One of the biggest questions I get is how exactly does a company develop a social media strategy that drives business results? Recently, I have seen a huge influx of companies getting into social media marketing; they setup up all their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked and just expect the leads to just come pouring in. Unlike Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, that just does not work. It’s no wonder that only 12% of executives say that their companies are using social media effectively (Havard Business Review Analytic Services Study)
Companies need to take time to determine how to put their best foot forward that is in line with company objectives before jumping in. This requires a little bit of research, but the result will be a focused campaign that best uses their resources – and reaps rewards for their business.
4 Steps to Help You Develop Your Company’s Social Media Strategy
Step 1. Check Out the Playing Field
So many times, I see companies jump on Twitter or Facebook, just to find no results/only to obtain no results. These companies have not taken the time to think about who their target audience is and where they spend their time online. They need to think in terms of sandboxes, not channels. This is what I mean: think back to when you were a kid. If you wanted to play with the other kids, you had to go and find the sandbox they were playing in, not just expect that since you were in a sandbox they would come to you. You need to ask yourself “where do your existing and potential customers play?”
There are some great listening tools that will give you a good idea of what’s being said about your company online, where messages are posted, and where users spend their time.
- Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) emails you whenever a chosen keyword (e.g., company or product name, CEO name, campaign tagline, industry term, etc.) is mentioned in any form of online content.
- Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com/) scans the blogosphere for any keyword or phrase you input.
- Twitter Search (http://search.twitter.com/) scans all Twitter posts for your selected keyword or phrase.
- SocialMention (http://www.socialmention.com/) enables you to search keywords and phrases by specific channel category (blogs, images, news, video, etc.), or as a whole, and to receive email alerts when a new mention is posted.
- Socialcast (http://www.socialcast.com/) offers real-time analytics on microblogging and other social activities and identifies individual users’ level of activity. Unlike most tools, it also aims to quantify the value of “lurkers” who aren’t visibly posting comments by tracking how often they frequent a site.
- What’s being said?
- Is it positive, negative or neutral?
- What are people passing along to friends?
- Are there any needs or customer segments that aren’t being served?
You also need to take note of where your competitors are participating and how. Analyze your competitors’ social media efforts and how they’re being perceived online. Start by searching where your competitors are participating. This information may be easily attainable by just visiting their company website. Most companies have it plastered all over their site if they are getting involved in social media.
Note the following about each network in which they have a presence:
- How they present themselves: What do their profiles look like? What types of company information do they offer? What tone and wording do they use?
- Who their fans and followers are: Are these customers, employees, partners or the general public? Are these the same users you are hoping to engage?
- How they interact with those users: How often do they post new content and updates? Do they initiate conversations or hold contests to increase user engagement? Do they integrate video or other interactive media to add interest?
- How their users respond: How many comments or other interactions have been posted and/or shared by their fans? What are the comments about? To what extent is their fan base growing?
Just like you did for your own company, search for online conversations taking place about your competition.
Step 2. Choose Your Bat
For many companies, even my own, it is hard to effectively participate on every social media platform effectivelly. Initially you should focus on a select number of sites, and ensure that you are able to effectively engage in that community. Then after that, you can diversify as your are able to or as needed..
The most frequented social media sites are, in order: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Flickr and blogs. Facebook leads the way with the most users (over 400,000,000) and the most time spent on the site (50% of active users log in to Facebook on any given day). But that’s not to say that those rankings are reflective of your customers’ or potential customers’ usage. B2B companies might find more fitting connections on business networking sites, such as LinkedIn. Global organizations will likely find that niche sites take more precedence in certain parts of the world. Use your customer-listening research to determine where to concentrate your efforts.
You also need to consider some key facts about each platform, for example, here are some key points when considering Facebook or Twitter:
- 400,000,000+ members
- Average age 38.4
- 42% of members are between 18-34
- 43% male, 57% female
- 50% of active users log on to Facebook on any given day
- Average user has 130 friends
- Users spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook (that’s over 950,000 years, or 1250 minutes per person!)
- There are over 160 million objects (pages, groups and events) on the site with which people interact.
- Average user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events
- Average user creates 70 pieces of content each month
- More than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) are shared each month.
- 150,000,000+ members
- Average age 38.4
- 45% of users are between 18-34
- 47% male 53% female
- 40% of people who sign up for accounts remain active users
- 46% of users are college grads
- 92.4% of Twitter users follow less than 100 people, while 0.94% of Twitter users follow more than 1,000 people
- 5% of Twitter users account for 75% of all activity
- 76% of Twitter users use the internet wirelessly
- The busiest hour of the day for tweets is 8pm EST, with >1.4 million posted; Wednesday and Thursday are the busiest days of the week
After you have pinpointed the best networks, spend time developing a working understanding of each (e.g., what it’s about, its features, and how users interact within the space). Also, check out how both social media and industry leaders are interacting and engaging their customers within the space. This will provide ideas and insight into best practices.
For example, here are some tips on how to utilize Facebook to gain more engagement for your company:
- Advertise your content on Facebook by posting a note or sharing a direct link to your article — craft the message to the audience!
- Encourage your friends to “Like” your shared content, as it will increase its reach.
- Embed Facebook’s “Share” button or “Like” button directly on your site to enable other users to easily share your content with their friends.
Alternatively, say for Twitter, in order to gain more engagement you might:
- Craft the message to the audience and share the link to your content on Twitter; the more followers you gather over time, the wider the potential reach.
- Follow your relevant Twitter influencers; engage with them in conversation and share your new content with them when it’s available.
- Retweet interesting content from the people you follow regularly. It will encourage them to do the same for your content.
- Encourage your followers to retweet your links.
- Embed a tweet link directly on your site via a service like Tweetmeme or Backtype so that readers can tweet your content with one click.
- Use Bit.ly or a similar shortening service to track the number of clicks on your links. Pay attention to what kind of content gets high clickthroughs.
- Use an automated service like Twitterfeed to automatically post your links to Twitter.
Furthermore, be sure to secure your brand’s username on each site and check to make sure no one else is illegitimately representing your organization. A simple search on Google or Knowem will tell you if your preferred username is available.
Step 3. Keep Your Eye On the Ball
Next, determine your goals and planned approach. What are you looking to get out of this investment today and in the future? What steps do you need to take to make it happen? You need to consider how to:
- Expand brand or product awareness: How you will get your brand name out there (advertising, promotion, integration with other media, blogger outreach, and initiation of peer sharing and user-generated content campaigns, etc.).
- Build community: How you will attract fans (awareness building, advertising, promoting, appealing to a specific target audience, etc.) and keep them engaged (tailored content plans, tone, frequency, and types of interactions, special offers and activities, etc.).
- Qualify fans and convert them to customers: How you will solicit information from users (surveys, contests, Facebook applications, conversation starters, measured content views, data mining and analytics, etc.) and use that insight to further the relationship (sales team involvement, product sampling, boosting the one-to-one nature of the conversation, etc.).
- Improve customer satisfaction: How you plan to offer exceptional service and support, and how you will go above and beyond their expectations.
Step 4. Winning isn’t Everything – It’s the Only Thing
Finally, determine what you would consider a “win” for each outlined objective—and how each will be quantified and connected to the bottom line. Definitions of a “win” may include:
- Number of fans, followers, readers (or number of high-quality/targeted fans)
- Number of video or other content views
- Volume of user comments posted to your blog, profile or posted content
- Retweet or peer-sharing statistics for related content and posts
- Comment or retweet resonation (number of user comments multiplied by how many followers or friends each user has)
- Engagement (duration of video views, time spent on your blog site, time spent playing your branded game application, etc.)
- Media coverage
- Media impressions (mentions on blogs or other media multiplied by the size of the audience)
- Advertising click-through rates
- Company website traffic statistics
- Quantity of new qualified leads or sales
- Volume of customer service issues handled.
You may need to establish how these “wins” will be tracked, whether it be through the incorporation of unique URLs and discount codes, or through special tracking programs. For example, Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) tracks referrals from the company’s social media profiles.
Be sure to translate metrics into information about the financial impact on your business. This can take various forms, depending on your specific goals and internal key performance indicators:
- Financial return on investment
- Amount of new revenue generated
- Cost per lead
- Amount of money, time or other resources saved
These measurements will then allow you to compare the company’s social media efforts to other media, campaigns, and approaches to determine if the necessary level of Return on Investment is being achieved. Ultimately, is that not the reason for getting into Social Media anyways, to increase the performance of your organization? In today’s economic climate, you cannot just use the “field of dreams” approach: building it and hoping they will come. By following these four steps, you will be able to deliver measureable ROI for your company.