“We have to be on social media. You sort it out” - Suppose your boss had just issued these instructions, perhaps in a slightly panicky voice. This is not an unknown scenario. People can act as if social media has only just been discovered as a business tool. They're not sure what it really means, but as others are doing it and they feel their company should too.
When setting up social media, a lot of time and effort can be wasted. When, in reality, a fair bit of thought is needed if you want to get it right the first time around. To help you avoid unnecessary mistakes, here are some key steps to follow before plunging into the world of social media...
Set careful and effective goals - ones with measurable objectives
Action works best when aligned with a clear purpose, so the first step is to consider what you wish your social media presence to achieve. This might be to raise public awareness of your company, brand, or product. It could be to increase physical or online sales, or simply to direct traffic to your website as the first step towards building an effective client relationship. You may wish to talk to current customers, to retain their loyalty and increase their interaction with your company.
Your goals may also be a combination of some of these - and other elements - but make sure they are specifically stated. You need to set goals capable of being achieved through the appropriate level of effort, over a clear time period. Don't make your goals too complicated, otherwise it will difficult to attain them. At the same time, they should also be effectively measured, and be relevant to your company's business strategy.
Creating the social media strategy to manage this goal achievement process
It can be too easy, at this stage, to simply list the obvious social media platforms you would want to inhabit. But, it's best to make your choice from a different starting point - that of knowing where your current or potential customers are most likely to be found. To be honest, the answers may not differ greatly, but you should be able to assess which are used more often and for what reasons.
To achieve this, build a profile of these customers - and from this you can then decide how best to reach them and, as we'll see, how best to speak with them. This profile can include factors such as age group, social status, family elements, as well as considering how they would want to be spoken to, and about which key subjects.
It's also worth spending time analysing what your key competitors are up to in this area. Judge, as best you can, how effective their efforts are - what are they gaining and have errors been made? You can assess their tone of voice, from the humorous to the serious, and how well this seems to resonate with their audience. It's also useful to understand the focus of their social media conversations. Is it about their products or services - or a general conversation that leads more obliquely to the response they wish to gain?
Select your channels and craft your social media messages
With the preparation steps completed, you should now have a clear picture of which platforms to use to hold your conversations, who you are talking with, what to say, and how best to say it. Consider a range of choices to best meet your objectives. For example, Facebook is a place for social interaction, LinkedIn a more business-focused destination and YouTube allows for the use of video-based materials. These are only some examples, so be sure to examine possible platforms and how to combine them so that you maximise your potential audience reach.
You might have noticed, in the last few paragraphs, the emphasis has been on talking 'with' your customers rather than ‘at’ them. Social media - the clue is in the name - is a more conversational medium than other marketing pathways. Therefore, as you develop your messages, consider how best to involve your customers - and other casual readers. You may wish to gain active responses - click-throughs to your website, responses within that social media platform, the distribution of your content to other people or networks. Make sure your content encourages the responses you seek. Create material that is of genuine value to those reading it, rather than trying to sell something.
One vital final point
Social media requires constant interaction and updates. Unlike a website which might be amended from time to time, social media is a place where you need to be constantly present, monitoring and acting on the responses gained. As mentioned earlier, it's a conversational medium, so it's vital that you don't stop speaking to people in order to be successful.
About the Author:
Rony Chiha - Managing Director and Founder, Adcreators
After working in the Middle East and Mexico, Rony brought his international marketing experience to Australia to lead the team of experts at Adcreators. As the MD and founder of a global business Rony has spent his career developing brands, creating and managing successful marketing campaigns and combining creativity and analytical skill to produce effective and impactful solutions for clients.
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