Social media has really made its mark in the last year. Twitter and Facebook seem to make headlines almost daily. Hollywood even made a film about Facebook, and it seems as if every company is now looking to social media to help propel itself beyond the aftermath of the global financial crisis. But there is still a lot of confusion about what social media actually is, and how to develop a beneficial strategy for your company.
WHY USE SOCIAL MEDIA?
Social media is now becoming more than a marketing experiment, and the majority of companies should now be looking at how social media can be directly integrated into their brand and marketing strategy.
The more you can utilise your social media presence and leverage the influencers in your network, the better. It is even possible to embed e-commerce and other web-based applications directly into Facebook. Most companies need to start thinking about their websites as a database that organises and distributes information and features to specific groups within the world of social media.
There has been a lot of talk about how social media is fracturing markets. This is a myth. Social media doesn’t“create” new markets and market segments – it just identifies them. The interest groups and needs already existed – we just didn’t know enough about them.
STARTING A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
First, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to strategy. Second, it’s worth taking time to get a strategy right. Many companies have been adopting an approach to social media based on an assumption that it is “free”. They have set up accounts and hoped these will work. They won’t. Hope is not a strategy, and social media takes time to get right – so it can’t be free. Here are some primary considerations:
Define your goal. Social media can be used for customer service, customer acquisition, brand awareness or public relations. But trying to do everything will produce unfocused results. Understanding what stage your company is at and setting goals to propel communications to your desired stakeholders is the first step.
Measurement – Before meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) can be set, it helps to know what measurement tools are available and the quality of the data they generate. There are a number of ways to monitor what is happening in the social media space. A well-developed tool is worth the investment and can give you extremely detailed information. These tools can be categorised into three groups: site analytics, social media monitoring and data mining tools.
Choose your communication platforms – Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are a few of the big ones, but there are many more and each is focused on a different demographic. There is also the possibility of creating your own platform to fulfill a need that may only exist for your market.
Set KPIs – Once you know your goal, have chosen the tools you will use to measure it and the platforms through which you will focus your communications, you are ready to set your KPIs. One of the most effective is aiming to “increase positive sentiment”, basically getting more people on your side.
Define a voice – Finally, you need to create a “voice” – a tone for how you will communicate. Will you be informative, humorous or serious? What language will your market respond to? Making the correct choice and implementing it well is important. Get this right and your market will follow.
Get good advice – Ultimately, a good social media strategy needs good advice. So make sure you talk to people who know this space well.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Social media is here to stay. These methods of communicating have become embedded in our technologies and culture. Companies will soon be interacting with a generation that will find it impossible to imagine a time where the individual didn’t have a voice and an ability to exert influence. In short, we are heading to a state of ubiquity.
This gives those companies, who are becoming involved in the conversations about their brands and are willing to learn and respond to the views of their customers, a massive competitive advantage.
This is the beginning of the next great step in the evolution of human communication. It’s happening. It’s time to get on board and be part of that evolution.
Mark Cameron is chief executive of Working Three (www.workingthree.com). He was a featured speaker in the Marketing Master Class at the 2011 AIME in February.