By Dave McGurgan
More and more businesses and organizations are committing more budget and resources for social media as part of their overall marketing strategy. It’s no longer a question of “Is there value in being on social media?” It’s more of a question of, “How do we get the most value out of our social media strategy?”
Align your social strategy with your business plan
Perhaps the biggest misstep we see organizations making with their social media strategy is that it is not properly aligned with their business plan. In the worse case scenario, there may be no social media strategy in place at all, or it has gotten seriously off track! Other challenges can include lack of training and not allocating enough resources to empower those responsible for executing on social media to effectively move the ball down the field.
Nonprofits and small- and medium-sized businesses may find that they have been too busy managing their day-to-day operations and that they haven’t been using social media to market themselves and to engage and interact with their customers, prospects and the world at large. It’s a common scenario.
There’s an analogy I like to use for businesses that are active on social media but don’t have a strategy in place or haven’t allocated proper research. Imagine setting out to drive across the United States, but failing to map out what the routes will be and how you’ll get from point A to point B.
You’ll start off strong and with a lot of enthusiasm. You’ll do a lot of driving and begin to make decisions based on hunches (“I think we go this way”) instead of relying on the data (“The GPS says to go the other way”) or referring to your road map (i.e., strategy). What happens is you end up expending a lot of energy. And you’ll certainly go “somewhere,” but ultimately you’ll end up lost, begin to encounter frustration and eventually throw up your hands in defeat and unsure how to get your social program back on track.
Does that sound like a good game plan?
Make sure your social media strategy supports, is aligned with and runs parallel to your business plan.
Define your goals
Once you’ve aligned your social strategy with your business strategy, defining the goals of your social strategy will be your next step. At the risk of greatly oversimplifying, the goals of your social strategy should align with and support your business goals. It doesn’t have to be much more complex.
Many businesses are looking to acquire more qualified leads, engage prospects and convert leads into customers. But your social media strategy can (and should) also include things such as positioning your company as subject matter experts, answering questions and providing value to your audience. If your company’s business goals aren’t clearly defined, be sure to push back (on your boss) and ask, “What are we trying to accomplish with our social media program?”
Listen, listen, listen
Before you do anything on social, make sure you understand that your audience, peers, potential customers and existing customers are already conversing on social media. They may even be talking about you, your brand and their experience with your brand or product.
Please, oh pretty please, do not make the mistake of presuming you can jump right into conversations on social networks, blast your marketing message and expect that you’ll see results. You won’t. Read those last two sentences over again.
Social media marketing is very rooted in two-way conversation; listening is one of the cornerstones on which engagement occurs. When you’re listening, you’re laying the groundwork of providing value to your target audiences and participating in the conversation.
A successful social media strategy is one that is engaging. Using social media to shove your marketing messages in as many people’s’ faces as you can isn’t very effective. Do you want to risk alienating the audience you’re trying to reach? Then don’t show up on social and don’t just shout your buy-my-product spiel.
Engagement helps humanize your brand, build trust and fosters genuine interaction with your brand. Your social stream of outgoing messages should have not only your marketing messages but also provide engaging posts that demonstrate you’re listening to others, that you’re participating in the conversation and that you’re involved. More importantly, it’ll show that you’re there to provide value through your social media program.
Let’s talk a little bit more about what is meant by value. Users are often searching for answers online through web searches and turning to social media for solutions. It’s rooted in customer service: Providing answers, insight and support. Delivering exceptional customer service on social media is still an often-overlooked tactic and is an excellent way to give value to your audience. And don’t forget about content curation. Spend time gathering (and creating) content related to your industry/audience. Liberally share useful articles and information.
Participate in industry events (conferences, meetups)
Participating in industry events such as meetups, conferences and Twitter chats is an excellent way to increase reach and visibility for your brand. Did you know when you attend industry conferences and events, there’s a parallel discussion occurring on social media and that is now part of the event experience?
These events are fantastic opportunities to specifically connect with individuals or companies you’re not already connected with, for prospecting and identifying subject matter experts in your industry. Engaging with these folks after the event is a great way to build long-term relationships online and create opportunities for engagement long after the event is over.
Rely on metrics to help tell the story
Analytics should determine your social media program’s performance. Rely on metrics to tell the story of what and how your social program is performing. Make decisions based on metrics and use analytics to derive insights into what content is working, what types of posts and interactions drive engagement and what things don’t resonate with your audience.
Don’t fall into the trap of relying on your gut or anecdotal thoughts about your social program such as, “Well, I think that most people follow us on social because of _________,” without having the stats to back it up. You can keep your social media program moving forward based on data and not assertions, which usually aren’t supported by facts.
Revise your strategy and tactics as needed
Social media strategies can and should evolve over time. A good program will be nimble enough to respond to changes in tools, additions of new networks and experiment with delivery of content. A good social program is responsive, rather than set in stone.
Ready to optimize your social media strategy? Call us today at (302) 367-4023 for a free consultation about your social media program.