ADOTAS – With social media attracting consumers in droves, businesses are scrambling to get on the bandwagon and exploit a new “direct marketing” channel. While many organizations succeed, many more struggle or fail altogether. The biggest reason is a business’s approach. Too few stop to develop a strategy and a roadmap of where they want social media to take them. An effective strategy begins with understanding the channel.
Social media is about conversations, not marketing. It’s about participants who seek out dialogue about their interests. For businesses, social media provides a unique opportunity to listen, engage and collaborate with audiences across various venues; as a result, organizations can form deeper, more profitable relationships with customers.
Ask the Right Questions
As with any initiative, a social media effort must begin with a sound strategy with clear objectives. Instead of beginning with questions like, “What should I be doing on Facebook?” or “What’s our Twitter strategy?”, companies should start by asking some more fundamental questions, such as: What outcome do we want? Why are we doing this? How are we going to do it? Who will be involved? How will it integrate with our marketing mix? How will we measure success?
The answers to such questions will help guide a social media strategy and help your company achieve goals such as growing sales, building relationships or creating buzz. You may find that certain popular social networking sites may not deliver the audience and lasting result you desire, or that some vehicles may not be consistent with your overall brand strategy.
Remember that social media is about interaction. Ask what it is that your customers would want to achieve by building a relationship with your organization. Your social networking efforts must provide some value, whether it’s enhancing an individual’s reputation within a network, providing an increased sense of efficacy, encouraging a stronger connection with a community or group, or simply providing an opportunity for individuals to share and reciprocate.
Design the Conversation
Armed with a sense of what you and your customers can gain from a social networking strategy, design a conversation that empowers and involves the user. A rich user experience stands out and speaks to consumers; only if it’s authentic to your company, evolves over time, and recognizes the importance of integrating consumers into its design. The better the experience, the more likely your consumers will return time and again.
Setting up a good social media experience requires creative problem solving, as the experience is really a balancing act that requires an alignment between user and business goals. It’s critical to provide the right tools and content so that users can help develop the community, setting a tone that is distinct.
Consider the fluid nature of conversations. They begin in one context such as a phone call or meeting between colleagues, and these conversations grow from there to other individuals and venues. Social media initiatives must do the same. Providing freedom to move conversations from place to place will allow users to expand your reach and potentially impact new audiences. By empowering the right people in your networks, you relay the opportunity and power to evangelize your brand.
Don’t Abandon Traditional Media
Given the range of possibilities with new media, the number of users and cost effectiveness, it may be tempting to abandon traditional media and marketing initiatives while embracing social networking strategies. Such a drastic step, however, could prove disastrous. Evaluate traditional media strategies to determine which ones have been effective, and find ways to integrate new media with the old. Old and new media support each other and the customer experience.
Demonstrating ROI is critical to measuring success, and online media can provide measurements – click-throughs, sales tracking, etc. – that may be more difficult to quantify through traditional media. When embarking on a social media campaign, determining measurements for success can be challenging, particularly when much of a campaign may focus on qualitative experiences such as building brand loyalty. But, it can be done.
Instead of measuring loyalty by how many followers your company has on Twitter, measure the number of people who tweet positively about your company. Or better yet, measure the number of things your company is known for doing well and those that you can improve on. Finally, don’t forget the quantitative metrics such as email opt-ins, comments posted, or dollars in direct or participatory revenue.
New Media, Old Common Sense
Exciting opportunities abound in new media. Ground your social strategy in solid strategic planning that incorporates both old and new media. While using an integrated approach can be challenging, it should produce results well worth the effort.