Following on from my last post the A-Z of Business Social Media, I’ve had some feedback that whilst the A-Z was really useful, for people who are new to social media, particularly in a business sense, they don’t know where to start and how to get the most out of their limited resources, time and money.
So, with that in mind, this post will focus on how to build your social media strategy and where to focus your energy and money.
Your social media strategy needs to be tailored to what your organisation does, who your customers, or potential customers, are and what you are aiming to achieve. I’ll walk you through a framework of questions you need to ask yourself and give you some pointers as to where to get started in a cost-effective way.
Before you start to build your strategy, it’s a good idea to explore social media channels to determine which will be the most appropriate for your organisation. The A-Z of Business Social Media mentions a number of sites you can check out as well as a few more in this post you may want to think about.
Create a personal account on a few of the most pertinent to your particular business or organisation and explore what people are saying and how they are interacting with each other. As a starting point, whatever your organisation does, I would suggest LinkedIn and Twitter as a minimum if you’re not already using them. Once you’ve spent a bit of time browsing around and becoming familiar with the social world, you’ll be better placed to start thinking about how you can use it to the best effect for your organisation.
Goals and Objectives
What are you trying to achieve from your social media activity? This is a really important question you should ask yourself before putting finger to keyboard. I’ve made a short list below, but it’s by no means exhaustive. You may answer yes to more than one:
Do you want:
Increased brand presence across social channels?
Increased positive sentiment about your brand?
Development of relationships for future partnership opportunities?
Increased traffic to your website?
Improved customer service?
Increased sales leads?
To improve your personal or organisational profile?
Build your network of contacts?
To be perceived as a ‘Thought Leader’ in a segment, market or technology?
Depending on your answers above, you will need to tailor your strategy and focus accordingly.
Unless you’re a start-up business, chances are that your organisation will already have a Social Footprint. How come?
Your customers, suppliers, employees and the media may already be talking about you online.
Type your organisation’s name into Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and you’ll be surprised at who’s being saying what about you.
This is useful for a number of reasons. You’ll be able to;
- Determine whether you have a footprint or not and the size of it.
- Understand the sentiment towards your organisation – good, bad or indifferent.
- Discover whether your target audience is present and engaging in dialogue about you and importantly where.
- Find out if you have employees that are advocates or disparaging your brand.
There are a number of tools that can help you do this for free:
Twilert: A great and simple tool to consolidate and keep up with the Tweets on your brand. This tool will email you whenever there are Tweets regarding your brand name and/or other search terms you set up for your convenience.
Topsy indexes and ranks search results based upon the most influential conversations people are having every day about each specific term, topic, page or domain queried. Therefore you know whether a specific mention has been influential or not, and what type of positive or negative effect it may or may not have.
There are organisations that can carry out this work on your behalf, but would recommend you have a try yourself first.
Analyse Your Social Space
Analyse what people are talking about in your industry – about you, about your competitors, the marketplace, trends, news and reviews.
Who are the most influential brands and individuals in your space? Who are the key social influencers – are they individual thought leaders, news organisations, journalists, politicians, consultancy firms, bloggers or even customers?
You do need to know this, as networking online is as hard, time-consuming and as important as offline networking, if you feel that social media is an important part of your marketing mix.
Once you’ve done some detailed analysis, you understand what you want from Social Media, and you know where your target audience spenda their time and how they interact, you can decide on which social media platforms you invest your time and effort and in what ways.
Choose your Channels and Content
Whatever channels and tools you decide to use you will need to have some content. The richer the channels the more the content you will need. Of course you will hope to reach a stage where the conversation and interaction you achieve will form part of the content. But be under no illusions, tweeting, blogging, sharing, casting, whatever you do will take content and you need to find it. So, review your existing content, and consider where more might come from. What format will you need? Can you subcontract its generation?
It is important to recognise that in a social media context sharing and drawing on others’ material is all part of the inclusive behaviour you need to adopt. If you are tweeting be sure to re-tweet other material that is useful, and spend time responding to others’ posts. Social media is not about one-way broadcasting, it is about conversation and acknowledging and contributing to others’ work. It is part of the deal, and it helps get you noticed as well. So consider your mix of self-generated, found material and commenting activity you will use to create content and engagement.
Define metrics and benchmarks
The most important part of developing your strategy is determining how you are going to measure your success. These should be revisited regularly to ensure you’re measuring the right things, doing the right things, and having the desired effect. I’ve listed some examples below:
|If your business goal is to …||Then you should measure…||Followed by measuring|
|Generate leads||Number of leads generated through social media||Sales|
|Increase customer satisfaction||Positive sentiment around your company and brand||Customer Satisfaction|
|Lower customer service costs||Number of incidents resolved through social media||Headcount Costs|
|Improve product / service quality||Feedback +ve / -ve about your products / services||Returns / Complaints|
|Improve your brand’s awareness||Number of product-related issues posted.||Brand Awareness|
Create and publish content
Publishing content, and regularly, is crucial to any organisation wishing to grow their online brand.
Whichever social platforms you have chosen to engage your audience, it’s important that you’re visible at the right time, with current information and engage in the right way.
70 percent of content should focus on your customers’ interests and needs. This can be accomplished through how-to tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to helpful resources. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – “Would I find this content helpful?” If the answer is yes, then go for it.
20 percent of content should be other people’s content. That means a willingness on your part to allow user-generated content on social channels you manage, such as a Facebook page. This gives your customers a sense of ownership in the conversation and serves to foster trust.
10 percent of content should be promotional. If you are willing to focus 90 percent of your content on others, then, hopefully, no one will complain when 10 percent of it calls attention to your products and services.
Think about timing when you publish your content. As an example, if your target audience is the UK, US and India, 12.30 GMT is a good time to post (start of day in US, lunch in UK and evening in India). If you’re targeting a youth audience 1600-1800 during the week and at weekends is a good time. If you have a mixed audience, you may wish to tailor the message to the audience and post the same product or service at differing times with subtly different content and calls to action.
Engage in Conversations and Help Others
It’s not enough to push out content – Social media is not just another marketing channel you can use to reach your target audience. The biggest mistake companies and brands make is to use social media as a way to just sell a product. Content should be created with a view to inspiring and participating in conversations. Social media is about a two-way flow of conversation. People are no longer willing to be passive bystanders – they want to take an active part of the conversation. Think about the kinds of topics and interests that your audience have and engage with them on those topics too. It shouldn’t all be about you!
Followers, ‘Likes’ and traffic are good, but are people engaging with you? 93% of the Internet users active in social media say they expect a company to have a social media presence and to be able to actively engage with that company. 93%! [Forrester]
The key to success with social media is to keep your eye on where your target audience are talking, what they’re saying and more importantly what they’re saying about you. Track these things, adapt accordingly and engage positively and you’ll do better than most!
I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to hearing your views and comments as always. Until next time…