Social Media has become a necessary component for businesses to reach their audience and their customers, and we’ve seen good and bad examples when it comes to businesses using social media to interact with consumers. I quickly searched Google for “social media mistakes”, and found a list of articles ranging from what to do and what not to do, companies who have made mistakes with their social media strategies, agencies that will help you with social media, etc. While reading through these things, one particular point resounds clearly: YOU HAVE TO PLAN. As is the case with most of what goes on in the world, there’s a lot more to creating a successful social media strategy for your organization or business than employing a “5 step plan”. However, I hope the following thoughts help you address challenges and concerns you may not have thought about, and give you a decent starting point for building a successful social media strategy for your organization.
- Develop clear and easily comprehensible goals before you move forward. You probably already know this, as it should be the case when starting or improving any business project. Your main goals for a social media campaign should be engagement, responsiveness, and conversation. This may seem like a waste of time to some, but it’s really one of the main reasons Social Media exists. When planning, one item to think about is whether or not you want to allow/require employees such as sales staff or account managers, and employees who directly interact with your customers to build and maintain personal social media accounts that are company-oriented. Your business accounts may attract attention, because your employees are an extension of the company and can be a valuable asset to your social media strategy, as long as you have clearly crafted the rules and the goals. If you allow or require your employees to manage a social media account for their corporate identity, be sure to monitor the accounts carefully! After all, your employees are an extension of your company. A couple of good starting rules are: 1. Don’t put anything on social media that you wouldn’t be able to explain to your grandmother. If grandma doesn’t need to know about it, your customers don’t either. 2. Don’t put anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your competition to see, because they’re going to see it.
- Focus your efforts where they’ll be most effective based on your audience. There are a lot of social media platforms out there. They do different things, and they cater to different concepts, ideas, areas of the brain, and people. Content on Facebook isn’t the same as content on Twitter, and content on Pinterest differs from content on LinkedIn. I think an “all encompassing” social media strategy is best, even if it has to be put together in small pieces over time. When doing this, you need to remember to keep your content focused on what it’s supposed to be based on where it’s going. For example, if your business produces confectionery or baked goods, it’s probably not necessary to pin items or articles about your tasty cupcakes to a Football or Hotrod board on Pinterest. Another thing to keep in mind here is, even though social media content will vary from platform to platform, you have to keep your message consistent. Once again, this idea ties back into my first thought of setting clear and concise goals for your social media strategy.
- Follow people, groups, and companies who are relevant to your organization and its focus. For every relevant group you follow, you expand your social media presence. For example, if you make custom guitars, you should follow large and small guitar manufacturers, musicians, record companies, guitar accessory manufacturers, amplifier companies, etc. Your social media strategy may be brand new and you may not have many followers, but aligning your organization with other organizations relevant to your industry will help you quickly build a social media following by leveraging followers of organizations who are already established in a common industry.
- Avoid using social media as a sales platform. This concept ties in with my first thought, but I think it deserves a paragraph of its own, because it’s important to understand what social media isn’t – it isn’t a CRM or a sales platform – it’s an audience engagement and loyalty tool. Outside of a small number of niche industries, social media doesn’t work well as a sales platform. It’s meant to be used to engage your audience, answer questions, and build rapport with your customer base. This can be done by asking opinions of your customers, responding to their messages, and retweeting their content, just to name a few ways. In the new age of social media marketing, it’s more important than ever to engage with your customers. 65% of consumers age 18-24 use social media to gather opinions on products before they make a purchase, and over 60% of all consumers use the internet in some form when researching a purchase decision. When your organization is effectively involved with social media, it puts you right where you want to be in the conversation. Social media presence also improves your organizations organic search engine presence, which puts you in closer contact with the 66% of consumers who are using search engines to make purchasing decisions.
- Read, accept, and listen to feedback from your customers. People follow your social media feeds for two main reasons – 1) they’re interested in buying your product, or 2) they already own your product! In a way, social media can be looked at as a constant product improvement panel, and you don’t have to pay anyone for their opinions. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to spend money on product testing panels or product improvement panels when you can easily access the same consumer opinions about your products (and your competitor’s products, for that matter) on social media without spending any additional money. Social media is intended to be a place people can share thoughts, opinions, and ideas – you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t pay attention to what’s being said.
Another good thing to do before you implement a social media strategy is get on the internet. Search “successful social media strategies” on Google, see what other organizations have done, and learn from their mistakes. And, as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!