In the past week, I have now met three people who head marketing functions for their organizations, and all three have complained about how their foray into social media has received such a lukewarm response. They all indicated that they are not sure if this is something they should continue to support or just let it die a natural death.
They were not the only ones who were finding it difficult to sustain the initial rush of getting onto social media. So, clearly there is a need for a detailed framework or a step-by-step guide which organizations can use to plan their approach better.
I think the following suggestions will help organizations to help get their social media strategy in place:
- Listen: One of the first step that any organization should do before they get on the bandwagon is to start listening.
- Is there someone talking about you, your brand or your organization.
- Where are these people talking about you?
- What are they talking about?
It is so simple to set-up Google alerts, create Yahoo pipes, save Twitter searches, etc. for your organization, brand or product. Identify influencers, key customers, media or your competitors who are already on the various social media channels. Listen to what they are talking about.
- Define your objective: What do you want to achieve by presence on this channel? Do you want to:
- Use this channel to build your brand or improve brand recognition
- Use this to build a community for your customers
- Create and run marketing campaigns to generate leads
- Use this channel to provide a better customer service, etc.
This clarity of purpose will allow you to create activities and engage your audience better.
- Identify your target audience: Define your target audience. This will flow from your objectives. For example:
- If you want to use the channel to build a community for your customers or provide improved customer service, you will need to engage your existing customers.
- If you want to run marketing campaigns, you need to engage your prospects.
- Determine the channel: Find out where your target audience is already present. Is that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Yahoo groups, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. This would be the channel that will work the best for you to serve your objectives.
- Re-design your business processes: Review the different business processes in your organization and identify those which will be affected because of the introduction of this channel of communication. Re-design these business processes to incorporate the new channel. For example:
- If your customers use Twitter to seek support, question if you really need a call center for the same job! If yes, what will the workflow be? Social media is a like an accelerator. People on social media expect and get almost real-time response.
- If you want to use Facebook to enable your customers to form a community, explore if you can add a field in your customer’s order form to seek their Facebook ID or any other social media identity and seek permission to connect.
- Define the clear path for escalations.
- Seek buy-in from the top management. Any social media strategy can’t succeed if it is IT or marketing driven. This has to be an enterprise-wide initiative with buy-in from top management. This is also critical, so that you are able to respond to any situation with speed. Social media acts like an amplifier/accelerator as it spreads information far and wide and does so quickly. In case there is a situation, it is critical to have an official stand or response as quickly as possible. So, define a clear process for escalations so that they can be addressed with speed.
- Activities plan: Brainstorm and list down about 50-60 different activities that you plan to do on the chosen channel. Create an activity calendar. Involve your entire organization in this exercise so that everyone is aware, prepared and contributes!
- Be interesting, human & remarkable: And in that order. Start slow! Engage! Help! Provide value! Connect people! Remember, on social media, you are not just competing with your competitors, but are also with the best brands in the world and the friends of your audience for their attention. You will not get it if you don’t stand out from the crowd!
- Have patience: This is a very critical aspect that most organizations do not estimate. It takes time for you to engage and build a network. It takes a lot of effort, but the time and effort is worth every bit once you start seeing participation and engagement.
Finally, remember and understand that you can’t control what’s said or interpreted by your audience. So stop trying to do so! Instead, allow your audience to take control and do what they want to do. It is always about them and not about us on social media.
Success on social media usually leads to an increased rate of success in your business, so it’s important to get it right!
These are my thoughts on building a social media strategy. What do you think of this topic? Is there something that you would do differently?
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!