Gone are the days where social media is just a ‘nice to have’ for a business, an afterthought managed by one unfortunate soul on the marketing team. Social media and a good strategy behind it is now a ‘must have’ for any business.
Facebook had its tenth anniversary this year and Twitter has just turned 8 . That’s not to mention the hundreds upon hundreds of other platforms out there. Research suggests that 72% of all internet users now regularly interact with some form of social media (SEJ) so it seems set to stay. It is a now a case of being social as a business and not just doing social media. It’s a mentality that needs to be embraced by the company and be lived by the employees within it.
Social media is one of the big driving forces for traffic to your website. By embracing some of the platforms out there you can connect to people and connect people to your business. This raises your profile but can also have other benefits such as lead generation.
If sales is not your primary motive on your quest for social media greatness, it can serve to raise your profile. You can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your sector which could give you an advantage over your competitors. If your customers know and trust you, this is gives you the edge.
A clearly defined strategy can help achieve this when setting off or redefining how you work with social media. I have identified the below steps to help achieve this.
Your strategy needs to work towards a core objective. Do you want to just want to raise awareness of your company or do you want to generate leads/sales? Is it about portraying a more human side and building rapport with your customers? Are you trying to reward our customers? Do you want to increase loyalty?
If we see social media as a river, the objectives are your paddle helping you choose your direction. Floating along may be a pleasant journey, but you may regret it if and when obstacles pop up or the current changes.
You should always have your audience in mind when defining your strategy. What are their wants, needs & challenges? What is the demographic? What are their characteristics? Do they have any common problems? What do they need help with?
Different groups use different platforms so your platform choice and content style will need to reflect this. Our Social Times reports that women for example are four times more likely to use Pinterest than men. Trends also show that 45% of the 65+ age bracket are now active Facebook users.
Answering these questions will not only ensure that relevant and engaging content is provided, but also make sure that the right channels are selected.
Choose your channels
Staying on the river theme, you need to make sure that you pick the right vessel to match your needs. There are hundreds of potential social media channels out there, each with their own characteristics and advantages.
So taking your objective and audience into account, you should try to select a mix of channels that are appropriate. If you have a b2b focus and are largely trying to raise awareness then channels such as LinkenIn or Slideshare with content tuned to their needs may be more appropriate. A more consumer focused organization may stick to interaction platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.
Visual and video media is really taking off with huge growth in platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest. Websites with video have been said to attract 2-3 times as many visitors than those without (Brighthouse) so it may be worth looking to platforms such as Youtube or Vimeo as part of your strategy.
Whatever the approach you shouldn't overburden yourself by having too many active channels. The content you deliver needs to be top notch and not watered down or duplicated over too many platforms. Select a few, get these right and then evaluate.
Your content needs to be carefully thought through. It should be engaging, to the point and needs to get your message across. You need to build rapport with your customer base, help them by sharing your expertise and focusing on the areas you identified when researching your audience.
Your objective will dictate your content approach. If lead generation is your goal, this does not mean it should just be sell, sell, sell. Self-promotion should not be too direct and should instead be demonstrated through business specific expertise. Subtle and well-timed CTAs may well help encourage users towards conversion but again should not be overused.
If like many companies increasing awareness and loyalty is the target, simple conversation can be key. Aim to interact with social media users. If a customer posts a message, make sure that you respond. Create conversation and show a more human side. Offer customers help with products, produce guides, videos or infographics that add value in some way or another. If you can increase their affiliation with you, you’ll soon have a brigade of customer brand ambassadors behind you.
A content calendar allows planned communications to be charted and sorted by theme, content creator and planned delivery channel. Google Docs is a readily available tool that can help you do this. Social media aggregation tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer also act as content enablers. Such tools are especially useful in that they allow multiple social media feeds to be managed in one place.
Empower and training
You cannot just expect to go from 0 to a 100 with a social media strategy. It needs to be embedded through training and best practice. It is a mentality not just a quick fix. Cross-functional teams need to own and push the selected channels around the business. Employees are equally important and can play a role in the quick take up of the channels. An extensive training plan for those managing the social media channels but also the contributors can help. Some form of reward or recognition for the top contributors from within the business is also a great way to create a social media buzz within your organisation.
But it isn’t just about creating buy-in. Communication policies are essential. Who does what? What is the objective? Where will content be published? How frequently? Format? 3rd party support? Style? How to deal with negativity? You need to make sure that you prepared for all eventualities when dealing with social media.
Taking time out once everything is in place and up and running can help you improve and to celebrate your successes. But how is success measured? It could be lead generation, sales, growth on channels, likes, shares, retweets, subscribes, increased brand awareness etc.
There are social media specific analytics tools that can help you understand just how effective your posts or tweets are and where more work is needed. An old boss always used to say 'feedback is a gift' and whilst annoying at the time, I am inclined to agree with him.
Not a step as such but something that needs to be applied across the whole process is your ability to listen. Listen to your management when setting your strategy. Listen to your audience and what they want. Listen to the feedback coming back through the channels. Listen to and establish what the most popular types of content are. Listen, listen listen.
By listening you can tailor and improve your social media strategy so that is constantly evolving as the social media platforms themselves are too.
So there you have it. My two cents on social media and how you can tackle it and start or revisit your social media strategy. It’s important to remember that content plays a big part. It needs to be engaging and meaningful to users. You should not preach or pitch but instead try to offer a helping hand. You are the expert ready to help the user along on their journey. The tools may change, but the principles remain the same.
So be sure to SLEEP social media. Speak. Listen. Engage. Empower. Profit.