Social Media is a hot topic in marketing, almost every conversation I have about digital turns into a social media discussion these days. I also find that while a large number of companies have started social media marketing, many companies don’t know where to start. I’ve had many discussions in the last few months where senior executives admit they know they need to do something but they don’t know what.
I firmly believe that social media is what the web will become and in most ways what the web was designed to be. The web is still in it’s infancy and the how we connect online with the real world will continue to develop. Companies need an integrated digital strategy that includes social media as a central component to ensure they meet the developing needs and behaviours of the modern customer.
The various discussions about social media have led me to outline the key items every company should consider when defining their social media strategy.
1. Set your objectives
The biggest mistake organisations make is not knowing what they are trying to achieve with social media. They do it because they see other companies doing it or because they want to be the first in their sector or niche to use social media. Social Media can be used for a multitude of reasons including positioning, lead generation, sales, customer service and marketing (in the fullest sense), amongst others. But if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Make sure your social media objectives align with your business objectives before you set off on your exciting new journey.
2. Define what success looks like
I can’t overstate the importance of defining success, it’s the only way to understand whether you are achieving your desired objectives. You must set targets for each of your business objectives and then set the metrics that you will use to measure these targets. A customer service cost reduction objective may have metrics such as the volume of queries resolved through social media, the reduction in queries offline and net cost reduction. All of which will show whether you are moving towards your overall target.
Setting and measuring your metrics will allow you to quickly identify what is working and what isn’t. Some will argue that you can’t measure the value of social media because you can’t measure the value of a relationship or you can’t measure above the line impacts. While these are both valid arguments, online is possibility the most measurable medium we have and it would be foolish to dismiss the opportunity to measure and understand what engages your audience and how social media is contributing to your business objectives.
3. Understand your competition, your industry and your market
This aspect of strategy is often missed or passed over as unimportant. It is easy for companies to focus inwards, if you don’t consider and assess the competitive landscape you operate in you won’t understand your position in that landscape. In the context of social media this will identify what has been tried and tested. This will give you insight into the levels of success achieved and at what level the target community engaged with the approach taken. It will also identify the online maturity of your competitors and their online and social media strategies and related success.
4. Understand your community
This is the most important aspect of your social media strategy. Understand your community, what are they interested in, what do you provide that interests them, what drives them, what engages them, what social media platforms do they use, how do they engage with you today. If you understand their behaviour, you can better meet their needs, you build a more engaged community and, if you have an engaged community you have a better chance of achieving your business objectives.
If you do nothing else in social media by understanding the needs and behaviour of your community and meeting these needs enables you to build a community of engaged customers and potential customers.
5. Create engaging content and be consistent
Once you understand your community you are in a better position to understand the content you should create. Content will drive engagement. There is so much ‘noise’ online these days, to cut through this you need unique and quality content. This differentiates your business online.
Consistency is also a key factor. Understanding what works and what drives community engagement allows you to be consistent and to continue to fill the needs of your audience. Your community come to you for a reason, if you don’t fill that need there is every chance they will leave and go looking elsewhere.
6. Use Channels effectively
All channels are not created equal and channel effectiveness will differ depending on your target community. For example Facebook has 800 million users but may not have the correct audience for a B2B engineering company, but LinkedIn may have an audience already looking for engineering information. Remember social media is about two way communication, treat it as such. Ensure you manage feedback, comments and questions and encourage your community to post and engage. If you only broadcast one-way sales information you can disengage your community.
7. Measure and Optimise
The only way to understand success is to measure, measure, measure. As I mentioned earlier online is arguably the most measurable marketing medium there is. Measuring is the first step, having metrics that relate directly to business objectives allows you to communicate successes and challenges effectively across your business. To gain deeper insight you need to analyse the details, measure with which channels and content your community is most engaged with across all digital channels (not just social media). Use advanced analytics features such as multi-channel funnels to understand key complex behaviours to enable you to structure your online communications and strategy to meet community needs.
All of these activities need management and resources to be effective. Social Media platforms may be free to use but you need to manage your content, your channels and your community and have effective policies, processes and tools to help you do this.
By carrying all of these activities you will have a strategy to take you towards building an effective social enterprise.