Social media is a growing challenge for businesses, and many companies are getting themselves out there in the SM space without really having a coherent strategy. That’s understandable, because the cost of entry is so low (like, uh… nothing), and marketing managers don’t want to seem like they’re behind the curve by not having a social media presence at all.
So, you have a Twitter account… good for you… but do you have a strategy?
Treating social media as a strategic marketing practice is smart for business, plain and simple. Here are some key social media best practices you should consider elemental to success in this emerging space:
#1: Determine Your Channels
Figure out which brands or areas of the company embody something that’s worthy of being followed or “liked”, and assign a specific channel definition to those areas. A social media channel could be your brand, or a specific product, or it could be your HR/recruiting function, or it could be in the person of your particularly charismatic CEO. Each of these could qualify as a distinct social media channel, deserving its own channel strategy — separate but coordinated.
A social channel within your company will set its own course to a large degree, managing its own separate accounts with social sites like Twitter and Facebook. It can create its own branded groups on LinkedIN, or make a video channel on YouTube.
This channel separation is important… I see way too many companies using Twitter to build a product-oriented fan base, and then inexplicably start dropping into the stream such non-relevancies as job postings, or other things which are of no concern to 99% of their followers. Think like the Ghostbusters… don’t cross the streams!!!
#2: Define Mission and Purpose
This is pretty fundamental, but again, think of each channel… what is the purpose of doing social media, and who is the audience that should be targeted by that channel? These decisions will govern the sites you use, the editorial you create and share, and the voice you speak in, so don’t skimp on formalizing these fundamental decisions.
#3: Develop an Editorial Plan and Schedule
To engage in social media, you’ll have to create content… cool, fun, valuable, share-able content. For each channel, decide how often you’ll be creating this content and when it should best be distributed. Make this part a real strategy… don’t use social media to “dump links” everywhere… that’s not going to be worth the effort. Give your target something compelling to read, to redeem, to join, or to share, and make it worth the click.
#4: Treat Social as a Two-way Street
Listening is one of the most important functions in any relationship, and a productive social media relationship is no different. If you treat social media only as a way to distribute marketing messages, then you are engaging in Advertising and PR, not Social Media. You need a framework for listening to social media conversations, by formally monitoring the web and key sites for mentions of your brand, or responses to your company’s messages.
#5: React to Customer Service Opportunities
Related to the last point, you can use social media listening as a means to react quickly and effectively, by answering queries, or participating in conversations about your products or services, or industry. Use the social sites to help customers, not just to market to them.
#6: Assign Social Media Messengers
Usually one person per channel should be tasked with being in charge of the nature of the content that is put out on the web on behalf of that strategy… you don’t want too many people Tweeting under the same account, as this will quickly lose the effect of “social personality” which is vital to getting people online to trust the source and feel a level of personal attention.
#7: Write Some Rules
If you have many people involved in your Social strategy, it’s a good idea to set some rules of conduct so that everyone speaks the same language and knows the best way to share a consistent message. When is retweeting ok? How often should you post new information? How should you best use images? When is it ok to comment on industry rumors? These are all considerations that each individual may treat differently, so get your own internal best practices together and get everyone on the same page.
#8: Monitor Performance
You’ll want to select KPIs (key performance indicators) around social media engagement factors, and set goals to improve on these over time. Examples: number of followers, likes, messages, retweets, site visits. All of these are important to optimize, so use the data available to you to guide the editorial strategy.
In practice, social media is a way to get little tidbits of information about the company out there frequently, and it’s tempting to just treat it like a series of small bites. But over time, companies will develop Social Web personalities, and you want to make sure you are doing all of the above things correctly, to optimize your presence and generate the kind of multiplying effect that makes social media such a compelling marketing opportunity in the first place.