How social actually impacts your bottom line

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Tweeting, commenting, blogging -- Fortune 500 brands and small businesses alike are engaged in social initiatives, promoting their brand through social media. Looking at the bigger picture, outside of being engaged simply because it's a trend, how does social actually yield results and meet your bottom line?

How social media actually impacts your bottom line

Let's look at the components critical to long-term success as you plan your social strategy. Begin by identifying your business goals, analyzing your target audience, and their behavior, and understanding the type of content that resonates best with your demographic.

Identify your goals

Different businesses offer different things and, therefore, have different goals. Whether you sell a service or a product, begin by identifying your objectives for the year. Are you tasked with generating a certain amount of sales, driving brand awareness among a certain audience, or increasing traffic to your digital presence? Map out each of these alongside hard metrics in the beginning of your yearly cycle through a chart that correlates goals with initiatives and results. Referencing this organized method throughout the year will enable you to effectively work towards meeting and even exceeding your expectations.

Do your due diligence

Get to know your audience. Learn about their behavior, how they consume content, and through what media. Understand where they go on the web to learn more about your brand. Does your customer head straight to Google when looking for the best financial advisor? Or do they search a social network to find local resources? Next, perform that search and see what comes up. Are your competitors owning the organic rankings?

"If your audience is searching for your offering using search engines, search marketing should be part of your marketing mix," said Joy Kim, search manager for Digitaria. "Search data can tell you a lot about your target demographic, and their search pattern and search volumes of relevant keywords can help you understand the intent behind keywords and prioritize your content topics. Knowing what users seek will help brands create engaging content that increases their visibility online."

Produce relevant, compelling content

If research and site traffic indicates your demographic is making 80 percent of purchasing decisions based on Yelp reviews, appoint a community manager, identify key influencers, engage in the community, and interact with people talking about your brand.

Acknowledge positive feedback and address the negative, and no matter how clichéd, always put yourself in the customer's shoes. Provide a solution that will put a smile on their face and encourage them to not only return, but share their positive experience with extended networks. Remember, although it may seem like you're talking to one person, millions may be watching -- and search may just pick up that conversation.

Identify the type of content that resonates with your audience and track success specific to your goals. Are social shares or click-throughs part of your goals?

"Measure each piece of published content and revisit the data to understand what worked best according to your success metrics," said Mark Kegley, senior analyst for Digitaria.