This is part one of a two-part series. Read Social Media Influence Part Two: Content Strategy here.
Many small businesses find social media intimidating, but it can be a great, low-cost way of connecting with customers and influential members of the press.
Yet the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make in their social media marketing is not knowing who they are marketing to. They've heard good things about Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. But they set up a profile and soon become frustrated by the lack of interest in what they are selling.
That's because they failed to make an influence map, a critical first step in building a strategic plan for your social media marketing. In this two-part series, we'll look at that critical first step in building a social media following. In part two, we'll look at the second part of the equation of building a social media following, creating great content.
What's an Influence Map?
An "influence map" is a planning document that helps you identify and track the audience that will make the most impact on your business. In the exercise below, we'll focus on Twitter, but the things you learn here can also work for social networks like Pinterest, Tumblr or Facebook.
Your influence map looks at questions like:
What journalists or publications are important to my business?
Who are my competitors?
Who are helpful allies?
When my customers use social media, what sorts of terms are they using?
Map Journalists and Publications
Every product category has a niche where publications of varying sizes reside. For example, if you make custom car decals, your dream publications might be the New York Times Autos section and Automotive News. Beneath that are big and influential blogs and websites, and beneath that are personal blogs of car aficionados.
How do you find them all? Research, research, research. Use a Google Blog Search and mine your favorite blogs for their favorite blogs.
Your task: Choose five publications from each category: dream, medium and small.
Map Your Competitors and Allies
Next, you want to think about the industry that you're in and your allies and competitors. If you're a restaurant, helpful allies might include a bar down the street, a nearby movie theater or kitchen supply store. Competitors are fellow restaurants. Identify both -- the allies you may elect to create cross-promotions with, and the competitors you want to stay aware of in terms of promotions they might be running.
Your task: identify five allies and five competitors.
Map Your Keywords
Now you are going to begin to identify the terms potential customers might use when thinking about your goods or services. If you are an IT consultant, you might make a list of common complaints like "printer problems" or "computer crash." If you are an art teacher, you might track words like "painting" and the name of a local museum.
Put it Into Action
Step 1: Sign up for a free HootSuite account.
Step 2: Create a Twitter "list" called "Influencers": Search for and add your main target publications, competitors and potential allies
Step 3: Create another Twitter list called "Keywords": use this list to track conversations around words that are important to your business.
Why Use These Influence Lists?
Once you have these lists set up, you'll be able to get a quick "eyeball" of what your competitors, customers and press targets are up to, at least as far as Twitter is concerned. And in the next part of our look at social media influence, we'll delve into how you can use this information to develop great content.