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In today’s competitive retail environment, business owners have no time to waste on the marketing that will help raise awareness, increase sales and grow their business. The average business owner spends 20 hours each week on marketing, and the channels to invest in are endless. It’s important to make every hour spent impactful.At last week’s Internet Retailer Conference in Chicago, we had a chance to hear from Jason Falls, senior vice president of digital strategy at Elasticity, on how to determine which social media channels will generate social success for your business. Jason shared five questions every business owner should ask before spending time and resources on a new social media channel for your business.[Tweet "Not every social network will be right for your needs, so you need to determine your return."]Not every social network will be right for your needs, so you need to determine what return you’ll get for building a presence on each.

1. Is the network able to work well with your brand? Does it offer what you need to consider it successful?

With so many social networks at your disposal, it’s crucial that the one(s) you select can deliver on your expectations. Are you interested in putting paid advertising to work in addition to the daily content you post? Some networks do not yet have advertising options, while others can be very expensive. AdAge recently reported that monthly advertising on Instagram can approach $1 million, which may not make financial sense for smaller brands. On the other hand, advertising on Twitter and Facebook can be very cost conscious; for Facebook, the ad spend starts at $1 per day, and can be completely customizable based on your budget.Additionally, metrics can and should play a huge role in your consideration process. If you and your team are spending time (and advertising money) to build your brand, make sure the network can share numbers on how the work is building your business.[Tweet "You want to see your community grow, not just post links and hope for traffic."]“You want to see your community grow, not just post links and hope for traffic,” said Falls.Finally, does the network welcome third-party apps and integrations? Do you want to run a contest or get people to sign up for your newsletter? The type of campaign you want to run may direct you toward a specific channel that can measure the results you’re after, so keep your end goal in mind.

2. When it comes to the audience, ask "why?" not "how many?"

Why is the network’s audience there? What are they hoping to get out of their time? If you’re starting a brand presence on Twitter, for instance, you need to share information in short bites. Sometimes, you’ll want to include a call to action (CTA), but most of the time, your brand’s Twitter presence is an effort to create and/or raise awareness of your business. Twitter is often a place for thought leadership rather than selling.[Tweet "Twitter is often a place for thought leadership rather than selling."]Similarly, if you’re building an audience on Instagram, provide them with images of beautiful moments, rather just attempting to sell products. This will build your audience much quicker, generating loyalty based on your curation skills and lifestyle. That will ultimately lead to sales, much like it did for DANNIJO.Also, take time to observe the audience. What are they doing and how are they behaving? Observe the user’s engagement, take the time to listen and engage, and then test by launching a pilot tweet, Instagram post, etc. What works for one network isn’t going to work across the board. Customize per channel, and share things that your audience cannot get anywhere else.

3. Does your audience use it?

This sounds like an obvious question, but it can be easy to overlook. With so many new social networks available to business owners, it can be tempting to get caught up in the latest and greatest. But if your target demographic isn’t going to watch your Periscope steam, or doesn’t even know that Yo! exists, it’s likely not the best use of your business’ time. Although, networks like Snapchat serve very specific audiences, in which case they could be the best use of your time.

4. Can you leverage the network uniquely?

The general public is exhausted with brands on social media channels. Why? Because the brands aren’t bringing value to their audiences and aren’t approaching social networks in only a way their business can serve. In fact, there is a Twitter account and a number of tumblr posts dedicated to brand exhaustion, specifically as it concerns targeting millennials using terms like “bae” and “on fleek.” This fuels the fatigue.[Tweet "You need not add to the noise, but rather create something that your customers will want."]So, you need not add to the noise, but rather create something that your customers will want and looking forward to seeing. Take advantage of your strengths. Are you a visual brand? Then Instagram may be the best place for you. Does your brand spark conversation? Use a Twitter account to host Tweet chats or meetups in your biggest markets. Do you focus on sharing your personality? Then Snapchat or Vine could help you do that in small, digestible bits.For some inspiration, here is a list of brands with great content from this spring. Logitech’s video clearly shows off its product benefits in a crisp, clear way.

5. Does it work for your brand?

When starting a new channel, do you or your team have the resources to maintain a presence and consistently create great content? If the answer to either question is no, then you should put those resources into something else. Asking for your audience’s and potential customers’ time to view and engage with your posts is something you shouldn’t take lightly. Every moment you ask of their time should create a “holy smokes” moment, according to Falls. If you’re not approaching your content with the hopes of eliciting a reaction from your audience, then why post?[Tweet "Approach your content with the hopes of eliciting a reaction from your audience."]Once you’ve determined a network is a fit for social success for your business, test various marketing angles including brand awareness, a soft CTA (i.e. “visit the site,” “check out our blog”), a firm CTA (i.e “signup,” “download content”), and a hard CTA (i.e. “purchase,” “download coupon,” “ask for call”) to see what resonates best. Direct response is great, but using social media well is really about continuing to build your brand awareness and customer loyalty.
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  • Liz Kelley

    Elan – I’ll definitely check “It” out. Thanks for sharing!

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