There’s no question social is here to stay – and you need a social strategy. But, it’s not good enough to just leap in to the social web. You need a measured and strategic approach, or you’ll undoubtedly waste tons of time spinning your wheels with no positive result.
So how exactly do you develop this strategy?
It’s easier than you think. Take this practical approach to developing a social media strategy as an example.
Before you even begin, you need to determine if your organization is ready for a comprehensive social strategy.
Before you develop your strategy, make sure your management team sees the value in social media and that the first goal is not to open up yet another marketing channel to abuse. In other words, if your business is jumping into social media because “everyone else is doing it” or because you want to sell product rather than to build relationships, please do a little more research. Social media is easy to abuse, and once labeled a spammer… you’re going to have a hard time earning back the trust of your community.
If you’re having a tough time convincing your organization that social media needs to be a priority in your marketing plan, then you will need to come prepared with these responses to common social media questions.
It’s important for the organization to understand that testing and experimentation are keys to success. This comes naturally to an organization whose culture embraces being proactive and open. The reason why all businesses need to have a social media strategy is because it prevents any misunderstandings and emphasizes why social media is relevant to your business’ overall goals.
Now let’s get bring your social media business strategy in to focus.
Here are the key points to work on…
One: Determine Your Goals and Objectives
Determine who owns social media. Whether it’s marketing, PR, or communications is irrelevant. In a perfect social media world for businesses, social media instills a collaborative approach and breaks down silos.
What’s important is to understand your social media goals and objectives and how they tie into your overall company goals.
Be specific. Make sure your objectives are measurable, attainable and timely.
Two: Research and Learn All About Your Target Network
Rather than jumping into the social media world head first, take the time to be methodical so you know what to expect. Step two of creating an effective social media strategy is research.
Develop a list of social media sites where you can potentially engage with people. A great place to start is with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a few select blogs and forums.
Spend time on each of the social media sites on your list and do additional research to determine relevancy by using some free tools and searching for your brand name, your competitors, and your target keywords. Spend a few days really marinating in this so you understand your target audience.
Three: Create a library of Contacts and Content
When social media is done correctly, relationships happen. Begin making connections by following the conversation. You can do this by subscribing to blogs in your industry and by making a list of influencers who are relevant to your business.
This will be critical when it’s time to provide content to your social networks.
Four: Join the Networks, and Make Your Presence Known
Let’s start making use of all the research you’ve done. Posting some comments on blogs and forums, answering questions on Yahoo! and LinkedIn, and joining groups related to your industry and joining Twitter chats are all great ways to get started.
Develop relationships by following influencers in your industry. The best are not necessarily people with thousands of followers; sometimes the value that someone with only a couple of hundred followers provides pays much larger dividends.
Five: Get Out There!
It’s too easy to stay behind your avatar or profile picture, but remember that the best relationships are had face-to-face. I think more people are now realizing how underrated the in-person interaction really is because of how far social media has come, allowing so many people to “hide.”
Attend offline events related to your industry—not only to strengthen your knowledge base but also to network and strengthen relationships with those you might have conversed with via social media but never met in person.
Six: Monitor and Measure
You have goals and objectives, right? That means you need to be able to measure your success.
Remember, what you measure will tie into the goals and objectives of your social media strategy.
You can start with four commonly used objectives:
Improve brand presence across social channels: The measurement goal here is an increase in the number of followers on Twitter, number of fans on Facebook, number of comments, number of times your brand is mentioned in blogs and forums and so on.
Increase positive sentiment about your brand: The goal here is to convert the number of positive mentions while taking note of negative mentions. Has the ratio of positive to negative comments improved? With the good comes the bad in social media. There’s no way to get around it!
Develop relationships for future partnership opportunities: This goal is to keep track of those with whom you’ve connected. For example, if you met a potential speaker for your webinar, include that person into your Contact library. If a vendor contacts you through your blog, capture that lead and take note.
Increase traffic to your website: Keep track of visitors to your website who come from each of your social media sites. If you’re promoting an event using social media, consider using a unique code to track the campaign.
Measuring social media is a never-ending debate. What metrics do you use to measure social media? What objective are you measuring those metrics for?
When it comes to measuring social media, it takes a multitude of metrics as well as trending reports to get a sense of what to improve. Luckily, you know right where to go to get the best measurement service.
Seven: Test, Analyze, and Iterate
Your social media strategy doesn’t end with measurement; it goes beyond that. You need to analyze your social media campaigns, adapt any new findings into your current processes, and improve your efforts.
Testing and experimentation will perfect your social media efforts.
As you spend more and more time with social media – as long as you’re properly measuring – you’ll quickly understand where your focus pays off and where your time is wasted.
More specifically, you’ll develop favorite tools to use, realize that there are certain days and times where it doesn’t pay to be active in social media, and come to the conclusion that you still have lots to learn. It’s a fascinating new paradigm, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it!
While organizations might have very different strategies from one another, one thing is clear: social media needs to have buy-in from everyone in the company in order to be successfully integrated into your goals and objectives.
In general, social media works better when you’ve built a good operating strategy. Social media platforms like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are part of, but not the whole of a well-thought-out social media strategy. In other words, outline your social media strategy and support it with the use of the tools of the trade. Without a carefully thought-out plan, you’ll eventually be overwhelmed with social media and even worse, get burnt out by it. Hopefully this guide will help you step in the right direction on your way.
What are your thoughts about planning a strategy versus jumping in? Do you have any tips from your own experience developing a social media plan? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.