How to strategise for social media marketing
Social media marketing can be thought of as a kind of 'dance' of modern marketing, according to Ingrid Froelich of SDL Web Content Management Solutions, who explains why now is the time for businesses large and small join in and dance to the social media tune.
The question is how to best communicate, interact and research, and how to optimise this interaction with prospects, partners and peers. How can you use the social web in way that shows measurable results for your time and effort?
It's easy to make a number of valid arguments for marketers' participation in social media. These include increasing your visibility and awareness, website traffic, brand personalisation, and of course enlarging the brand's online footprint. This all means that you will achieve more points of customer engagement, which will in turn, will aid lead generation and also customer support.
However, many organisations' efforts so far have been ad-hoc at best, with social media being used for 'push' marketing only. Rather than being interaction-driven, many LinkedIn posts, blogs, tweets and Facebook pages are dominated by links to events, downloads or websites. While there's nothing wrong with this approach, these types of activities don't take advantage of the interactive opportunity that social media affords the marketer.
While it may seem that social media is about directing the conversation, a large part is actually about following, because social media provides invaluable information about your competition and customer sentiments. How customers and prospects talk about your brand, the topics they bring up frequently, and their favoured content can all give you insights into the features of your products or services that stand out among the rest. Social media can also provide critical feedback on what needs to be improved.
You should therefore begin by establishing how your competition already participates in social media. What do they say, and what do customers and prospects say about them? This analysis may help to identify your unique selling points (USPs) as well as ways in which you can differentiate your message, approach, and brand. Listen carefully to and share information gathered from the prime influencers, as they can sometimes change the tune at the snap of a finger (at the click of a mouse, at least). In addition, starting a dialogue with a key influencer can provide invaluable interaction and exposure among their peers and followers.
Strategic best practices A number of best practices for social media marketing initiatives have already emerged, particularly in terms of planning the social media approach, and these tactics should be integrated into your overall marketing and communications strategy. The preparation stage is complex, but absolutely critical to success. There are a number of key factors to consider before beginning:
- The audience Like any marketing or communication initiative, target audience analysis can help you identify the best platforms for the most effective communication. It also helps you identify key influencers in your market, whether that is analysts or even competitors.
- Survey the social landscape What is your current status with regard to social media? Who participates and how? And what target audiences are priorities? Taking a look around can help benchmark future activities.
- Define your goals By prioritising target audiences, you can create objectives for each. What do you want from each? And perhaps more importantly, what do they want from you?
- Identify your team Who in your organisation is best placed to help with social media initiatives? This may include individuals in marketing, management, customer support, sales or IT. Your selection depends on the overall goals for the initiative and influences participation.
- Choose your platform carefully Prioritising tactics can highlight how to spend the most time and effort. For example, blogging can be highly effective but it often requires more commitment and effort, while social networking may be less effective but involve a greater time commitment. Considering the strengths and weaknesses of different platforms can help you make a better match when linking your tactics with your target audiences and goals.
One of the quickest ways to begin is to make connectivity with social networks and communities easy. For example, just adding 'Share This' links and widgets to a website can give audiences an array of of ways to not only interact but to share your content with their networks.
Social media marketing metrics Finally, in these harsh economic times, measurement is crucial. It could take the form of any or all of the following:
- Activity: both what we and others say and do. For example, number of posts, number of tweets;
- Reach: the number of connections, followers, mentions of brand and audience reached;
- Actual interactions: replies, comments, likes, re-tweets, click-throughs and lead generation.
Measurements are important because they will justify and gauge your social media marketing initiative's effectiveness and, to some degree, demonstrate your return on investment (a critical requirement at board level). But most importantly, the metrics you employ should signpost the way to improvement by clearly showing which social media tactics and approaches have worked best, and for which target audiences and platforms.