As many of you have no doubt noticed, thanks to the proliferation of video slideshows popping up on newsfeeds over the last week, Facebook is 10 years old – a message they disseminated with the kind of viral flair that made this social media network so huge.
But for some time now, social media has been about a lot more than just Facebook. Also in the social media ‘Big 6’ are the eclectic online communities of Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.
No wonder many of us are confused about where to begin — and build upon — our social media activities. A report by Tata Consultancy Services stated that almost two-thirds of big businesses have at least one full-time employee dedicated to using social media, but only 10% are reporting benefits from that investment. You might have a huge, digital ‘room’ full of people, but are they really listening to anything you’ve got to say?
So how can you break the mould?
1. Start with your goal in mind
Social media can be used for almost any business channel, whether that’s marketing, communications, public relations, sales, customer service, recruitment, and even research and development. What do you want to achieve?
Again, the biggest companies will be active across all of these fields, but the realistic social media strategies for the majority of companies will need to focus on a narrower rationale. Pick a primary sector that you want to use social media for and stick to it — at least at the beginning. Remember that the nature of social media lends itself to targeting customers: building brand awareness, upping sales, and increasing loyalty and retention.
2. Be clear about your online brand
Disney doesn’t market films or theme park trips: it markets magic. Amazon sells almost anything, but efficiency is what it’s all about. It’s this kind of thinking that drives passion and identification with audiences in the crowded online environment — so crowded that Twitter stores12 times more data each day than the New York Stock Exchange.
People let their emotions drive them. Like any sales strategy, get your message to the heart of your customers before appealing to their head.
3. Assess your resources and choose wisely
How big is your business and how much time can you dedicate to social media? While it might seem tempting to try and engage in all the ‘Big 6’ (and ideally, you should) there’s no point in spreading your brand too thinly if you don’t have the capacity. Instead, choose a couple of channels and optimise your efforts there to start with.
For each and every social network, you need to understand who you want to engage with. The reality is that almost every person that is on Twitter or Pinterest or any other social network is also on Facebook. So there’s no point in posting the same content on all of your social networks. Each one will need its own strategy tailored to the specific nature of the media.
4. Decide what success looks like
This is where most businesses fail. For many, engaging in social media remains a ‘tick-box’ exercise; something that ought to be done but isn’t necessarily followed through with.
Imagine your Twitter feed is a cafe. You spend time switching on the lights and making it look good, and congratulate yourself. But no one actually buys any coffee. If you’re going to invest in social media, ensure that you are achieving business outcomes and getting a return on investment — whether that’s selling coffee, finding new recruits or winning brand loyalty.
4. Who are your audiences?
Decide who you are seeking to engage and target. Draw up a list of those people (something you can actually do on Twitter), and explore who they are, what kind of decisions they make, what they are looking for and how they function in social media communities. Understanding as much of this as possible is vital to optimising your social media strategy.
The best users understand that social media is a conversation, not a monologue. The most effective social media users interact with their customers by creating online groups and monitoring trends.
6. Get employees involved in the right way
Maintaining control of your social media strategy when messages can be sent in seconds, misinterpreted, monitored and shared, is very important. But at the same time, a great way of maximising your online activity is to get as many of your employees involved as possible.
Once your strategy is finalised, be sure to draw up clear and concise guidelines for staff. Make it clear who may (and may not) represent the company through social media, and make those people digital ambassadors. Consider creating a simple ‘always/sometimes/never’ document or infographic to communicate policies in an easy-to-remember format.
If you’ve got any other tips, why not share them below?