Why Many Companies Don’t Have a Social Media Strategy
Are you thinking about using social media to grow your business? What’s that – you’ve already got a Facebook page, and a Twitter account too. You even have a YouTube channel. And the intern (co-op student, your nephew) is rockin’ it for you. How’s that working out?
This is what they call “doing social media”. Some business owners see social media as another item to check-off on their list of marketing to-does. Then when the topic comes up at the next cocktail party or chamber of commerce mixer they can say with confidence “oh yeah, we’re doing social media“.
Keys for Success
Here’s the thing; there are two key components that are essential to success with social media. Unfortunately those are the two things that companies most often miss. The first thing you need is a strategy – a real, well-planned and researched strategy. The second is the resources (people) to execute and manage that strategy on an ongoing basis, emphasis on ongoing to ensure consistency. The web is littered with abandoned blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
The surest way to fail at social media is to rush into it without a strategy. Following are the 5 key components to an effective social media strategy.
Define Your Goals
The first step is to determine your goals. The best goals are SMART; Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. It is also important to identify what metrics you are going to track, and how you’re going to measure them. Potential goals include:
- Awareness: use social media to create awareness and connect with new online communities.
- Leads: incoming calls, contact from submission and email subscribers.
- Loyalty: increase retention and/or improve customer service.
- HR: attract and retain quality employees.
Unlike other forms of marketing there are two sides to social media. The ability to use social channels to listen in on conversations is just as valuable, if not more so, than the ability to communicate.
Like all conversations the key to social media is listening. Start by listening to your customers, prospects, competitors and others in your category. What are they talking about and with whom? There are a number of tools available to automate the process of gathering and analyzing conversations, from the high-end and very expensive; Sales Force and Lithium to the basic and free; SocialMention and Google Alerts.
A social media management dashboard is also a must. There are a few options including TweetDeck, SproutSocial and Hootsuite. Any of these will enable you to manage most, if not all, of your social networks from one location. They are excellent for monitoring conversations–from your own @ mentions to geo-targeted keyword searches as well as scheduling content posts to multiple platforms.
Know Your Audience
One way to ensure you hit your target and communicate with the right people is to create personas. These are short descriptions of fictional individuals that represent your target. They’re not real people, but rather they are archetypes that represent real people. They will help you identify the character traits, personalities, habits and attitudes of your customers.
Create rich personas that are representative of your audience by listening both on and offline by conducting one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders to find out:
- where they spend there time
- which social networks they use
- what they would be interested in hearing from your organization
Contrary to what many think, social media is not all about marketing – ‘our widgets feature the most innovative blah, blah, blah’ – it’s about conversations, transparent, inclusive and often very engaging and sincere conversations.
The challenge, and one of the key reasons for having a strategy, is that there are thousands of conversations and channels, but not enough time to participate in all of them. The key is the finding and/or starting the right conversations.
When developing a strategy will want to think through questions like:
- What are your business and marketing objectives
- Who is your primary audience
- What do they want to hear from you
- What social channels are they using
Now you’re ready to start tweeting, posting, pinning, liking or commenting. There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some best practices you should follow:
Be transparent. Let people know who they are talking to. Use a name and an appropriate picture. People like to talk to people, not brands, icons or logos.
Keep it conversational. Lose the corporate voice. Write like you’re talking to a friend or a customer in the store. Ask questions and look for feedback.
Stick to your knitting. Talk about what you know and what’s relevant to your brand and company. Don’t get pulled into conversations about politics, religion or other potentially controversial issues.
Admit mistakes when they happen. Be the first to admit when you make a mistake and do your best to make it right. It’s better than being called out on Twitter and having thousands of people retweet something before you see it and ‘react’.
Test, Track and Tweak
Once you’re up and running you’ll start to gain an understanding of what works, what resonates with customers, how and when they prefer to engage. It’s a process. One of the advantages of social media is your ability to track and measure results. This allows you to test various tactics, offers, headlines or calls-to-action, and tweak them based on real results.
With a solid strategy in place, you’re on the right track to successfully leveraging social media to grow your business. So before you run out and open a Twitter account make sure you have a social media strategy and the resources necessary to effectively manage it for the long term.