Spry. Nimble. Quick to respond. These are just a handful of the many words that could easily replace ‘agile’ in the headline above. So why did I go with agile?

The Agile Manifesto spells out the ideas that help software developers keep up with changing environments and deliver results in dynamic settings and evolving parameters. The entire agile philosophy revolves around adapting to an ever-changing external environment.

This makes it extremely difficult to take principles from the agile philosophy and build a winning social media strategy. Social media marketing is not the same as software development, which was previously an inflexible and life-cycle oriented methodology, unlike social media.

So here are some ways you can adapt the concept of ‘agile’ to social media and go about it in a flexible, foolproof way…

It’s All About the Customer

As marketers, we all have heard it a million times. The customer is always right, the customer is king and so on. But clichés exist for a reason – they are often uncannily true.

An agile social media strategy recognizes this critical fact and is designed around the customer. From targeting the right audience to crafting content that is useful and relevant; the customer is at the crux of all social media decisions.

The most successful brands don’t use social media as a platform to broadcast their message; they use it as a medium to connect with their customers on a one-on-one basis. Responding to customer queries instantly, reaching out to distraught customers and troubleshooting via social media are all approaches taken by brands that take their customer centricity seriously.

The recent AirAsia tragedy saw the normally red colored logo of AirAsia turn to grey across all social platforms. The brand expressed its solidarity with its customers and their bereaved kin with a hashtag #togetherwestand.

It’s not just calamities like a crashed airplane that brings AirAsia closer to its users. Its social media team goes out of its way to respond to nearly every customer query in as much detail as possible.

Figure Out Your Figures

It is important to take stock of where you are and how you are doing now, to help you respond to changing situations before they turn into crises situations for your brand. This level of alertness and timely action only happens when your data measurement and analytics are in place. A perfectly agile social media team knows exactly what is going into the system and what is the result expected – in other words they are on top of their social media ROI, hence enabling them to respond to the slightest changes internal or external.

In the real world however, ROI from social media remains an inconclusive and elusive figure.

According to the 2014’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Social Media Examiner, while 92% of marketers feel that social media is important for their business, just 37% of marketers are actually able to measure the return on their social media investment and activities. This goes to show how inherently complicated it is to measure the impact of social media on the company’s bottom line, brand awareness and other conversion metrics.

Some of the key result areas that most businesses hold social media accountable for include:

  • Reach and brand awareness
  • Engagement
  • Share of Voice
  • Traffic
  • Revenue generated

Each of these can be derived directly or by extrapolating data from related metrics on nearly every social media platform. The built-in analytics from each social media platform combined with Google Analytics or your own analytics package give a clear picture of how social media impacts these key result areas.

However, it is not enough to simply tie social media figures to your website analytics. For a real understanding of how social media is impacting your business overall, you need the bigger picture. I prefer using a dashboard like Cyfe that aggregates data across your various social media platforms into a single composite screen so you know where you stand in one glance. Such specialized dashboard applications trump over built-in dashboards from your social media management suite by offering you a birds-eye view of all your business metrics in one place.

A startup dashboard like the one above offers you a clear picture of customer service levels, website health, your marketing funnel size, and even offers a sample of your current social media activities.

Test Obsessively

Agile software development relies on creativity to come up with newer and better solutions to software problems on a continual basis. While it is possible to think up new ideas for a given problem regularly, it is definitely not necessary that every line of thought will yield the desired results. Enter testing.

Social media marketing is very similar to software development in this regard. The core motivation behind a social media program does not change very often for a given brand. However the various approaches adopted to achieve this central goal need to be tested continuously to ensure that they give the right results.

Testing the content of a new post or experimenting with the perfect time to publish posts that bring the maximum engagement or even testing between two images to accompany a particular post, are all legitimate tests that you can run. KingSumo will assist you in picking the most optimum headline for your new blog post.

A tool like Optimizely lets you pick the most popular combination of content + image. SocialBro will help you experiment with the most effective time to publish your posts, and so on.

By making extra sure that every bright idea that you and your team come up with is actually helping and not hurting your social goals, you imbibe the agile philosophy in your daily actions.

Welcome Change With Open Arms

Social media platforms are in a constant state of flux.

From changing rules for organic content on Facebook to a potential ‘Buy’ button on Twitter to the introduction of long form content on LinkedIn; social media platforms keep making changes in an attempt to improve user experience. Competition that regularly ups the ante on social media is another niggling concern. Changes in customer preferences don’t just affect social media but the entire brand’s strategy as a whole.

The solution is simple.

Don’t create social media strategies that are etched in stone. I like to think of a social strategy as a response to stimulus. Respond to changes related to your customer, your platform and your competitors – in that order – to stay ahead of the curve and consistently relevant to your audience.

Burberry does this with great élan. As a luxury brand, Burberry was among the first to embrace social media with open arms.

Burberry manages to maintain its exclusive image and grow a gigantic fan following by moving beyond advertising in glossy magazines and bringing vintage chic to trending digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over to You

Time to inject some agility into your social media marketing?

With a platform as dynamic as social media, most brands struggle to keep up. And yet, I firmly believe that these ideas are tailor-made for a continually evolving discipline like social media marketing. Induct them into your strategic processes, and you will go a long way towards producing best-in-class results.