Friday, 24 July 2009

How can your business start to make sense of social media?

I woke up on Thursday morning with a nagging question in my mind. I don't know why, perhaps it's because my mind has a mind of its own. The question that snapped me awake was how can a business make sense of the seething metropolis that is social media? I've been guilty of adding to the commentary and not putting enough suggestions to paper. I've tried my best but I do tend to get distracted and add my thoughts to the latest story, albeit in an attempt to add value and insight.

So this week I'm going to put down a simple plan with the sort of questions you need to be asking yourself and the actions you need to take. This is not an authoritative and exhaustive list, it is simply my recommendation to help you get started and not simply sit back and drown in information. It is written for someone who is new to social media and has had no experience of working with it and struggles to understand how it works alongside traditional marketing.

Below are my 9 steps to getting started:

Step 1

Define the goals and objectives of your social media strategy?

· Why are you investing time & money?

· What do you want to achieve?

· Create SMART objectives and ensure that any activity is tied back to at least one of these objectives

Step 2

Plan the resource requirements

· How much time can you afford to dedicate to building your social media presence?

· Who needs to be involved and how does this need coordinating?

· Define how you will respond to feedback (positive, negative, general enquiries etc)

· Establish what tools you will need to use to monitor your presence effectively

Step 3

Understand the culture of the social networks you wish to explore

· Evaluate competitors and other companies using the networks and learn from what they do

· Immerse yourself in the social media and get to grips with the etiquette and how people interact

· Read relevant industry blogs and articles to improve your knowledge

Step 4

Create a measurement plan

· Define what your success criteria are – are they soft or hard targets, are there financial objectives?

· Define how you will measure each success criterion

· Set-up the tools that you need to measure these (web analytics, voice-of-customer, call centre etc)

Step 5

Understand your customers' needs that do not relate to a purchase

· What will make people interested in what you have to say and engage in conversation with you?
What information will satisfy the needs of online researchers who don’t want a sales message?

· What subjects areas related to your products & services drive the greatest conversation?

· What knowledge base do you have that you can communicate to add value to the community?


Create an integrated communication plan

· Define how you will use each channel to promote both conversation and sales orientated messages

· Define how your social media presence will work with your other marketing channels

Step 7

Build relevant content – content is king

· Plan what content you can produce that is relevant and adds value to your community

· Integrate this content with your primary website to ensure that your traditional customer base benefits as well

· Integrate content creation with your SEO to ensure content is optimised and beneficial to site visibility


Identify brand ambassadors and key contributors

· Monitor your networks and identify people who get involved the most – talk to them, find out more about them and encourage them to become brand ambassadors

· Use other people to spread your message – give them the tools to share your content across their networks

· Engage with them directly using more personalized 1-2-1 communication


Monitor, evaluate, respond, adapt & evolve

· Social media is not a fixed entity, communities are evolving every day as people’s needs and desire changes – make sure you stay in touch with the mood

· If your audience is shifting to other social media sites, move with them; if they are demanding more interaction, learn how to satisfy this

· Regularly evaluate performance against the objectives and goals you set – how are you doing?

· Use all sources of information to identify ways to improve your engagement

· Above all, monitor your brand reputation and act when there is conversation happening that you can both influence and add value to – never stop listening.

Have I missed anything obvious? I am not claiming to be an 'expert', I don't believe in that word. These recommendations are based on my own experience of using social media. Please share your comments and suggestions.

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