I read an article by Tom Keene recently titled ‘2014: Social Media Descends to 35 Feet’. I had to read it a couple of times (it's a little bit abstract), but the gist I got reminded me of some of the long-held views of social media I’ve heard repeated many times by traditional business minds who poke at social media advocates with those three block letters – ROI.
‘Great, you’ve got people to ‘Like’ the company, where’s the ROI numbers?’
‘You’ve got us a thousand followers, what’s the ROI?’
‘Social media’s the future? Show me definitive proof tracking the ROI’.
While it’s different for every business, return on investment can be difficult to quantify. You’re often working to develop and generate stronger brand relationships, rather than putting on the hard sell for quick returns. This is still possible through social media, but it’s generally in response to paid advertisements, as opposed to a longer term content strategy, which works with clients to establish ongoing partnerships and reputational reach. Understandably, this is what your CEO and CFO want to hear about, not the amount of ‘Likes’ or followers you’ve achieved. At some point, you’re gonna’ have to show them the money, so you need to ensure this is part of your strategic plan from the very beginning.
While there are various ways to conceptualize your social media strategy, here’s one to help expand your thinking on how your business goes about it:
Relationships are the Roads, Data is the Map, Profit is the Destination
1. Relationships are the Roads
The first phase is the relationships. Social media is about being social, joining the conversation. Once you’ve worked out your social media presence, you need to become part of your online community. Build relationships with your target audience, establish a presence on the platforms most relevant to your company and create content that will resonate with your target audience and showcase your expertise. And more than anything, you need to listen to and learn about their wants and needs of your target audience. The amount of data you can get from an engaged community is invaluable, but you need to be active, you need to be listening and you need to be working to understand what you can do to help. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to be present and involved. Relationships are the roads, they need to be constructed in order to facilitate you reaching your destination. This is where everything starts.
2. Data is the Map
Once you’ve established your presence and learned what your audience needs, you need to provide it. Develop and improve on what works, action the key data points and implement business plans to maximise your performance. It’s important too that any action plan is filtered through to all your teams – there’s no point telling clients you’re addressing their concerns if the customer service reps they deal with on another platform are not working towards the same goal. If the business is not unified in adhering to the targets, the whole process will fail. You’re working to build trusted relationships, the only way this works is if you’re honest, up front, and you deliver where you say you will. The data you gain forms the map, based on the relationships you develop as you go, and then you can move further towards the final stage.
3. Profit is the Destination
And this is the key element, one which may be difficult to fully determine before, at least, you've established relationships, but you need to plan for how you can monetize your social media presence. It’s important for this to be built into your initial planning and that it’s something you don’t lose track of in the process. You can get seduced by vanity metrics and data, but you need to ensure you remain focussed on the end goal - ongoing and increased revenue through smarter insights, better relationships and meeting customer requirements. It's the destination, the goal of all your efforts, and it's important to keep it front of mind in planning and execution.
Of course, it’s easy to put these things down in words - the reality of each element is far more complex than a three-step summary - but hopefully these notes generate some ideas for you to consider in the investigation and implementation of your brand strategy. Building processes around these three stages will help categorize and clarify your long-term goals, bringing focus and alignment to your social media blueprint.
And staying with that focus will guide your plan towards delivery of definitive ROI.
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