Facebook recently celebrated its tenth year in February 2014, touting over one billion followers worldwide. While Facebook boasts the highest number of users, it has made two rounds of changes to its algorithm since 2012 which restrict organic reach (unpaid) of content published from brand pages. These changes have reduced the number of people seeing posts on a brand page to an estimated 6% of a brand’s followers.
Facebook also has plenty of company in the social media realm, as the past decade has also witnessed the proliferation of platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+, with many more options ahead so it is important to approach development of a social media strategy with care and the right expertise.
While these changes at Facebook in particular are probably making you further question the value of social media, the evidence is clear. In fact, research shows that one retailer’s Facebook fans were 27% more likely to make a purchase in a four week period following a campaign than a control group (Comscore, 2012).
It is tempting to think of social media platforms as being useful only for entertainment but successful brand marketing experts know better.
Despite the fact that there is no longer a free lunch with Facebook, in 2013, over 25 million small businesses had created Facebook pages and over 70% of Fortune 500 companies used Twitter and Facebook, respectively (Lafferty, 2013 and Gesenhues, 2013).
According to a recent report by Anna Kassoway of Crowdtap (2014), these companies have a good reason to do so, as research shows that social media not only gets a significant chunk of millennials’ media usage (30%, or 5 hours a day), but in terms of brand advertising, user generated content via social media is also deemed more trustworthy and memorable than traditional sources.
Given the proven ubiquitousness and influence of social media platforms, why are so many companies and brands still perplexed about, or even downright fearful of developing a social media strategy?
If your company or brand happens to be among the social media wallflowers, here are 10 tips to help you step into the social media spotlight and build a social media strategy:
- Find Out What You Like: Begin by researching a handful of other brands to see how they have engaged with social media and jot down what you like about them. If you are not sure where to start, the following brands were included in Inc.com’s list of the “20 Best Company Facebook Pages”: Bare Escentuals, Tiny Prints, Zappos, Burt’s Bees, Community Coffee, ecycler,Skullcandy, and Old Spice.
- Construct a Team You Can Trust: Bring social media experts into your team and qualify that they are truly experts. You need a team that not only understands the technology and know-how to tell a story, but also has the sophistication to use good judgment in guiding you through the development and execution of a social media plan. Social media experts must be skilled at creating content of relevance to your target audience. In essence, your social media management team must be sensitive to the nuances of appropriate social media content and its impact on your brand. And, now more than ever, social media experts must also understand how to drive community growth through paid support.
- Define Your Goals: Social media for brands or corporations must have a purpose, not just a presence. Do you want to be a part of a larger discussion, or do you want to be perceived as an authority? The beauty of social media is that you can learn so much about your customer and perceptions of your brand. These customer insights can be invaluable to overall digital marketing strategy.
- Review Your Brand Vision and Mission: Your social media page should be consistent with your company vision and mission. Once you have clearly defined how you want your target audience to perceive you, your social media plan should have relevant discussions surrounding that vision.
- Consider Your Target Audience: Your target audience should guide the platform(s) you choose. For example, according to the Pew Research Internet Project (2013), women are four times more likely than men to use Pinterest, LinkedIn is especially popular with college graduates and internet users in higher income households, Twitter and Instagram are particularly popular with young adults, urban dwellers, and non-whites, and adults over the age of 50 comprise Facebook’s largest group of new users last year. Take the time to determine where your resources can be best spent to reach your target audience.
- Diversify: Too much reliance and/or allocation of resources to one social media site is risky. For example, according to an article in Time magazine by Christopher Matthews (2014), since 2011, Facebook has lost over 4 million high school-aged users and nearly 7 million from the college-age bracket. Stay on top of your target audience’s social media habits and align with the two or more platforms that best fit their tastes.
- Determine Your Level of Engagement: Allowing customers an open forum where they can freely have conversations about your brand is what makes companies skittish. Work with your social media management team to determine your comfort zone with this two-way dialogue. Keep in mind that social media is about customer engagement and making them a partner so restricting conversations dilutes the ROI.
- Prepare Responses: If you are concerned that your social media pages will merely become public conduits of complaints about your products or services, develop a response plan. Use your customer service experiences and communications as a guide. Make a list of common complaints and compose possible responses that show empathy and ultimately direct those who post negatively about you to the most appropriate place to voice their concerns, should the occasion arise.
- Establish an Internal Social Media Policy: If you have employees, establish a policy related to how they are to interact with the company’s social media pages. A good source for a template to follow is available through Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s (WOMMA) website (click here for the pdf).
- Use a Social Media Management (SMM) Tool and Monitor Your Pages 24/7: This is the part that seems overwhelming. However, it is perhaps the single most important thing you can do as part of social media initiative. Your goal is to engage with your customers so regular, relevant posts that resonate with their interests is important. Further, monitoring 24/7 is essential to staying on top of potentially misleading or harmful publicity and posts. There are many SMM solutions, which help to manage efficiencies and to provide customer insights. Take the time to research the many options. We like Post Planner and ShortStack.
Stepping out into the social media spotlight for the first time, as with all new ventures, is a daunting move, even for brand marketing experts, but the potential rewards far outweigh the risks. Now that we have provided tips on building a social media strategy, the next blog will provide guidance for staying in the social media spotlight by maintaining your sites’ relevance and influence.