It’s here. It’s there. Social media is everywhere. It buzzes, squawks, titters, cajoles and demands you take notice. No wonder so many businesses have gone social or at least tiptoed around the edges of the party.
So where do you begin? Do you dabble? Try one social media tool until you get it right? Or make a grand entrance, mingle, be amusing, interesting, liked and followed?
The answer? First ask yourself this question:
What’s best for your business and your customers?
In other words, what are your objectives and processes for using social media and how do they align with your business goals and the needs and expectations of your customers?
Think strategy not social media tools
Even the biggest brands often leap before they think through their strategy. A recent report by Altimeter Group, on A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation, found that too many companies are so afraid of being late to the party that they rush in without a clear idea of how social media fits into their business goals. Of the major corporations surveyed “an average of just 43% said they had a formalized strategy roadmap that addresses how social will meet specific business goals.” The result? Corporations are struggling to manage rampant social media accounts, with inadequate staff and business processes to handle these accounts and properly deal with heightened customer expectations.
Using social media is not just another type of marketing campaign
Businesses may decide to get a Facebook business page or start a Twitter account, without realizing Facebook and Twitter — and other social media, for that matter — are long-term commitments, not just flirtations that remain to haunt you. Twitter and Facebook require constant monitoring and nurturing. Do you have the trained staff and business processes to continually create high quality content and respond once the campaign is over? Are your customers or audience actually on Facebook or have they now moved on to Google+?
Think beyond a specific marketing campaign to an overall strategy.
Here are 6 steps to creating a social media strategy
- Determine what you want to achieve by using social media. For example, do you want more brand awareness? more sales? reduced costs due to better customer support? customer feedback and ideas for new or better products? more community involvement in your organization?
- Know your target audience. Is it youth? women? business executives and professionals? families? Research how and why they participate in social media and what types of social media they prefer. Listen to what they say and how they express themselves and, of course, what they say about your company or organization.
- Decide what value you can offer your audience. People want reasons to interact socially with your company or organization. Social media is not a case where “if you build it, they will come.” People want deals, inspiration, ideas, fun. What can you give them in a way they can’t get from a competitor.
- Decide on your social media tool or tools. Once you know what social media you want to adopt, make sure you have trained staff and supports in place that integrate into your areas of business affected by this media. Have plans for developing your social media presence, creating great content, monitoring and promoting interactivity.
- Decide how you will measure your results. For example, are you getting more people attending your events? did you make more sales due to tweets or LinkedIn connections? Are you saving money from fielding fewer service calls because your Facebook page answers customer questions? What ways do you use to measure your organization’s social media performance?
- Assess and measure and revise your strategy as needed. Social media does not offer an instant fix. How long it takes for people to get to know, like and trust you enough to be a part of your social network — like any other relationship — is based on a number of considerations: the type of business you are in, what you offer and their need for your products and services. That being said, you still need to monitor and assess how you well you are meeting your goals and your customer’s expectations. If your customers are very happy or dissatisfied, they will tell you and or their friends how you are doing. They may also “tell” you by simply “unfollowing” or “unliking” your business. Pay attention to all the signals and adapt.
Do you already have a social media strategy? What else would you add to these basic elements? How often do you find you need to change or tweak your strategy? Take a moment to share your ideas and experience in the comments below.
Get started on your social media strategy
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