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Step Three
Create Your Plan

Once you have your goals outlined it’s time to start planning how you’re going to achieve them. This is the most active step yet. In fact, it’ll require a bit of time, brainstorming and thinking as well as some research. Grab a piece of paper or pull up a new document on your computer and answer the following questions.

1. Who is your target audience? - It’s important to know this before you begin participating on social networking sites so you choose the sites which are right for your business and your goals.
2. What relationships are you looking to find and build? Are you looking to establish relationships with customers, vendors or potential partners? If so, how will you accomplish this?
3. What do you have to offer your audience? What content will you publish? What information are you going to offer and how are you going to participate? Are you going to link to blog posts? Post tips and information?
4. What image do you want to portray? What’s your brand? For small business owners your personality is often also your brand. Maintain consistency through your profile page, communications, website and/or blog.
5. Who is your competition on each social networking site you’ve chosen to participate in? What does their profile look like? Who are they following/connected to?
6. How are you going to represent yourself online? There are many options here and you’re not limited to one. However it pays to consider how you want to portray yourself. As an expert? As a partner? As a motivator? A resource?
7. How often are you going to post/participate? Create a realistic plan for posting and participating in your chosen social networking sites and schedule it into your day/week/month.
8. How many new people will you connect with each day/week/month? You can create goals here that will help you stay motivated to connect. Consider though that sheer numbers don’t always mean success. With social networking the power is in the quality of the connection, not the quantity of connections.
9. Will you create specific content, promotions and offers for your social networking audience? If so, what? How do they fit into your goals?

10. How are you going to test and track your social networking efforts? We’ll take a closer look at testing and tracking in step seven. However, begin to think about quantifying your goals and different tactics and tools you can use to track and measure success.
11. How will you manage your time? When will you schedule social networking? What tools will you use to make the process easier? For example, you might participate in social networking interaction and posting each night while you watch television. If you’re using Twitter, you might also schedule posts in advance for the week using any number of tools.

Now that you have your plan written out, it’s time to begin implementing it. It’s time to start networking!

Step Four
Implement Your Plan

Your plan is laid out. Your first social networking site has been chosen. It’s time to put your efforts, time and energy into action. It’s time to implement your plan.
Your first step will be to register with your site of choice and to start building your profile.
Your profile page is often the first interaction you have with a potential prospect. It’s the perfect opportunity to brand your company
Depending on the site you’ve chosen to start with you may have lots of opportunity to create your profile and brand your business. Or you may be allowed little more than a username and website address.
Make the most of whatever you have.
So…What Do You Include On Your Profile Page?

Your profile page is the first glimpse into who you are and what you have to offer. Take time planning and developing your profile page. Consider the following elements:

Your User Name

Consider registering with your personal name rather than your business name. People will be more likely to connect with a person than a business.


Your URL

You may want to enter your landing page here. However, keep your goals in mind. If you’re trying to boost profits for a product you might send people right to your sales page. Make sure your URL is in line with your goals.

Your Description

Your “About Me” page, business description and likes and interests are net. Consider creating a story that relates to your business and your vision. What do you have to offer? Include information about you personally. Social networking is about connecting personally. Promotion comes second. It’s also okay to list your accomplishments here – this helps to establish credibility and it helps people recognize you as an expert in your industry.

Interaction
Once your profile is up it’s time to interact. That means posting and commenting. Let’s look at the actions individually.

Posting
Ideally you’ll have a plan about what you’re going to post. Your posts will support your goal and offer value. A post about the great tuna sandwich you just ate is only relevant if you have a cooking website or blog.
Random tidbits of information do not offer value to your audience or followers. However, offering tips, and solutions do help your audience. And if you can entertain them at the same time that’s great!
Consider sitting down weekly and looking at your social networking plan. Determine what you’re going to post about and then schedule the posts. If you can write them all in one day and schedule them to be automatically posted, all the better. That’s not always possible.

Consider how your posts might integrate with your marketing and content strategies. For example, if you’re creating blog posts to support a new affiliate product you might also link to those posts or create similar content for your social networking page.
Consider simply publishing a teaser. Often, publishing an entire article just doesn’t make sense. You want to drive traffic to your website. Tease it on the social networking site and link to your website for more.
Let your content do double duty. Use it to provide value and promote at the same time. For example, if you’re releasing a new ebook you might offer several tips related posts with links to your ebook’s sales page.
Make sure you’re providing a consistent voice or brand. Social networking is about building a community. When you brand your content to your personality you build an audience of loyal followers.
Posting is a primary activity however on social networking sites it may be secondary to interaction.

Interact
Interacting is most commonly accomplished by commenting on other people’s posts. In the case of Twitter you can also “reTweet”. On Facebook you can “Share.” You can also “Like” on Facebook.
Those are the basics. Most often you’ll be actually providing discussions, comments, and insight or advice. Again, make sure you’re not “Selling”. Offer value. Don’t merely market your business, connect and provide value.

Follow and Friend
Follow or friend people that are in your niche. Consider sending them a note or a message about why you are interested in following them. Build your following by following those who are in your niche. You don’t have to follow everyone that follows you. However, it pays to take some time to evaluate the decision. Are they in your audience? Might they provide value to you in terms of education, connections or partnerships?

Many marketers follow everyone that follows them. This limits your ability to have a genuine interaction. You might consider only following those who you can keep in touch with.
Look for connectors and follow them. Connectors are people who are involved in their community. They know everyone. When you follow a connector you then become part of their community. Thus you have access to all of the resources and people they know. A very basic example might be if you were a crafting blogger and you decided to follow Martha Stewart. She has a huge community of followers. Commenting on her posts and interacting with her community gives you access to a very large crafting audience.
Integrating your social networking activities with your marketing strategy is essential for optimal success. The next step explores the possibilities.

Integrate Social Networking Activities with Your Overall Marketing Strategy

You’ve already taken the first and most important step to integrating your social networking tactic into your marketing strategy; you’ve created goals for your efforts.
Here are just a few ways you can integrate your activities into your total marketing strategy

* Email Marketing - Include a link to your social networking profile in your email signature. Include a call to action in your newsletter inviting people to find you on your chosen social networking site(s).

* Website/Blog - Include social networking interactions or buttons on your website. Use a widget to show recent conversations or posts. Or include a “like this on Facebook” or “Tweet This” button with each new page of content.
* Article marketing – Include a link to your new content on your social networking sites.
Integrate your social networking activities into your traffic generation and marketing strategy. The more you can maximize and integrate your efforts the more results you’ll get.

Step Five
Test and Analyze

Like any effective marketing effort it’s important to test and track your efforts. You can test and track by installing analytics on your web pages. Your analytics will tell you how people arrived at your site. If your goal is to drive traffic to your blog or website this can be extremely useful information.

Additionally, you can tell which social networking posts achieved the most results. This can be accomplished by sending followers to test pages. You can also utilize many analytics tools designed specifically for social networking.
For example, HootSuite offers analytics. You can find out how many clicks you’ve had in the past week and see who clicked. This is extremely useful marketing information. You can also see who has mentioned you or your business.

For any goal you create, make sure there is a means to measure success. Include it in your plan and implement it in your strategy. Also consider tracking how much time you spend on social networking and the results you achieve. You may find your time is well spent. You may decide to outsource the task. Or you may decide to change your goals and strategy. Tracking and testing provide critical decision makin

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