By Nicole Zenner, PBC™, LK Events, Inc., Chicago

Social media is forever changing. New platforms and tools sprout up seemingly overnight proving that no matter how long you’ve dabbled in social media, you have to keep testing, evolving, and rethinking the tactics for your business.

If you’re one of the few who are not using social media, you should be. If you’re using it, but still unsure how it is going to help your business, you need to use it right to see an impact. In the State of the Social Media Marketing Industry report released in April 2012 by Social Media Examiner, “those people that are self-employed and put in the time, see the greatest benefit from social media.” Those benefits include building vendor relationships at a rapid pace. How? Reach out and connect with vendors and individuals you meet after every networking event. Like their page on Facebook. Comment on or share some of their posts. Like a picture of an event. Follow the vendor on Twitter and retweet something they’ve had to say. Friend them on LinkedIn. Look to see what connections you share. Follow their boards on Pinterest, and do a little re-pinning. If their accounts aren’t active, don’t bother. It’s not worth staying connected online if there’s nothing to follow. You’ll quickly find that vendor partners who are active in social media will remain top of mind in your everyday work. Remember, social media is no substitute for face-to-face interactions. That is a crucial part of any business. Instead, it is simply a more rapid means of disseminating and gathering information about business developments, educational materials, ideas, and personal nuances. Here are some tips for getting started:

5 Ways to Develop Your Social Media Strategy

1) Ask yourself whom you are trying to reach, and with whom you want to connect. “With nearly 80% of all active U.S. Internet users regularly visiting social media sites,” your choice is to reach and connect with potential, current, and former clients, industry vendors, or a combination of both (Nielsen, State of the Social Media Marketing Industry, April 2012). You decide what’s best for your business.

2) Find out how your target audience uses social media. If you’re not sure where to start in your research, just ask. In initial meetings with clients, ask how they use social media. Also ask trusted friends and colleagues in the wedding industry how they use social media to target their business audience. People are very generous in sharing this type of information.

3) Determine how you’re going to measure results. Similar to other marketing efforts, you need to determine your return on investment. Do you want to gain 5-10 new couples per year through social media alone? Perhaps you want to increase the number of likes to your Facebook page or the number of followers you have on Twitter and Pinterest. Maybe you just want to increase your Klout score, which measures your social media impact. Whatever you decide, it’s important to determine your goal(s).

4) Get active and stay active! Julie Albaugh, a social media journalist from Wedding Marketing Online, recommends “that you determine how much spare time you have each week to be consistent.” Comment on blogs, like photos and posts, retweet, repin, and don’t forget to submit your own posts, tweets, and photos. Are you seeing results? If not, change how you say things, use fewer words or characters, change the time of day you are active on sites, include more hashtags in your tweets, increase the number of people you’re following, include more descriptive tags. Monitor your results, and continue to patiently test what works.

5) Check in on your goal. Every six months, check to see if you are achieving your goal. If you are not, change tactics and keep working. If you have, reassess your strategy and set new goals. Continue to use what works, and don’t forget to test other or new tactics based on where your audience is every day.
Embrace your social media strategy, and you will see rewards!

Nicole’s Top Resources on Social Media
The Social Media Marketing Book, Dan Zarella, 2010
The Twitter Book, Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein, 2009
“State of the Social Media Marketing Industry,” Social Media Examiner, April 2012
“The State of the Blogosphere,” Technorati, 2011
HubSpot—free webinars and ebooks

Social Media Bloggers To Watch: Brian Solis, Lee Odden, Jay Baer, Mitch Joel, Jason Falls, Olivier Blanchard, Gini Dietrich, Danny Brown, Jay Dolan, Tom Webster, Scott Stratten, and Ruth Zive.

Top 10 Ways Your Social Media Strategy Will Fail

1) You work with just one social media site.

2) You stay uninformed about the offerings of the next hot social media site.

3) You post the same message at the same time on all social media sites.

4) Your professional posts or tweets are always too personal.

5) You are not on social media sites every day.

6) You don’t interact with followers.

7) You only post your accomplishments.

8) Your professional posts or tweets are always too professional.

9) You don’t actively share other’s posts or retweet.

10) You don’t share photos or videos of your work.

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