If you were teaching a class on social media strategy, what would you teach? What are the most important things you’d want your students to take away at the end of the semester?
As it turns out, I actually do teach a class on Social Media at Villanova University. Every semester, I have to gather my thoughts – gather what I know about current trends in social media – and teach my students (many of whom know a lot about social media already, but maybe not exactly how it helps/relates to business).
So here’s my own personal list of the 20 Things to Know About Your Social Media Strategy. This list changes every year, but here’s the most recent edition. You’ll have an opportunity to add what you think should be on the list at the end of the post.
Big or small – all companies should have a social media strategy. As long as they designate someone to create, maintain, track, and measure their social interactions, social media should be a priority. Otherwise, companies risk missing out on important conversations that customers are having – or not having – about them, as well as missing out on potentially helpful corporate connections.
Twitter capped tweets at 140 characters. The original intent behind this number was due to the fact that SMS text messages have a 160 character limit. Since users would be updating their statuses via phone, Twitter wanted to avoid splitting texts. A note to word-happy tweeters: keep it to 140 characters. The Part 1/Part 2 tweets get lost in the mix, and it isn’t worth losing your voice over a two-part tweet.
At the end of the day, you need to figure out your value creation strategy. In other words, how do you create value for your audience? What’s in it for them? You’re probably in a business where your competition offers a very similar (if not exactly the same) service for your customers. What service are you offering to add value to your business in particular?
Once you have created value for your customers, then you need to capture that value. You could give away your product for free – let’s face it, that would create a lot of value for your customers – but you need to get paid for your value creation (otherwise you’d be out of business).
Then the question becomes: How do you communicate your value creation to your internal and external shareholders? What is the essence of what you’ve created, and how will that essence come across in your messaging? You have to come up with messaging that make sense immediately. Your value must be exceedingly apparent.
When you put these three things together, you have a value approach to creation, capture, and communication. This is your value proposition strategy. Certainly, this is not limited to social media but must be used when developing a social media strategy. Ultimately, everything – from what you’re doing on Twitter to your LinkedIn profile – goes back to your essential value proposition. If you can’t do these three things, then your social media strategy is simply not worth doing at all.
Although there was much lament over Facebook’s introduction of the Timeline last fall, it’s time for businesses to get with the program and use the format to their advantage. Strategically use photos to attract people to your page, highlight important aspects of your company’s history, and keep your new marketing campaign at the top of your page (that’s right – you no longer have to worry about it getting pushed down under all the new comments as long as you pin it to the top). Some great, in-depth posts for showcasing your business via Timeline are here and here.
…reaching your target audience quickly. So do it. Reach your TARGET AUDIENCE. This means you must have 1) a specific target audience in mind; and, 2) a specific strategy on how to reach them. No, it’s not as easy as it first appears, but it needs to happen if you’re serious about using social.
There have been some rumors that Facebook might look to replace Google for search. Although I could see Facebook shifting into the search-related field, I’m not sure Google has to start worrying quite yet. Facebook is more for social and Google is more for search – but if one comes up with a catchy way to incorporate both (Google is certainly trying), then the other has to worry.
If I were Google, I’d probably be more concerned with Bing. “Really,” you ask? Yes, really. Small Business Trends reports that Bing has been gaining in the search market over the last two months while Google’s growth has remained stagnant (albeit still very strong). Bing is also rolling out free Webmaster Tools to compete with Google Apps. I’d keep my sights set on the whole gamut. In other words, don’t put all your search eggs in the Google basket.
Obviously (I hope), this list is by no means exhaustive; there are many elements to the social media strategy framework, but here are the main three.
If you’re going to do social media, how are you going to know if it’s “working?” Before you forge ahead into social media, you better have metrics in place. Define what it means for social media to be successful. Is it the amount of Twitter followers? Facebook Likes? Or will you be looking very closely at conversion rates? Figure out what you want to measure and find a way to measure it from the onset.
Basically, what do you want to accomplish and by when? Are you trying to hit a product release date? Don’t meander forward – have a specific idea of what things should be happening when (and then you’ll have a better understanding of what metrics you’ll need to use to measure your success).
It’s obvious, isn’t it? To manage social media smartly and successfully, you need a budget. A lot of the main platforms are free, but some cost money. Metrics can cost you money. Your social media campaign can cost you money. A smart layout can cost you money. And – perhaps more importantly – you’ll need to pay the employees managing your accounts.
With over 175 million members, LinkedIn might be the most important social network for businesses. It lets you network and talk with business people in and about your specific niche. Searching by company, group, title, skills, etc. helps you target the people you want to connect with. You can showcase yourself as a thought-leader. You can research other people and other people can find you. Marla Tabaka at Inc. Magazine wrote a great article about how to utilize LinkedIn to your advantage. Check it out!
The link is there. The more you leverage social media and keywords – the more traffic you generate to your blog or webpage – the more your Google ranking will improve. Additionally, we can’t forget the Google +1 button. Although Google Plus has been slow to gain significant traction, if your content gets a +1, it could get you higher rankings on Google.
The biggest secrets to ranking high is 1) to provide quality material, and 2) to engage and make connections to draw people to that quality material. Again – not easy, but definitely doable.
If you’re a company, Twitter is not the place for your intern to share about their love for bacon (unless you’re in the bacon industry, of course, or perhaps have a relevant post about bacon. Yes, I have one of those.) If you’re a company, Twitter is best used for fast follow and two-way communication. By fast follow, I mean connecting with people, and then connecting those people with real-time information to the latest news, stories, ideas, and opinions relative to your business. It’s the quickest way to share information with people that are most interested in your products/services. By two-way communication, I mean soliciting feedback and providing a space for interaction between the customer and the company.
And by the Main Three, I mean Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Here are some others you should be leveraging if you can (of course, this list is not exhaustive):
YES, blogging counts as social media. It’s another way for customers, colleagues, and thought-leaders to connect with other thought-leaders. It’s also the best way for your company to create and offer original, quality content – which ultimately will bring more traffic to your site (and subsequently raises your Google ranking). Here is John Jantsch’s (of Duct Tape Marketing) take of blogging’s place in the age of social.
In order to determine how to best connect with your audience, you’ll need to figure out a couple of things first. You must define your overall goal with social media, and how that goal connects with your value proposition. Another thing you must determine is which social media network your customers are using and why. After understanding these two things, you will be able to focus on one or two social media platforms. Maybe you’re a B2B company that needs to spend a lot of time building contacts on LinkedIn. Perhaps you’re a company that has been hearing a lot of complaints and you want to start addressing them via Twitter for faster customer satisfaction. Whatever it is, you should be able to figure it out.
Sort of tagging along to #15, there are so many possible objectives to your social media strategy, and deciding on those objectives depends on your overall goal. But here are a few popular objectives that companies have for social media:
The bottom line – quite literally here – is that “Likes” don’t pay the bills, and focusing too much time/energy/money into monitoring “Likes” could drain your budget. That being said, “Likes” are still important. Let’s say I’m a company and have 500 “Likes” on my page. Each time I post content, I will be reaching those 500 individuals. Conversely, if I am the customer and “Liked” a brand, something related to that brand will post on my account and I will be able to interact with the brand-building my loyalty. So although companies don’t want to spend too much time focusing on “Likes,” they also don’t want to ignore them completely.
Not yet, at least. Not completely. Certainly, social media will continually play a stronger and stronger role in advertising efforts, but it won’t replace traditional advertising yet. Our world is filled with people from multiple generations and demographics – only advertising on social would cut out a whole generation of customers. Combining both traditional and non-traditional advertising methods is the best bet for businesses to reach their base. How much you focus on one or the other will depend on your target consumer (it still all comes down to research).
Your social media budget may include a social media manager, a workforce to continue daily outreach, content creation, CRM suites, software packaging/consulting/licensing, website hosting/building costs, and other possible social media hosting costs. Of course, it depends on your overall budget and the size of your company.