In the past few years, a lot of businesses have adopted social media as part of their overall marketing strategy. They recognized the need to be where there customers are and created profiles across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Some ventured into Pinterest, Google+ and even Snapchat or others.
But for many of those businesses, results have been mixed.
A cry of “I don’t know if I’m getting any return on my investment in social media” is common.
In fact, the success of your social media activities depends on how you outlined those activities in the first place. If your original goal was “just get our business on Facebook because everyone else is there”, it’s unlikely you’re seeing much in the way of results, and you’re probably already somewhat frustrated. If you have some followers on Twitter, and are getting some of your Facebook posts are being shared, you may also think that you’re doing quite well – and it’s certainly better than a poke in the eye. But if you hired a social media intern a year ago and you’re not sure if you’re getting the results you’d hoped for, this article’s for you.
Let’s take a look at what you need to do if you already have a social media presence and aren’t sure if it’s working for you:
7-step Social Media Strategy Refresher
1. Identify your business goals
It’s a common fallacy that social media should be treated differently from other marketing or business strategies. Yes, social media is different in the sense that it provides the opportunity for two-way communication between a business and its customer. But a business should still fold social media into its overall business strategy – and use the same language and metrics to apply goals, conduct campaigns, serve customers and assess success.
Your social media strategy should align with your overall business goals.
If you’re clear on what you want to achieve via social media, it will be easier to know whether you’ve achieved those goals. If you haven’t done so already, identify and organize your goals according to your business priorities. To determine your goals, look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, both current and on the horizon (a SWOT analysis). In addition to looking at your own business, conduct an assessment of the landscape, your competitors, trends and customer expectations (a PEST analysis). You might consider research, marketing or sales goals, customer service goals, complaint management or hiring goals. Any and all of these are applicable in social media – it’s a highly flexible stage for your business.
2. Conduct an audit of your current social network profiles
What social channels are you engaging on today? Has anything changed in your business that might impact which platforms you should maintain a presence on, remove or add? How effective is each one in reaching your business goals (the ones you identified in Step 1)? You should also claim names on social networks where necessary to prevent “brandjacking”, on the platforms that make sense for your business.
Brandjacking is “digital squatting” – claiming a business name on a social network that represents a business name, without the authorization of the company.
Make sure your company and brands are yours, and register account names associated with your business and brand before someone else does.
If you can show that your company name is well known and someone has brandjacked a profile with your business name, most social networks these days will work with you to reacquire the name, but it’s not guaranteed that you can get your company name back.
3. Analyze Audience Engagement
Is your content disappearing into the internet abyss of bad content or is it effective and resonating with your audience? Are people posting, liking, linking, sharing and quoting your content? Which content is working, why and when? Are some days or times more successful than others? Engagement is the key on social media, but engagement also has to be a means to an end. That means that engagement should tie to a business goal.
Getting 500 comments on a Facebook post may sound great but it doesn’t tell the whole picture.
What business driver does a metric influence? If your business goal was to generate positive awareness about a specific new product, and the majority of comments were positive, then you may have reached your goal. But if the goal was to successfully launch a new product and most of the comments were highly negative, the campaign probably wasn’t so successful and would need to be re-examined.
4. Audit your brand across current social network channels
Your brand is what your company represents to your prospects and customers, and is represented by more than just your logo. What does your brand convey today? Is it consistent and clearly articulated across all social networking channels? Your digital brand is the the sum of what you put forward online – design elements, messaging, tone of voice, content and customer service, across all your social channels. Establish a baseline of your existing brand, then identify and close gaps. You may also uncover opportunities to strengthen your brand at this stage.
5. Assess Employee Activity
Are your employees posting on Facebook or Twitter on behalf of your company? Are you using any bloggers or influencers to amplify your message? If you’re using employees or external influencers to spread your messaging across social media, make sure you’re complying with any regulations in your industry, as well as any advertising regulations on social media.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has jurisdiction over online advertising, has started to crack down on companies that pay other people to promote their marketing messages, with specific requirements for paid content and native advertising.
There are also restrictions and requirements for employees who are posting on behalf of a company on their personal social media profiles. If your business is in a regulated industry such as financial services, healthcare or a professional occupation, or you have regulated users, it’s even more critical to make certain that your employees have clear guidelines on the difference between their personal and professional social media accounts and activities. There may be an executive in your company who wants to use social media but isn’t sure how to begin or is worried about potential risks. We recommend a series of steps to ensure that they can engage safely and with a mitigation plan in place.
6. Measure and Analyze
Data is excellent, it’s a hard metric that can quantify analysis and provide solid information about the work that’s been undertaken. To make sound business decisions, it’s also critical to look at the right data, and provide context and analysis. There’s also what we call soft data – the qualitative side of metrics. Just as important, this is descriptive information that tells a story about the results.
Both quantitative and qualitative data are important to consider when making business decisions.
Social media is rich with both types of data, and should be regularly measured and analyzed. This allows continual testing and adjustment of your overall social media strategy, so you can continue to make progress against your business goals.
Tip: Don’t allow social media to be siloed from other marketing or business activities. That’s a surefire way for social media to fail. In other words, your goal shouldn’t be “to get 50k likes on Facebook” – that’s a meaningless metric to your business. A better goal might be “to increase customer awareness of our new ABC widget” – still business-focused and specific enough to be measurable.
7. Assess the Tools and Resources you’ve applied to the work
What tools, if any, are you using today to manage your social media presence? Most social media management tools have undergone major updates and changes in the past few years, and the landscape has splintered and specialized. Additionally, do you have the right resources for each channel or do you need to re-allocate time, people and money?
What made sense for your business a couple of years ago may no longer make sense given the current landscape.
You may need to reduce or expand your overall commitment, or be more selective about how you apply those precious resources, given your future plans. Make certain that social media is included early when assessing your overall digital marketing budget and resource allocation, so there are fewer surprises later on.
So here’s the recap:
You’re on social media but you’re not certain if you’re getting any bang for the buck.
We recommend a 7-step social media refresher – an approach that aligns your social media activities with your business activities overall. Start with your business goals, extend them into a strong social media strategy and set of tactics, and make sure your employees are well informed and armed with information. Execute well, with a robust set of tools on selected channels that meet your needs. Measure, analyze and tweak as you build momentum.
And hold social media to the same type of accountability that you would with any other business strategy.