Sherrie A. Madia, PhD, is Director of Communications, External Affairs at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches Social Media and Communication Strategies. She also serves on the Advisory Board of EyeCatcher Digital, a tech strategy and marketing firm. With fellow social media strategist Paul Borgese, she is coauthor of The Social Media Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business Exponentially with Social Media (Second Edition).

In her critically acclaimed book, The Social Media Survival Guide, social media strategist and author Sherrie Madia offers creative ideas for small businesses to make the most of social networking.  Sherrie discuss here on the right way to use social media strategies for your small business success.

Welcome Sherrie, the Social Media buzz and strategies are all around us and some of us have been savvy to use it to our advantage but most of those I come across are still confused – “Alright I use Twitter, Facebook – that’s social media right? What now?” – What do we need to know FIRST before digging deep in the strategies for success?

The first step in using social media effectively begins with a question that should sound familiar to most businesses:  “What’s the objective?” And yet, because social media is a “make-and-take” environment—that is, companies can create and launch networks on their own in minutes—many companies are bypassing the basics.

  • What are you looking to achieve?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where is your target audience?
  • Where are your competitors?

Define your objective, do your research, then create a social media plan.

The plan should include the scope of networks you will launch with, along with a content strategy and a plan to target this content.

What skills I must have to understand and leverage the best out of today’s existing social media tools and applications?

If you are a clear, succinct, personable communicator, your time is now.   Social media is centered on authentic, value-driven content.  This is a dramatically different model from what many professionals are used to.  Many businesses have sustained themselves on a long-term diet of institution-speak, which simply doesn’t resonate with today’s information consumers.  The social media space is not the place for posers or pretenders—it’s a space for a brand to create content starters designed to engage consumers in genuine dialogue—this can be off putting to businesses, but they should view this as an opportunity to create more meaningful relationships by giving consumers a say and enabling audiences to help shape the brand’s story.

Social media advertising campaigns take a lot of time and effort, how can I ensure I am using some smart and less time-consuming strategies for my business success?

Social media doesn’t necessarily mean “more” in the way of content or effort.  Often it means “different.”  For example, companies who used to provide the three-panel brochure advertising their services, or the direct-mail appeal, might take that content and package it as a how-to video showcasing a product, or a Facebook fan page promotion.  The beauty of the Web 2.0 space is its iterative nature. Whereas in the past, companies found themselves locked into ad campaigns they knew were less effective, today, businesses can react in real time to market effects, and tweak and modify along the way.

What is the most inexpensive form of advertising that I can use through the social media networks? Also when must I know that investing more would benefit my business more?

The most inexpensive forms of advertising are free with the exception of time.  Creating a blog, for example, is a means of providing value to target groups in the form of expertise, content aggregation, industry insights, and more.  The goal is to generate “organic opt-in” whereby users are raising a hand to say they support what your business has to offer.

Facebook ads are another inexpensive means of advertising.  One of the fantastic benefits of Facebook ads are that companies can target ads to highly specific groups based on demographics, geographics, and areas of interest.  Ads are simple to create, and multiple versions can be tested simultaneously.  Companies set their selected bid price per click or view (e.g., $5.00 per click-through) and a maximum spend per day (e.g., $50 per day).

Based on initial results, content, target audience or bid price can be adjusted to optimize—or can be turned off completely at any point along the way.

Because social media is a relationship builder, the need for additional investment may come not in dollars but in time.  Companies that offer consistency and value will see these results firsthand.

What are a couple of important lessons that readers would take back from your book The Social Media Survival Guide? Do you have some examples for us?

Many businesses enter social media with the sense that because their social-networking platforms took only moments to establish, that they should see return with equal rapidity.  In fact, like any other tactics, social media takes hard work, creativity and time.  The good news is that when done right, the investment is not about the next sale, or the next follower—It’s about the lifecycle of the consumer relationship with your brand.  When we think about the value proposition that social media offers—and the cost to acquire a new customer or client—we can see the real value in ongoing, meaningful conversation.

Tips for success:
Know your objective.  Identify your audience.  Not sure where to begin?  Try the robust search engines of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to locate the communities that you’d like to target.  Create your content strategy (this includes an editorial calendar of posts, tweets and updates, based on the types of content most conducive to your brand).  Start with a small core of social networks and work them well.  Listen as you go and modify based on what you hear.

As companies large and small continue to discover, the rewards of social media far outweigh the risks.  In fact, to avoid being left behind or trounced by competitors, businesses who want to remain top of mind must engage in this dynamic space.
Thank you Sherrie, for this illuminating information on how to use social media effectively for small business success. You can find out more about Sherrie Madia and the book at