Six Steps To Build A Social Media Strategy
20 December 2011
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2011 has been something of a momentous year for social media. The rate in which new subscribers to sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube continues to grow exponentially. Even some of the more traditional industries such as Accountancy are switching on to the benefits of Linkedin according to a recent survey by Kelso Consulting (http://goo.gl/wM2vt).
But and it is a rather big but, I wonder how many of these newbies have thought about developing a social media strategy? What is a social media strategy I hear you say? In a nutshell, a social media strategy is a structured means of setting goals aligned to your target audience and describes what actions and tools you will use to reach out and engage said audience and what your expected performance measures will be. Having a social media strategy is essential if you want your time and efforts invested in social media marketing to be as successful as possible. From my own experiences it is very easy to waste your precious time on what should have been a few minutes online only for hours to pass by and you have posted a few random updates or tweets, done a lot browsing and ultimately not achieved a great deal. Sound familiar?
Here are some quick steps that will have you on the path to social media marketing success
1. Be Clear About Your Objectives
Evaluate what you want from your social media participation. Social media can and should be used for more than just marketing promotional purposes. The emergence of "Social Business" is testimony to this and should encourage you to think of social media objectives in the wider sense such as relationship building, customer service, collaboration and market research, customer feedback and within your own organisations, engagement with employees. The benefits from creating a social business are plentiful, greater transparency, more team orientation, a more outward facing business, a more engaged business and in most cases opportunities to reduce costs right across the business.
2. Know Your Audience
Seems obvious, but it's quite a challenge to identify your ideal target market. Sorry saying anyone and everyone is not allowed as this means your marketing is untargeted and most likely not going to be that effective.
Start by reviewing your existing customers and try to spot the trends. These could be related to industry type, size of business, turnover, role of purchasers/users etc. Work out what interests they have, their age group and possibly location. All these factors should help to create an impression of your ideal client. Building a persona of the type of client you want to engage with makes it easier to identify them online and to know which social media platforms they are using. Quick tip, if time and resources are limited I recommend that you select only one or two social media sites to use rather than trying to spread yourself too thin across multiple platforms.
3. Share The Social Media Love
Your social media strategy needs to be applied to both existing clients and to prospects. Connect with your clients via social media sites and start talking to them directly. You know how powerful word of mouth marketing can be, so once you have found and engaged your clients on social media they will soon begin to share your content, re-tweet your postings and recommend you to others in their network.
Do the same with prospects and you will find any offline obstacles are not there online and you can quickly start to form a relationship that can be taken offline with a face to face meeting.
4. Join the Conversation and Build Relationships
Keep your eyes and ears open. Spot opportunities where you can join a conversation and begin posting comments on blogs and forums, answering questions on LinkedIn, joining groups related to your industry and joining Twitter chats. Also begin developing relationships with influencers in your industry by following them online.
Now you have found your target audience online, use your social media time wisely. The rule of thumb is that 80% of your offerings online should be sharing information and content that is of value and interest, the remainder can be focussed on promoting your business.
Online people are sharing all sorts of information about their business issues, comments about competitors or they might be talking about your business. Join the conversation where you can and respond to these situations appropriately so that you are seen to be engaging and genuinely interested. (Tip: Social reputation management and social CRM are further areas of your social media strategy that will need development)
Don't hide behind your social media profile, you should aim to move your new online relationships offline into face to face meetings as soon as possible. In this day of social networking we must not forget the power of real world relationships and personal interaction.
5. Test and Measure Your Results
You have set objectives and you know your ideal client, so you should be able to measure the success of your social media activity.
Get in the habit of regularly reviewing your results. Set up a simple data collection and analysis process so you can determine what is working well and what part of your social media activity needs tweaking.
Four common social media objectives and measures are:
Improve brand awareness across social channels: number of followers on Twitter, fans on Facebook, comments and times your brand is mentioned in blogs and forums etc
Build relationships with prospects for future lead generation: Keep track of companies/people you have connected with. Log whether meetings arranged offline or whether contact added to mailing list etc
Increase traffic to your website: Keep track of visitors to your website who come from your social media sites. If you’re promoting an event using social media, consider using a unique code to track the campaign.
Increase positive sentiment and opinion about your brand: The goal is to convert the number of positive mentions while taking note of and responding to negative mentions. Track whether the ratio of positive to negative comments improved?
Don't expect miracles overnight, it takes time to build your connections and social credibility. Keep measuring your results and you will be able to make the right judgement calls and learn what works and what doesn't. For instance you might need to assess whether one of your social media sites is working better than another - you can easily change tactics.
A final word of caution and advice. Don't treat social media as a separate and distinct pursuit from your other marketing activity. Look to integrate everything under an overarching marketing strategy that ties together social media along with your more traditional offline marketing and of course your digital (web and email) marketing activities. The golden rule is consistency. Your business and brand can not appear to be something very different on a social media site than how it appears elsewhere. Align your goals and values and ensure that your plans are capitalising on all your marketing assets eg. does your website promote your Twitter handle, are you asking your audience to "join and like" your facebook page in your advertising etc.
Social media strategies will vary for each business and each industry. None of us have unlimited resources to spend on meaningless endeavours and whims, so don't let your social media actions fail for lack of goals and direction. My advice is to view social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs etc as tools and tactics that tie into your social media strategy. In other words they enable you to deliver your social media strategy. A careful thought out plan will succeed, without one you might become overwhelmed and disillusioned very quickly by your lack of social media progress. Please use this article as a first steps guide to your social media success.