Look Before You Leap: Planning for Social Media Success
It’s easy to understand why brands have jumped into social media. Low cost. Low barriers to entry. High visibility. While social media may sound simple, it’s important to remember that managing social media for a brand is very different than posting selfies and cat memes on your personal Facebook page. Brand marketing has broader considerations and implications. Without a savvy strategy, your efforts won’t result in a credible social media presence for your brand.
Define your objectives
Before you start creating social accounts, take the time to think about how your social media goals align with your business goals. You might ask:
- What do you want to accomplish for your business?
- Are you trying to gain more newsletter subscribers or registrations for your service?
- Do you need to educate users about your software product or encourage them to walk into your retail store?
A clear definition of your end goals will help direct your social media activities and keep you focused on what’s important.
Choose your channels
Every objective requires that you carefully consider which social channels you choose. Not all channels are created equal, nor are the audiences who frequent them. While there may be some overlap, the intent and value derived from each is quite different. For example, LinkedIn is great for professionals seeking career, networking, professional development, or industry information. Twitter is an informative and entertaining source for current updates, while Pinterest is highly visual and inspiring, appealing mostly to female audiences (currently).
It’s critical to match your channels to your audience and to consider the value and message you are going to provide. It’s more effective to have a strong presence in a few, targeted channels than it is to spread your efforts across every possible social channel. Ultimately, it can be detrimental to your brand to create useless social pages that soon become abandoned.
Craft your content
Social audiences are ravenous for good content, be it written, video, audio, or visual. Develop a solid strategy for providing valuable, thought-provoking material that will keep your followers coming back for more. Always consider:
- Content type
- Tone and voice
Again, think about your goals and what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to increase your audience size, engagement, product usage, or sales? If you’re tweeting three times a day and still not seeing results, then it’s time to evaluate how meaningful your content really is.
Remember that social media engagement is a two-way conversation. Developing an authentic voice, while aligning the tone of your content to your company’s personality is important. You also want to carefully balance your message by providing calls to action without pestering your followers with a constant sales pitch. Positioning your content around the customer benefit and what helps satisfy their needs is usually the most successful approach. Pairing your content with an engagement strategy is also important to consider. For example, it’s important to consistently monitor the activity in your channels and interact with the community via replies, likes, comments, or @mentions, which can extend your reach and spur action.
Assemble your team
Finally, it’s important to be realistic about the amount of time and resources required to manage and run a social media presence for your organization. Even the best laid plans will fall short without the right resources in place to execute against the strategy and to ensure a healthy level of activity among your channels and communities. Your “team” can include one, many, or even part-time individuals, depending on the size of your organization or budget. The key is to clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations for each team member.
For example, a great way to source rich content and product expertise is to establish a cross-functional team with representatives from across the company. Staying in regular contact with your PR and legal contacts will protect you from inadvertently making costly and embarrassing public mistakes in your social channels. Knowing what your product and design teams are working on can help you craft interesting messages and stories that your followers find valuable.
Putting it all together
Whether you’re getting ready to jump into social media for the first time or reevaluating your current strategy, take the time to consider these points:
- Have a plan that answers these questions: What do you want to accomplish? Who is your audience? Which social channels will work for you?
- Don’t underestimate the power of content. The web is inundated with noise and finding a way to stand out can be tough. Providing bite-sized pieces that speak to the customer value will resonate so much more than a sales pitch.
- Identify dedicated resources. Make time, define roles, and get help from the broader team. You may work with colleagues from sales, engineering, PR, and more. So, remember that these folks are also creating customer value within their functional areas and be sure to take advantage of their expertise.
Your brand has a lot to gain in the world of social media. When you have clear goals and deliver compelling content via the appropriate social channels, you can engage with your customers in a meaningful way. There will be challenges along the way, but if you start with a cohesive plan, you should make the leap with confidence.