad or radio air time. That said, there is a veritable horde of professional marketers pushing the idea that the average small business owner simply doesn’t have the time or market savvy to do social media right. They’re the reason you believe everyone but you is making bank with social media. Their solution is, of course, “hire us to do it for you.”
Because I know several social media marketers and know most of them to be dedicated and talented professionals, I can tell you that, if you do social media right your audiences and business will grow to the point that eventually you will need someone whose primary job function is crafting and executing network marketing campaigns. But the beauty of social network marketing is first and foremost it’s relatively low cost and shallow learning curve. You literally can do it yourself, and in my opinion you should, at least for a few months. Doing so will familiarize you with what is involved and allow you to communicate more effectively with the person that eventually takes over that role.