How You Can Create Your Social Media Strategy

How You Can Create Your Social Media Strategy

Creating your social media strategy consists of four steps. By following a structured process for the development of your social media strategy you are improving your odds that your social media efforts will succeed.

Audit, Listen

Before you begin to create social media strategy, you need to do some basic research. As discussed earlier, research in the social media world consists in large part of listening to the conversations taking place.

Benefits of Listening

  • Location

As someone once told me, “You have to fish were the fish are.” By understanding where to find conversations of interest to you (e.g., blogs, Facebook, discussion board, etc.), you are in a far better position to have an impact with your social media efforts than if you were to cast your content around blindly.

  • Sentiment

Sentiment is that element of listening that provides insight into the positive or negative nature of the conversations taking place. There is an obvious benefit to be had from understanding the tone of the conversations, as it can guide your response concerning what types of content are well received and which are not.

  • Topics

By knowing what your customers are interested in, you are in a far better position to respond with content and conversation that are likely to be of interest to them.

  • Competition

Having an appreciation for what is being said about your competition also has significant benefits, in that it may aid in directing your content and conversation to address uncovered weaknesses.

  • Thought Leaders

The ability to identify thought leaders is important, as they will play a key role in the direction of the conversation. Connecting with thought leaders allows for the opportunity to influence the direction of the conversation.

More than 2 million advertisers regularly use Facebook to market their business. Kendall Walters
  • Influencers

Influencers play an important role in the though formation of others online. Reaching out to influencers to support them with appropriate knowledge can prove a valuable way to ensure that their influence is positive in nature.

  • Competency

One benefit of listening to the conversations taking place online is that it gives you the ability to assess how knowledgeable and capable users are. Should you find, for instance, that there is either dated or misinformation circulating, you can address the situation via an education program.

  • Volume

Understanding the sheer volume of the conversations taking place provides an indication as to the interest and profile of your brand. Low volume means you must generate attention to create higher volumes of conversation, while higher volumes of conversation lead more readily to engagement.

Audit, Listen

Having completed your social media audit, it is time to take stock of what has been learned. In performing an analysis of your social media situation, the following points should be considered:

Talent

Does your organization have the necessary talent to be able to conduct successful social media campaigns? This requires an understanding of both social media and the company. Strong communication skills, particularly writing, are also essential.

Time

Do the individuals tasked with running the social media efforts of the firm have the time to do so? Running a social media program takes time. If there is no dedicated resource for your social media efforts, will the individuals responsible for your social media have enough time to do it, given their other responsibilities?

Tools

What tools are going to be required to launch your social media program? There are a myriad of social media-based tools available for everything from listening to content curation, scheduling, and reporting. Many such tools are free, while others typically have monthly fees. You must decide which tools are going to be utilized for your social media program prior to launching it..

Content

An analysis must be undertaken concerning how your content will be created, by whom and on which topics. The use of the editorial calendar previously identified can be a very useful tool for co-ordinating your social media content.

Capital

What will all this social media activity cost? Some estimate as to the costs of running a social media program must be completed before you begin only to find out that your social media efforts cannot be sustained.

Audit, Listen

The starting point for how you create social media strategy comes in recognizing that it should not be done in isolation. Your social media strategy needs to be aligned with the overall marketing strategy, which in turn should be aligned with the overall corporate direction. With this thought in mind, then the first step in the development of your social media strategy should be the creation of your social media objectives.

So what do we mean by objectives? Well, objectives answer the question “What do we want?” and they are the lead into the development of strategies and tactics as defined by the Strategic Planning Chain. In determining your social media objectives, it is important that they follow the basic SMART Objectives format. Following the SMART format for objective setting ensures that you will establish realistic, measurable goals to evaluate your social media efforts.

Typical examples of social media objectives would be:

  • For lead generation – “To generate 50 new leads per ”
  • For brand awareness your objectives could be related to easily measurable metrics such as Likes or Retweets, leading to a social media objective such as “to increase by 25% the number of retweets per quarter.”
  • For determining the efficiency of your social media efforts looking to the conversion rate achieved would be a good measure, for example,” To increase the conversion rate on our social media activities by 10% for three consecutive months.”
Audit, Listen

With your objectives established for your social media efforts, it is time to focus on the creation of your social media content. To get started with your social media content creation, you need to begin by defining your organizational voice.

Organizational Voice

Keeping in mind that social media is largely comprised of conversations, it is important to determine how you sound in those conversations. This process is known as defining your organizational voice. Your organizational voice is the consistency of tone and character that your employees will use when engaging in social media on behalf of the company.

Your organizational voice is analogous to creative strategy in that it sets guidelines for conversations. As such, your organizational voice needs to accurately reflect the company and its mission. This also aligns well with social media’s need for transparency. Finally, it is important to remember the human element in all this. We discussed earlier Google’s efforts to humanize its search-ranking algorithm. We need to move in the same direction with our organizational voice. Too many organizations view rigid corporate personas as the way to portray themselves in social media. Having a corporate persona is a worthy goal to be sure. The concern arises when it dehumanizes our communication with the customer. We must not be afraid to appear human. Creating Your Customer Personas

Now that you know how you want to say things, your next step should be to define your understanding of your customers and what they want to hear by developing customer personas. Customer personas serve to make sure that your message is one of interest to its intended audience. By establishing a model for who your customers are and what they want you are in a much better position to provide them with content that has value to them. There are a number of tools available to help you develop your customer personas, including this free template from Hubspot: Free Customer Persona Template.

Selecting Social Media Channels

So now we have an understanding as to what we need to do to get started with social media.  But the question remains as to how to select the social media channels best suited to your needs.

The simple answer here, of course, is that you must be engaged in those social media channels in which your customers are already participating.

There are a wide variety of social media monitoring tools to help you find who is listening to what in the social media landscape. Tools like Klout, Social Mention, and Mention are but a few of the wide range of social media monitoring tools available for just this task. Beyond this obvious qualification, we can turn to the objectives we have developed for our social media activities to help out here as well. For example, should one of your objectives be to improve communications with your customers, Twitter and Facebook are good mediums for the distribution of quick updates.

 

Are you looking for a more detailed connection to meet a goal, such as the education of your customer base? Perhaps a corporate blog, which allows for more information to be shared than Twitter or Facebook, is worth considering. Are you seeking to entertain your customers? Videos satisfy this need very well. You get the idea. You must also consider which social media channels are more popular, and hence provide better bang for your buck. The above image identifies the leading social media channels in terms of user engagement. Keeping this information in mind will help to ensure your message gets heard.

Audit, Listen

With our social media strategy settled, we now turn to what will be required to make the strategy successful. A good place to start is education.

Education

Depending on the size of the organization, education can range from a self-taught program through to the development of a dedicated social media training group. No matter what your situation, the first task is to train the trainers.

The goal with this initial social media training is for an individual or team to go out and acquire social media knowledge. From there, this knowledge can be transferred to the rest of the organization. The good news concerning this part of your educational plan is that there is no shortage of social media education options. These options range from self-taught video courses to full-blown structured training classes from most higher-education institutions. Once your training team (or you, if this is a solo effort) is ready, it becomes their task to go out and educate others within the organization. In this role, your trainers become valuable in-house resources. Social Media Policy

Social media policy needs to address three distinct areas, these being:

  1. Guidelines for the company-approved use of social media both inside and outside of the organization.
  2. Expectations for employee
  3. The process to be employed for the resolution of disputes concerning   company-sponsored social media

It is important to note that the social media policies adopted should also apply outside of business hours for those employees representing the company during off- hours.

The type of things that need to be identified, when constructing your social media policy, also could include:

  • A definition of what constitutes social
  • The purpose or objective in allowing employees to access social media for business
  • The company’s view on what social media is, and how employees should view
  • Expectations about what is to be communicated concerning the company and the brand
  • Any legal issues that may come into play, g., copyright laws.
Organizational Structure

The two most common organizational structures for dealing with social media are the decentralized and the centralized model, as seen below:

Audit, Listen

The centralized hub-and-spoke model is the most common format for social media organization. It is possible to speculate that the reason for the popularity of the hub-and-spoke model lies in the fact that social media is widely dispersed within most organizations. With the hub-and-spoke model, the hub serves as a central resource for the various spokes. Centralized social media structures are better suited to those organizations that require a greater degree of control over social media use. This is typically related to regulatory concerns, such as those that exist within the finance and medical sectors.

Centralized organizations can also become unwieldy in larger organizations, where the management task becomes too complex.

The decentralized form of social media organization is shown below:

Audit, Listen

The decentralized organizational model has the advantage of putting the product group closer to the customer than with the centralized model. As opposed to the centralized organization model, it is better suited to those instances where control of communications is not a necessity. Similarly, it differs from the centralized model in that it can be better suited to large organizations as it simplifies the overall management requirement.

Decentralized organizations can suffer from a lack of co-ordination between their social media communications and the overall corporate message. They also represent a higher degree of communication risk, given the higher degree of autonomy delegated to the decentralized centers.

To learn more about how to get the most from your marketing efforts you can visit my website at www.vwmarketingsolutions.ca

Scott Van Wagner
Scott Van Wagner is a senior marketing strategist. His marketing experience includes roles as a Sales Rep, Product Manager, Service Director and General Manager and the Author of - How to Create Successful Marketing Plans in the Digital Marketing Age.” This practical experience is enhanced by marketing knowledge developed delivering courses on marketing strategy and management at the University of Western Ontario, Brock University, McMaster University, the University of Guelph and the University of Guelph-Humber.
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