The first question many business will ask themselves is should my brand go social?
Most brands by now will have dabbled in the social media at some point and to some degree, particularly those who are consumer focused. But surprisingly very few still manage to get it right, which is probably why many still shy away. The thought of having an “always on” or “live forever” marketing initiative for many business leaders is still daunting; without the dedicated manpower and a supportive business case it can be a risky prospect and do more harm than good.
I’ve worked with a host of brand and marketing directors who have been determined to get their social strategy right, and there are a number of simple steps that can help you get on the right track. But first it’s important to acknowledge that if your brand has a market, it probably already has a social audience in one shape or another. So it’s entirely up to you if you want to take part in the conversation.
We can start with the three most common ways that brands and businesses are applying their social media strategy.
Many business are now using social media marketing, social networks and tools to guide prospects through a series of steps–a funnel–to get them to take the actions they want (e.g., becoming a fan, sharing their email address or buying your products or services).
There are tons of social media tools, networks and options that include everything from Facebook and Twitter to landing pages and email marketing to SEO and ads. Each of these social marketing channels is one more way to guide your prospects through your sales funnel.
With all of these marketing channels at your disposal, how do you decide which ones fit within your sales funnel?
To answer those questions, you have to know who your potential customers are and how you can reach them most effectively. You also have to know your company’s goals, how you’ll measure those goals (i.e., the metrics you’ll analyze) and what your target numbers are for those metrics.
Without those key facts, your marketing and sales funnel will be skewed. Excessive focus on one part of your funnel can cause problems elsewhere. If you focus only on owned media like follower numbers and email addresses, you may have trouble with conversions. Or, if you only focus on brand awareness and neglect email marketing, you’ll likely miss out on sales.
Every decision you make about how to create brand awareness, garner engagement and make conversions and sales should be a reflection of your funnel.
Dell and many other tech firms lead the way here. It can be tremendously effective, showcasing your customer support in a public forum, whilst also acknowledging your brand is fallible, therefore human. People buy in to that. This is also a great tactic for startups who want to promote their “great” customer service as well as product or brand.
Research and development
Product development and launches through social communities – with the intention of using them as a platform for beta testing and garnering feedback and data – has proved to be fast, cost effective and therefore lucrative. More companies are seeing social as a real time forum for product review.
So with this in mind, when deciding on how social may complement your brand effort, it is worthwhile and necessary to align it with a specific commercial objective. This invariably becomes the first step.
Here are some fast actionable tips on how to create a successful social media strategy for your business and protect your brands integrity.
Applying a proactive approach to your social strategy can protect your brand and business
- Define you commercial objectives, decide and agree what success looks like.
- Assign a budget and an appropriate resource. Make it reasonable and fit for purpose. Social cannot be effectively managed off the side of someone’s desk.
- Develop your strategy, and plan how you will deliver it. Use experts with a firm process and prior success. Document it. Share it and get stakeholder buy in.
- Appoint expertise around the delivery. Executing a social strategy successfully requires a multitude of skills. Planning, content writing, analytics, reporting and ideas – lots and lots of ideas!
- Test, learn and re-apply. The golden rule when playing a game that has no rules. Most social successes are a surprise. Planning provides you a framework to test your ideas within, but it will rarely give you the answer. That comes from engaging with people, seeing what works and how you can build on it.
- Be creative. Ideas are what makes social go round and they are the only social currency worth investing in. So get the basics right, consistently deliver on them but never forget to be surprising. If you delight your social community, they will engage with you and make the effort to share.
We’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some huge social successes for brands, and the vast majority have been quite unexpected. But spotting the trend won’t help if you don’t have an experienced team to make deliver for you. So my final point is: never underestimate the knowledge acquired by professional social marketing teams today and don’t ever fear having to buy them in.