Undoubtedly, the speed of change in today’s digitally empowered world is staggering. No business, irrelevant of its industry sector or size, can financially afford to sit on its laurels when it comes to social media.
Having a two-way conversation with your customers, building your relationship with them, obtaining their trust and, most coveted of all, getting them to recommend you to a colleague or friend is your future.
To be honest, that’s nothing new. In my view, that’s always been the case but, the proliferation of social media has meant no business can hide from this fact or ignore its importance.
Fact*: 66% of digital marketers surveyed working for companies with an annual turnover of more than £100m agreed that ‘social media is integral to business strategy’, while 67% said that social media activity was ‘integral to their marketing mix’.
It doesn’t however mean that you need to be on every social media platform out there. So, what can you do….and should you do?
Do your customers use social media?
If so, which ones…which customers, which social media platforms and why those ones in particular?
Are there any other niche social media platforms you need to be considering besides the ‘normal’ ones (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbr, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest…)?
By creating user profiles of your typical customers’ online behaviour, you’ll be able to define what drives and motivates them and their social media usage, whether it’s for social, emotional or learning and development purposes (or, more likely, a combination of all three).
TIP 1: Really get to know who your customers are, not en masse but grouped by their common needs. Profile and segment their online behaviour, values and must have’s in as much detail as possible.
Put yourself in their shoes (if you’re like minded), talk to them and conduct some customer research.
The digital revolution has changed minds, behaviours and attitudes. Don’t assume you know what your customers want and how they behave based on your wealth of past experience.
Don’t ignore the importance of getting first hand customer insight today as opposed to from research conducted 5 years ago.
What are you looking to achieve?
If your primary goal is to be able to add a range of social media icons to your website or business card, you need to think again!
It might show that you’re not a dinosaur living in the 90’s but, without any purpose or ‘meat’ to your online social presence, you’ll very quickly be found out as a social media wannabe who has wasted time and effort (read money!) setting up pages on these various platforms without any thought of your customers or commercial sense.
What’s the point in having a presence on any social media site if the page is going to sit idle with nothing on it for months on end? Clearly you’re not ‘there’, willing and able to listen to, communicate with or respond to a social network of contacts, fans and followers.
If the page is so infrequently and sporadically updated, I’m certainly not going to waste my time regularly referring to it. If you’re not serious about me, why should I be serious about you?
If your page is just a library of self-promoting adverts, I’m definitely not going to come back to it! Why would I? What’s in it for me if I do? Nothing! If your social media presence adds no value to your customers, advocates and/or influencers, what’s the point in you being in that arena at all?
You might think you’re marketing your company but in actual fact you’re not. You’re doing the exact opposite. You’re wasting precious time and money incorporating ineffective social media activity into your marketing efforts when that time and money could be used elsewhere and achieve so much more.
TIP 2: Have specific goals for your social media strategy. Ones that can be quickly and easily related back to your marketing and business strategy but that are, themselves, different, more specific and measurable objectives relevant to your social media strategy…with a purpose.
Once you’ve set your goals, create a plan that outlines all that’s involved and required. Identify the who, where, why, what, how, when and by whom so that you and your colleagues are clear about what it is you’re trying to achieve through social media and how you’re going to go about doing it.
What content do your customers (existing and prospective) want to read about, watch and/or listen to?
It’s all well and good ‘doing’ social media but if your customers don’t benefit from their interaction with you, they’ll go away empty handed having had, at best, a neutral experience of your brand with no positive opinion (perhaps even a negative one) of you to tell their colleagues and friends about.
You have to talk to them in their language, with content that’s of interest to them or somehow benefits them, in a format that they instantly relate to, at a time that suits them and using the communication channel of their choice.
If they’re seeking reassurance about your approach or expertise, create content that gives them that reassurance whether it’s a head shot video, blog post, webinar or e-newsletter.
If they’re looking for guidance or insight on how to do something, create content that does just that whether it’s a demo, animated video, white paper or ebook.
TIP 3: Again, understanding your customer, listening to them and learning what they want from you, not what you assume they want from you before you jump in.
This might take you a little bit longer to get your social media presence established, but it’ll be worth it in the end!
It’ll also add focus to your content creation and promotional efforts instead of steering you towards a scattergun approach.
What resources do you have in place?
Believe me, once you start ‘doing’ social media, you can’t stop. Well, you can but you’ve sort of defeated the purpose if you do!
Social media isn’t something you just jump into either without thought and planning. It’s time consuming, requires creative thinking, perseverance and most of all needs managing, monitoring, measuring and adapting where necessary to achieve not only effective results but the desired results.
Creating an account on any of the social media sites is pretty straight forward. Once you’re setup, what next? What are you going to post to each site? Are you just going to do and say the same thing on every single site? Remember, not everyone is motivated by or interested in the same thing.
Crucially, who’s going to do what and when….bearing in mind there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is!
TIP 4: Don’t think you can do it alone. Think about what support network, social media management tools and budget you need to achieve your goals.
If you’re not sure, ask around…ask, ask, ask and ask some more. There’s no right or wrong answer and everybody will tell you something slightly different.
Fundamentally, your social media activity has to work for your business to achieve your objectives. What will work for one company might well not work for you.
What you can do though is learn from others so that you can make informed decisions, not decisions based on trial and error.
How have you approached your social media efforts? Do you have a strategy in place or have you jumped in head first?
* Research by Econsultancy and Adobe