I had to bake cookies for a holiday party this weekend. I cook every night, but baking is my worst nightmare. If you miss-measure one ingredient, your dessert will be a miserable fail. This got me thinking, that baking is very similar to online marketing! If you don’t implement all of the following, your social media campaign will most likely fail.

Ingredient #1: Strong goals
What are you looking to accomplish with social media and online marketing? Please don’t go into social media blind, without any expectations. Here are some very general ideas of what you can do.

Social media can… generate more business exposure, increase traffic and improve search rankings, improve relationships & awareness amongst current customers, and find you qualified leads

But can’t… replace traditional marketing, guarantee sales, deliver results overnight or be a short term solution

Once you determine your general goals, you can go on to create more specific goals and figure out what social networks are best to accomplish these goals.

Ingredient #2: Consistent branding
This is what separates good marketing from the bad. Every brand should have a voice, a tone that they use to convey their message. Since social media is a form of publishing, your tone is really all you have to stand out from everyone else.
• Your social networks should be visually appealing, just like your storefront. Keep them consistently branded with high quality graphics, your logo and tagline.
• In your social media posts, use certain words and phrases that you feel express your brand best.
• If you have a weekly feature or special for your business, consider a way to incorporate it online.

Ingredient #3: Time and commitment
43% of small businesses spend 6 or more hours a week on social media, and one third of small business owners want to spend less time on social media! What happens when you spend time doing something you’re not passionate about? It shows, and your customers will tell that you’re not putting your all into it. Make a commitment to yourself to spend one hour every day on social media for your business. If you can’t spare the time, consider hiring a consultant to help.

Ingredient #4: Original content
I can’t stress this enough: without original content, you’re most likely not going to provide your social media followers with value. Think about the businesses you follow on social media and why you follow them. Social media users are looking to be entertained. They want help solving a problem. Once in a while it’s okay to share relevant articles and images from the web, but make it a goal to create and share your own content several times a week. What constitutes as original content?
• Photos from your business
• Graphics created for your business (flyers, quotes, infographics, etc.)
• Blog posts and articles written by you or someone in your business
• Videos and podcasts

Ingredient #5: Loyal customers
If you have no one interacting with your social networks when you start off, no one else is going to want to jump in. It’s all about community, and people are weary of pages with no fans. In order to get your loyal customers over to your social networks, you have to rely on cross marketing. Put signs up in your business with links to your social networks, add your social network links to your email signature and your business card, send out an email blast asking your fans to join you on social media, etc. Advertising on the other hand, will help you acquire new potential customers.

Ingredient #6: Means for measuring goals
Measuring the results of your social media initiatives doesn’t have to be a difficult thing. Obviously the means for measuring will depend on your goals. If one of your goals is very generally, to get more clients, you have to be able to track new sales. One way is to simply ask your customers where they heard about you! But if you’re not consistent with asking it will be a lost cause.

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