Just about everyone these days is on social media. But being busy tweeting or getting likes doesn’t necessarily mean it’s adding value to your business just ask any marketing agency. And just because everyone else is doing it is not enough of an argument in itself for you to do so too – you have to have a social media plan before you can have a strategy.
1. Think about what you want to achieve – is it to become known as an expert in your field? Is it to generate quick win sales? Or is it to improve customer perception of your brand and to implicitly convey your unique proposition? Without a clear social media plan, your social media strategy is likely to be aimless, with little way of evaluating the benefits to your business.
2. We always recommend competitor analysis before you undertake any new marketing activity – and that includes social media. Which social media sites do your competitor’s use? How many followers do they have? What messages are they sending out? And, most importantly of all, how do their followers respond? If there isn’t much activity, then it’s quite clear that whatever they’re sharing isn’t working – so don’t do the same thing. But if you find a successful social media strategy, emulate it!
3. The first thing you are going to need is an audience – especially for Facebook and Twitter. The quickest way to build a following is to buy it. There are bad ways to do this, and good ways. Only use the good ways. If you don’t have a following, there’s no point in having any activity. Followers are not necessarily going to be your customers. All that matters is that they are broadly interested in what you do as a company and are likely to be active if you give them half a chance. Activity means authority and relevance in the eyes of Google, and that is good for SEO. Therefore, make sure you hit the right keywords for your business too.
4. The next stage in your social media strategy is to decide what you’re going to say. Do you want to promote hints and tips, comment on industry news, promote special offers or run prize draw competitions? Maybe all of these could apply. It’s important to plan out your content over a period of a month at least, and agree who will create it, post it and review content that is added in real time.
5. The key word in social media is “social”. It’s all about people, connections and interactions. You need to encourage engagement – comments, sharing, liking etc. by listening to what your followers are saying and joining the conversation as and when appropriate – and in timely fashion. Your content must always be relevant, on-brand and professional – simply broadcasting a generic message of what you do and how good you are won’t encourage engagement – in fact, it can often lead to a negative effect on your brand. Very importantly, you need to make sure you have the resources in place to do social media properly, to achieve your goals, by using internal or external specialists (or both).
6. Commit to putting some time and effort into your social media strategy – don’t just dabble sporadically; this is almost a complete waste of time. Respond to posts, encourage comments and share things that will be of interest, add value or entertain. But be prepared. You may well get some negative comments from disgruntled customers. If so, the golden rule is always, always, always to be polite.
It may take a while to see the benefits to your bottom line, but social media is an essential way to market your business in 2014 and beyond. It is the future of PR. Delivered well, it can increase brand awareness, generate referrals and shape perceptions of your company. And don’t forget the SEO benefits. It is arguably impossible to deliver a search engine optimisation strategy without having a strong social media strategy in place.