Social media has grown from a curiosity to an integral piece of corporate strategy in the space of only a few years. Nearly overnight, business owners have brought on whole teams of specialists to craft effective social media strategies and manage multiplying numbers of social media accounts. The truth is that you can build an efficient and valuable social media strategy by following a few Best Practices.
Successful businesses start by identifying the social networks they need to be active on and the tactics they need to use on each network. A good strategy will discuss the type of content to be posted - including a discussion of "Voice" and "Tone." Following the social activities of others is useful to come up with your own "style." When you find a brand whose approach you like, spend some time studying what they do with their followers. Watch for several weeks and get a sense of the cadence of their social activities. Immersion will give you confidence for the next step - Implementation.
Here are some Best Practices as you put your plan into action:
Nobody has time to waste. Take a look at your strategy and review the reasons your business is implementing a social media marketing plan. What do you want out of social activities? Are you trying to drive people to your website, your blog, or your Facebook page? Focusing on your ultimate goal will guide your next steps: what you do (what channels you will use), when you do it (what schedule you will aim for), and what content you'll share (blogs, ebooks, testimonials, webinars, tip sheets, etc.). This kind of analysis can head off social missteps (remember the United Airlines baggage handlers' debacle?) and help you focus on what's important and productive.
Social media is global now; it doesn't sleep. Your social media management tool needs to allow you to easily schedule messages, unless you have employees who cover all the time zones in shifts! Even while you sleep in, say, Duluth, you will want to schedule messages to go out to your customers in Tokyo during their workday.
If you want to take scheduling to the next level, look for a tool like HootSuite that integrates with a Contact Relationship Manager like Nimble and offers the ability to schedule large batches of messages at once. This will be an incredibly useful timesaver when it comes to managing campaigns or contests that require heavy messaging around a certain period of time.
When it comes to interacting with your customers, those in different locations may have different needs, speak different languages, or follow different trends. You're going to want to optimize your searches and filter them by language to help you curate relevant content for different demographics.
Through social media, businesses can keep their finger on the pulse of their industry. Setting up keyword search streams provides insight into what your customers think is trendy. This can be great intelligence to help you develop a marketing strategy that focuses on your customer's lifestyles and personal preferences. There are lots of apps that will help with this; you can set up Google alerts for free and chose how often you want to be notified.
Keywords are useful for keeping track of competitors' activities but they're also useful for tracking brands that are complementary to yours. If your product or service is often purchased in conjunction with another product or service, keep an eye on the complementary product's social media activity. Be ready to take advantage of promotions or recent sales - because these are potential leads ready to be converted.
It takes two, as they say, to tango, especially when it comes to being social. An effective social media campaign will benefit from collaboration. Set clear expectations and solicit employee buy-in. Can your employees help you with the management of your social presence? Are they enthusiastic about participating? Do you have a social media management tool that enables you to seamlessly collaborate with your team to ensure you execute an integrated social media management strategy? The answers to these questions can mean a greatly amplified social voice for your brand.
Gone are the days of social media purely being about "building buzz." It is now a line item in budgets as business owners invest resources to turn social relationships into business opportunities. With a line item comes the need to demonstrate return on investment.
Set up a system for analyzing important metrics (such as click-through rates on shortened links, clicks by region, and top referrers). It's also important to have access to Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. You'll want to track your Twitter @mentions and watch trends as people follow you on Twitter. Are you on Google+ or LinkedIn? What metrics will tell you if you are succeeding? You might have to pull your statistics from several places, but the data is valuable and worth a bit of trouble.
Access in-depth granular metrics on the efficacy of your social media programs. This is important because you will understand which messages result in the highest number of conversions, which platform is providing the greatest return - even what time of day is most effective to drive traffic.
WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED
Social media is here to stay, but it's still in its formative stages, and a lot of brands are still just skimming the surface of its business potential. To maintain a competitive advantage, businesses need to stay alert and aware. Develop a strategy you are comfortable implementing, even if you start small.. Then stay focused. Don't waste your time telling your followers where you're eating lunch. Have a purpose, prioritize your tasks, and keep good metrics to track results. When you do these things, your social media efforts will result in increased revenue to your business.