Entering the social media world without a clearly defined strategy is full of perils. Clients who come to us for branding or a website or marketing programs sometimes want to throw in a little social media, lest they be left behind or miss out on an important channel.
When social media is an afterthought, an obligation or something to check off the list, it's helpful to ask a few key questions to ascertain how and if social media makes sense for your business.
To a point, the answer to the "do I invest in social media?" is an unambiguous yes. It doesn't hurt that 74% of adults are using some form of social media. Let's start with the basic level we recommend to any business:
- Having a Google+ account is advantageous for Search so you certainly should have a presence.
- LinkedIn is the ubiquitous social business site and requires very little work to establish your digital presence. And whatever vertical markets your clients are in, there is a LinkedIn Group in which you can participate and learn what your prospects and clients are thinking about.
- Facebook may or may not be a "Go To" destination in your industry but prospective employees often look there to get a less filtered persona of your organization. It also offers internal company branding opportunities.
- Twitter is worth having, at the very least, a branded company page.
- A blog can be considered "social media." Where thought leadership and increased visibility are important, which is almost any non-commodity business, a blog is valuable for those reasons and for it's increased SEO value — the more relevant content you have, the more easily you will be found. A blog is also an aid in the sales process as a valuable place, during the sales process, where you can direct prospects to see your expertise.
Assuming you've bought into the value of a social media presence for your business, successful participation is a "continuous process" rather than a "tactical project" and as such requires a stratgy to build a sustained program. Here are the key things to consider in building your social media strategy:
- Along with your Responsive Website, Social Media is the branding tool of our times. In our global, 24/7 life/business cycle, your potential audience can be anywhere. Social media increases your reach by enabling you to create dialogues, build relationships and educate the larger community —wherever they live. Part of your strategy then is to define who you are trying to reach and what you wish to convey. By continuously monitoring your website and social media analytics, you will gain better knowledge of what kind of content is resonating, which is something upon which you can build your strategy.
- Developing distinct "Buyer Personas" based on customer research and website analytics is another strategic tool for building your social media strategy. A Buyer Persona is a distillation of your customers into distinct demographic and psychographic entities. Sometimes these take the form of a fictitious customer who perfectly embodies the kind of person you wish to reach. Defining buyer personas will impact your "social media voice," that tone and attitude that will distinguish you from competitors. Remember, it is about creating dialogue, so voice is a key ingredient to being perceived as a human being.
- Establishing a content strategy will economize your time and effort and provide a cohesive view of your company. A content strategy is a plan for creating, disseminating and repurposing your content across channels in order to maximize lead generation. The process of defining your content strategy begins by looking at your web analytics to learn what your audience is responding to. With that data you can then build a credible plan around providing more of it. Once you start using your analytics in a purposeful manner, social media just becomes one more opportunity to reach more prospects and customers and it tends to justify itself.
- Again, discovering upfront who your audience is and where they spend most of their time will save you time and energy creating the wrong content for the wrong people. Figuring this out ahead of time will determine where you should focus your social media efforts. Understand that not all social media outlets are equal, so blanketing all of them with the same content may not be the way to go. If you're an accounting firm, you probably won't use Pinterest or Instagram, which is more appropriate for businesses of a visual nature like fashion, design, home furnishings or food. Baby Boomers may be less apt to focus on Facebook for business, and so forth.
- Uniqueness cannot be overrated. Social media is full of recycled content. Knowing your audience and making the effort to provide a unique angle on even the most common issues, will serve to differentiate you and build a loyal following.
- Last but certainly not least is determing the ROI of your campaigns by building measurement into your social media strategy. Without measuring the responses to your posts, you will only be guessing at the effectiveness of your participation. You need to know: Is your content being shared? Are you gaining new followers? Have you generated new leads, let alone new business? The best way to discover this information is through the use of free tools like HootSuite, Klout, Social Mention, Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights or Keyhole.
If you haven't taken the plunge into social media it can seem like a secret world with its own language and rules of behavior. But spending that extra time upfront to develop a social media strategy will help ensure that your time and energy will be well-received and that "joining the conversation" will be beneficial to your business.
Do you have a social media strategy?