‘One of the greatest challenges companies face in adjusting to the impact of social media, is knowing where to start’ – Simon Mainwaring (Branding consultant).
So here we are in 2017, and your business is starting to seriously consider social media strategy as a part of the overall marketing plan, instead of posting the odd picture here and there with a random hashtag when someone happens to think about it.
Social media might seem like a daunting place to you; based merely on the number of different platforms and features available, not to mention a very crowded and competitive area, it might make you wonder if you may be a bit late to the party.
If you’re unsure of where to start (or if you should even start), here are 5 questions to brainstorm on with your team to get you going.
Defining clear goals and KPIs for your social media strategy is key. It will help to ensure that the social strategy is aligned with your business goals and that everyone is clear on the expected outcomes of this added element to the marketing mix.
The first thing to understand is that social media is very much a branding exercise; a place to tell your story and build a community to engage with. It can be a place for promoting your products and services, but this should be done in a way that provides value to your followers. You won’t get much return from only posting to advertise your 20% off specials every week, because this is probably not what people want to see in their feed.
Goals for social media should reflect what this channel can achieve for your business: brand awareness, community engagement, word of mouth, brand advocates, etc.
These can be measured with qualitative and quantitative metrics like followers’ growth, engagement rate, comments tone, positive reviews rate, etc.
What about direct revenue? Money in the bank should result from your social efforts, as with any strategic marketing effort, but it is usually much harder to track and attribute directly to social than with other digital channels like email marketing, paid search or SEO, unless you have access to very advanced tools like Google 360. However, Google Analytics will provide a top-level overview in the Multi-Channel Funnels and Model Comparison Tool.
Social media, like all marketing, is based on a very customer centric approach. Analysing who your target market is, and what their interests and pain points are, is not only essential to do well on social media, but should inform your overall marketing strategy.
When it comes to social specifically, this information will be used to create quality content that provides value to the user, in a way that resonates with them. Soccer mums won’t react to the same messaging as 21 years-old college boys (if ever your product or service was targeting these two markets) – you get the gist.
Where to gather such information? Web analytics might be the easiest place to start, but do not start there. You want to compare your idea of your target audience, and your actual audience (if you already have one). Gather with customer service teams (or anyone in regular contact with customers) and put down on paper who the team thinks the target market is, who are the customers that they talk to everyday, what do they want, what do they need (and what is their wildest dream).
Only once this is done, compare this with the data available to you: it might be in Google Analytics (under Audience), Facebook Insights (under People) or your CRM. Data may differ from your expectations and there could be a few reasons for this, including:
In any case, one of the best (and most cost effective) ways to unlock the highest quality customer insights often is a good old survey. Make sure to design it so it achieves a high response rate and provides you with the data you need, using free(-ish) tools like Survey Monkey.
The next step in analysing your target audience will be to segment the audience and to create personas so you have a very clear picture in mind of who you are talking to when creating a campaign or a piece of content.
Start thinking of your business as a brand, and clearly define your value proposition and core values, so that there is one unified message encompassing all customers touch points. Your message may be about your unique selling proposition, your purpose, points of difference or anything that makes your brand unique.
Social media is all about story-telling, but there is a lot of competition out there. Make sure that your message is as unique as possible and delivered as consistently as possible by all stakeholders and marketing channels. Consistency in delivery lies largely in making sure that your brand experience is unified at every point of customer contact, so you’ll need to start by defining these.
When it comes to digital, and content marketing in particular, you’ll need to ensure that your brand voice and tone of voice are as coherent as possible across all channels, including social media. Having one ‘source of truth’ document like a brand bible (not only a visual style guide but also containing writing guidelines) for every content creator in the business to rely upon will facilitate consistency. As more and more stakeholders participate in marketing efforts and as the brand evolves, the document will be updated but consistency will be maintained.
Depending on the industry you operate in, social media may very likely be a crowded place with countless other brands fighting for their share of voice. This is where having a unique brand message and a consistent voice will become crucial for your brand to stand out and grow a base of followers.
Once you have defined what makes you unique and different, look at what competitors are doing. What platforms are they on, how many followers do they have, how often and what type of content do they post? How do they engage with their communities, what stories do they tell?
This benchmarking exercise will give you a much better idea of what you are standing against, dos and don’ts, and may help you identify competitors’ weaknesses or missed opportunities in the market.
It will also guide you when it comes to how much time, money, and resources you need to invest to be able to compete. If you’re starting from scratch and are competing against brands with hundreds of thousands of followers, you will have a long road ahead (but it will probably be worth the challenge if the market is this big).
Once you’ve thought about the questions surrounding your audience, your brand and your competition, you should have a much better idea of where you stand, and whether or not you are indeed going to jump onto the social bandwagon.
If the answer is yes, and before going any further, this is when you will need to start thinking about the logistics. Do you have the resources and skills in house to carry out this project?
Social media can look deceptively quick and easy from the outside, but the simplicity of a visual may well hide hours of work behind the scenes. Make sure you assess the resourcing requirements as accurately as possible to avoid doing a rushed job and producing average quality content.
Last but not least, not only is social media time consuming, but it also requires a skilled individual (or team) to manage it in a way that will meet all your business goals, and will follow best practice. Understanding of marketing, creativity, technical abilities, community management and data analysis are just a few of the skills you will need your social media manager to develop and keep nourishing.