I was talking to an interior designer yesterday who gets most of her clients through word of mouth. For the many businesses out there that rely mostly on word of mouth, social media is often — to be honest — a time sink with a very low return on investment.

Still, she wanted to know the basics of how to get started. She said for an absolute beginner, the whole social media “thing” is super intimidating, and she thought it would be useful to have an overview of how to get started.

Despite a low return on investment, I think there are good reasons to have an understanding of social media, and perhaps dip a toe in:

  • Be in the know. With so many people talking about social media, it’s good to have an understanding of it and even a little experience.
  • Future proof. Even if you aren’t planning to market with social media, getting used to how it works, being online, and learning to do simple things like uploading images is a good idea as we evolve towards an ever increasing use of technology.
  • Network. You really can meet new people and get to know new businesses. Social media can provide a lot of inspiration, especially when you are thinking about how to brand your business.
  • Slow build. If you aren’t putting a lot of money or time into your social media efforts, you can slowly build your networks and think of this build as a long-term, learn-as-you-go, investment.
  • Everybody’s doing it. I know, not the best reason. And yet, having a social media presence is a sign of being up with the times.
  • Search engine optimization. Google wants to know you have a legitimate business. Regularly updating your social channels helps Google get to know you online.
  • Creative outlet. Populating your channels with your original content, images, links, quotes, and other items you love can be its own reward.
  • Market research. The process of finding and creating content for people you think are a good fit for your business helps you find out more about them.

These are some reasons to be involved with social media — even if it won’t bring instant fame and fortune.

Here is a simple 12 step social media plan to get you started:

  1. Create a budget. As with most things, social media success revolves around time, money, and quality. You can usually have two of these things at any given time. So, decide which of the three are your priorities and plan accordingly.
  2. Target. Consider who your customers are, or who you want them to be. With that in mind, create and look for content (links, images, video, blog posts) you think they’ll find useful or entertaining.
  3. Craft a message. Consider what your basic brand message is and share it uniformly across the social channels you are using.
  4. Schedule. Create an editorial calendar with goals such as how often you want to post, and where. You can likewise create a content warehouse to store links, images, quotes, and other content you like but aren’t sure when and how to use.
  5. Create accounts. Now it’s starting to get fun! Select names for your account that are as uniform as possible. If your name is Sam Jones, you probably won’t get @samjones for a Twitter handle. Still, try to keep your choices simple rather than going for clever.
  6. Design graphics. It’s often a good idea to leave this to professionals. Still, if you are on a budget, resources like Canva (thank you, Alan Steinborn) help you create graphics without much trouble.
  7. Optimize your accounts. Choosing high-quality keywords is its own art and science, but, even as a beginner, you can think in terms of how people look for your products and services. If you are a makeup artist, use that terms in your headlines and text. Also, fill out your profiles completely and, if images are allowed, use them.
  8. Automate and systematize. It’s likely that, somewhere along your social media journey, you will get busy or distracted. It’s important for times like these that you have apps or automations in place to help you keep a consistent presence.
  9. Publish! When you are automating and systematizing, you are still publishing. It’s a great to mix your automations with hand-picked and, if possible, created-by-you (or your team) content.
  10. Proof. I find automations to sometimes be hit or miss, especially when it comes to images. It’s a good idea to check your profiles regularly just to make sure that everything looks as good as you want it to.
  11. Promote. Doing things like tweeting a new pin or sharing an update from your Facebook profile to your Facebook fan page helps make your followers aware that you are on several platforms, and helps you get more bang for each update.
  12. Engage. This is the most important part! If people are engaging with your content, that is wonderful. Make sure to respond and, when possible, check out their profiles. This is the best way to build relationships.

At this point, I always need to offer encouragement. This 12 step plan may not seem that simple or easy. Take your time with it. Enjoy the process. See what happens!

Your turn

Please let me know if you have questions. I love answering questions!

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