Social media usage has come a long way in the last few years. However, a lot of companies still neglect to put a social media strategy in place. Especially for some SMEs, the phrase social media strategy might seem daunting (and expensive!) as it conjures images of trendy consulting agencies sitting you down in a room and throwing buzz words around. In truth, you can create a basic strategy with your team before you even start sending out RFPs. A quick way of creating a social media strategy is to ask yourself the following fundamental questions.
1. Why are you ‘doing’ social media?
What is your business’ current situation and what problem are you trying to solve? By identifying the need within your organisation, you’ll have a better understanding of why social media is a tool that is best suited to the situation.
To begin with, examine your organisation or your processes. Identify what the key issues are. Then list the benefits of social media. Hopefully, between the two lists, you’ll see key areas where social media is the optimal tool to use.
- Problems could be low brand awareness, poor perception of the company or inability to specific audience types, etc.
- Benefits of social media include opportunities to reach a big (and relevant) audience, capability to form 1-to-many relationships, target users based on preferences, opportunities to encourage brand advocacy, etc.
2. What are you doing?
Establish a goal. It’s imperative that you understand and establish goals which are simple, measurable and realistic. It serves no one if the main objective is to simply get on the social media bandwagon. By establishing measurable goals now, it will make it easy for you to know how successful your campaigns are 6, 12 or 18 months down the line.
A sample set of objectives could be:
- Use social networks as additional customer service tools
- Use social media to tell your brand story or share your company culture
- Use social media as a talent attraction tool
3. Where are you doing it?
Figure out what platforms are appropriate for your product, organisation or objectives.
LinkedIn – The primary network for professionals. Using LinkedIn for your talent attraction and referral scheme needs is a no-brainer. However if you’re looking for plumbers and electricians, you might have to rethink whether this network is really the best option.
Twitter – There’s a learning curve to engaging with people on Twitter but when you get to grips with it, it’s a great platform. It is an informal venue for conversing with people you wouldn’t normally be in the same room with. If you want a question answered quickly, Twitter is the best place to ask. A lot of established brands have taken to Twitter for this reason when answering customer support questions…with varying degrees of success.
The speed of exchanges on Twitter is the platform’s strength. However it could also spell the downfall for most brands if time sensitive questions take hours to be addressed. You also need to consider a strategy for addressing tweets ‘out-of-hours’. Depending on your product or services, some customers may demand 24/7 availability from your support staff.
Facebook – There are valid arguments for and against using Facebook. For a brand, the site is useful for creating and interacting with a large “fan base” with the minimum friction. Some companies have seen success with it when hiring for entry-level and graduate jobs. Brands like Coke, Oreo and Starbucks use the platform to strengthen their brand awareness and customer loyalty efforts while online fashion retailer ASOS.com actively promotes and drives sales on the platform.
A blog – A blog is a valuable traffic driver for some businesses. It allows you to inform, educate and capture the attention of customers even while they are out of the ‘buying mode’. A great example is Econsultancy and Moz.com’s respective blogs. Both have established themselves as subject matter experts and thought leaders within digital marketing.
If your business provides a niche product or unique service, blogging is a great tool to use as part of your marketing strategy. It also provides you with valuable content to share on your social media channels. The key however is providing value in whatever type of content you decide to produce.
There’s a host of other networks that have sprung up such as Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, etc. Each one offers a unique feature that companies can leverage in different ways. It’s just up to you to figure out the best way you can relate to the network’s user base without alienating your existing customers.
4. What does success look like?
ROI (return on investment) of social media is one of those words that every CEO tends to ask for when defining the success of any initiative. Using the strictest definition of the word, ROI is the net profits divided by costs. But how do we attribute monetary value to online interactions? Are retailers seeing dollars immediately after a fan likes their update on Facebook? Do airlines sell more seats by responding to questions on Twitter? The truth is, ROI measurement is still evolving.
It’s not that the impact of social media isn’t measurable. It’s the most data rich tool in your marketing arsenal so there is a ton of information you can use to benchmark and measure to your heart’s content. However, there also plenty of confounding variables that contribute to a single purchase decision. So instead of focusing on tracking the ROI of social media to measure your success, focus on having measurable goals.
For an organisation, success can be in terms of growth in membership and online interactions, which could then translate to increased event attendance. For service provider, success could be an increase in favourable company reviews as support queries are dealt with on Twitter. For a one-man consultancy, success could be an increase in leads off the back of a single blog post. For an HR team, success could be measured from the number of online applications coming from a social network.
If you didn’t set measurable goals at the start no amount of social media analytics will tell you how successful you are. Achieving a 3% engagement on LinkedIn is arbitrary of measure of your success if it was never established as a goal.
5. What are the potential pitfalls?
There is no way of planning every single step and misstep during a campaign. But, identifying and planning around the possible pitfalls will help in the long run. Always have a contingency plan.
Identifying the pitfalls during the planning stage immediately lowers the risks. Even the most well intentioned social media initiative can backfire and turn into a huge PR disaster when you fail to consider worst-case scenarios of a public backlash. Social media campaigns offer companies a lot of bandwidth for interacting with the public directly. However, some pitfalls are just too risky to justify.
Even if you know you’ll be working with a social media agency, it’s important that you have an idea of how to answer the questions above. This not only saves you time in the process but will also help the agency understand what you want to achieve from your partnership.