Social networking offers a revolutionary means for connecting companies with customers,
sales leads, business partners and new recruits. To maximize success it's essential
that businesses plan their strategy to establish guidelines for integrating social
media marketing into their daily routines.
Getting started is often the most difficult task. Below you will find a best practices
outline for creating a solid plan to boost your company's online presence.
1. Establish Clear Business Benchmarks
It's important to establish long-term business goals for your social media
activities. Many businesses strive to increase sales, acquire new customers, retain
old customers, improve brand recognition, reduce marketing costs, streamline customer
service, and so on.
When forming your social media objectives, it is important to choose goals that
are specific, realistically attainable and tracked over an established
time-frame. Equally important is that every member of your team understand
and agree what success will look like when you meet these goals. "Clear internal business communications,
support team buy-in and ownership."
2. Determine How to Measure Efforts
Outlined each objective, then determine how each will be quantified and measured.
It's important to start establishing measurement criteria immediately
after determining your goals. An example of usable metrics could include: The
number of content views, volume of user comments, peer-sharing statistics,
third-party mentions, click-through rates, and quantity of new qualified leads.
It is suggested that you use Google Analytics to start tracking your social media
profiles and measuring how influential your online presence is becoming. By Pass
Engineering, Inc. also employs a combination of Google Analytics, Google Webmaster
Tools and SEO Moz for the improvement of content delivery. Combined these
are powerful tools for resolving errors, monitoring of content and promotions.
SEO Moz also assists in translating metrics into usable information that will
impact your business so you don't waste time calculating statistics that
will have no value to your company.
For example, if one of your business goals is to improve customer service (issue
resolution), a great metric could be the number of incidents resolved through social
media channels. Social media has also become a leading medium for consumers
to voice opinions about their every interaction they have with a company and its
products or services; both good and bad and both should be continually tracked,
evaluated and improved.
3. Get to Know Your Targeted Audience
Regardless of the chosen goals for your social media marketing plan, your business
has an audience that should be targeted in your efforts. In order to plan an effective
strategy, you need to have a clear picture in mind of your ideal customer profiles.
If businesses are suffering from low customer engagement on their social networking
accounts, it is typically because they are not targeting the right buyers in the
right places. When you get to know your audience’s ages, occupations, income levels,
hobbies, problems, obstacles, likes and motivations, it becomes easier to target
them on any media platform.
Once you have clearly determined your target demographic, you will be able to
match your marketing strategies with the social media networks where your audience
is spending a majority of their Internet time.
For instance, if you are targeting women between the ages of 18 and 29, Facebook
will likely be your primary network of focus. However, if your business seeks predominantly
professionals with graduate-level education, start networking on LinkedIn. The
more specific that you are on your ideal customer, the more conversions you will
4. Appoint a Social Media Marketing Team
Even the most well thought out marketing plan will fail without having a
strong team of professionals to back it up. It’s in the best interest of your company
to have, hire or contract with a social-media expert.
After building or contracting a team with the right skills, you must assign
relevant, on-going responsibilities to fill their daily routine. Make sure that
everyone on the team is aware of who will be accountable for creating content,
posting updates, linking to outside content, engaging with customers, monitoring
conversations, analyzing data and connecting with partners.
In smaller organizations, it is possible to have a full-time social media team
of one, however it is typically recommended to consult with a knowledgeable
Social Media Marketing team to assist with planning and get you started.
Larger businesses involved in multiple social media activities often will establish
an entire social media department to create a “think tank” environment for building
solid marketing strategies. Appointing a chief content officer can also be valuable
for having someone to oversee the activities of the social media team and ensure
the group stays on track.
5. Content Creative Strategy
Finding success with social media marketing will require much more than just randomly posting
a few updates and tweets. Without cranking out great content, your social media
profiles will be virtually meaningless and not convert prospects into sales.
Produce posts that offer value and insight into your services without over-selling. All
content should fit with your company’s voice, social media platform trends, and
your targeted audience’s interests. Connect with your customer's interests
and challenges, and how your products or services can help them.
When starting out, it's suggested that you focus on providing information
to solve potential customers’ problems, rather than dwelling on your own products.
From there, you can test different content strategies and figure out the best approach
that gets a rise out of your targeted audience. Mix-it-up, with different content
-- from news to practical tips and humorous stories. Emphasize by using visuals
such as images, photos, videos, infographics and slide decks.
6. Research Your Competitors
Competitive analysis is a key component of nearly every marketing strategy, including
social media, because it allows you to compare how your profiles stack up. Not
only will researching your competitors keep you aware of their online activities,
but it will also provide a good idea on what is working for them so that you can
integrate these winning tactics into your company’s social media marketing plan.
Once you tap into their strengths and generating your own discussions, your business
will start carving out your niche in the social media stratosphere.
During your research, you should focus on analyzing the social networking profiles
and content strategies of three to five of your main competitors. Then, take a
look at how many fans or followers they have, how often they post new content,
and when they are most active. Pay close attention to the kinds of content they
are positing and the response they are receiving from the targeted audience. Calculating
how engaged your competitors are with their followers based on their number of
likes, comments, and shares can also be a great way to sniff out competition. To
assist with the gathering and analysis of competitive intelligence we
use SEO Moz to benchmark how your company ranks against the competition in
an effort to understand who is doing what better in specific measurable online
behaviors, in order to recommend improvements to your Social Media Marketing program.
7. Engage Your Audience
One of the best things about social media is that it creates a public arena for
customers to post their opinions, vent their frustration, share their joys, and
complain about their challenges. Since social networking is literally built around
the concept of engagement, it is essential that businesses provide continuous input
in interacting with their customers. Note: Listen FIRST before engaging! Social
media is about much more than just publishing content, so don’t be afraid to ask
some questions and stick around to acknowledge the responses. When handled appropriately,
social media platforms can provide a great relationship-building machine for boosting
customer loyalty and credibility. Remember: Social media isn’t a megaphone, it’s a conversation. It’s a great opportunity to connect with customers and influencers from bloggers to media people. Pose thoughtful questions and respond to people’s queries with helpful information that isn't just pitching your business.
How your business responds to public complaints can also play a big role in how
your social media profiles will withstand long-term. Whenever negative comments
find their way to your profile, your first reaction may be to delete them, but
this will insight a negative perception on your company and send the message that
you are hiding the truth. Therefore, it is suggested that you kindly respond to
every complaint to acknowledge the customer’s frustration, obtain a better understanding
of the problem, and effectively resolve the issue. Rather than engaging in a public
online argument in cyberspace, extend the olive branch and emphasize to your
followers that you are taking steps to correct the problem quickly.
Creating a Social Media Marketing plan should never remain static. Keep your eye
on changing trends and be willing to adapt and consistently improve over
time. Performing a periodic Social Media Marketing plan review and performance
assessment is essential for maintaining best performance and maximizing the bottom
line benefit for your business.