One Social Media Outlet at a Time
With 2.3 billion social media users worldwide, nearly one-third of the population, it’s clear that social media is not just for posting cat videos anymore. Companies and organizations can no longer avoid social media if they want to remain competitive. Either engage with your customers on social media or someone else will.
But where do we start? How do we build a robust digital marketing strategy in between meetings, phone calls, emails, project deadlines and making lunch plans? There are billions of social media users, hundreds of social channels, and zettabytes (a billion terabytes) of content generated every day. It can be overwhelming for even seasoned pros (see Social Media Statistics year 2019).
First, be assured that you are not alone in these feelings. Developing a robust social media strategy is something that everyone, in any size company or organization, struggles with. The most common questions around social media include:
- How do I get started?
- What type of content do I create, where and how often should I post it?
- Can’t I just hire an intern to do this for me?
- How do I measure ROI?
Globally, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest remain the most used channels so we will use those as examples to build a strategy. Keep in mind that your audience may not be on one of these channels—depending on psychographics, country/region, and other demographics—but the following principles still apply.
You can use this step-by-step guide to develop your social media strategy. In small and medium-sized businesses, this can be completed with the principal members or within a small workgroup. In larger organizations, include customer-facing employees in the process alongside your marketing staff. At the end of this exercise, you should have a working roadmap to put you on the path to social media success.
How do I get started?
Define your goals and objectives for being on social media:
What do you want to accomplish with your social media strategy? Some core goals may include providing an aftermarket touch point, raising awareness of a new product/service, driving traffic to your website, converting fans to buyers, increasing share of voice in the marketing, or building credibility as an expert. Once you’ve determined your goals, you can break down the objectives on how you will achieve each goal.
I recommend limiting your goals to three so that you can focus your efforts. A common mistake is having too many goals, which leads to feeling overwhelmed and then nothing is accomplished.
Define Your Audience
Whom are you trying to reach through social media and where? This is sometimes the hardest part of the activity. You need to think like your audience/customers. Break your customers down into segments based on age, location, income, education, and/or any other criteria that fits.
What need, want or problem can your product or service solve for them? This depends on what products or services you provide. Google provides searches for people who need to find anything. Nike provides the inspiration to be athletic. Starbucks provides its customers with a consistent experience anywhere in the world. What do you provide? This is where the input from your customer-facing staff comes into play.
Where do your customers go when online? You’ll want to know where they spend their time while on social media as well. The Pew Research Center and Quantcast are two free resources for customer insights and social use.
What type of content do I create, where, and how often should I post it?
Channels and Frequency
One misconception is that we’ve got to do everything, on every channel, all the time. If you’re just starting out with social media, or you’ve suddenly been “volun-told” to develop and deploy a strategy yet your organization doesn’t even have a Facebook page, of course, you’re overwhelmed before you’ve even started!
If you’re somewhere between novice and “I’ve got Facebook down, now what?” then you can ramp up a little quicker.
My number one piece of advice is to pick one channel and learn to master it first. Then, after a few months, you can add another and learn to master it while running your first channel at the same time. If you do nothing else from this activity, this tip will save your sanity.
In Step 2 you defined your audience and where they go online. Now you can identify the specific social media networks that you will use to promote stories and engage with your audience. Again, pick one.
It is important to post on a consistent basis and monitor the posts, and comments. Buffer.com suggests posting on Facebook up to twice a day, Twitter five times a day and LinkedIn once a day during the workweek.
Timing and frequency vary but a good rule of thumb is 8 – 10 a.m., Noon – 2 p.m. and 5 – 7 p.m. Do these times seem familiar? That’s probably because those are the times that you’re checking your social accounts. After several months of running your social accounts, you can look to the analytics to see when your fans/followers are interacting with your channels the most and adjust accordingly.
The great myth of content is that you must create brand new content each time. The reality is that most users are never going to read everything you print or post online. One secret in content marketing is to develop something once and share it on multiple platforms. Additionally, you can repurpose content from other sources, especially content from your users, as long as it is beneficial to your audience. This builds credibility and keeps you from always talking about yourself, which is boring.
Using Google Drive, an Excel Spreadsheet or another scheduling tool, create and schedule your content several weeks at a time. Make sure you capture all the details necessary for each post.
Since you already know who your audience is and where they go online, you can develop content that they will find valuable or entertaining, depending on your goals and brand voice.
Can’t I just hire an intern to do this for me?
Staff, Training and Escalating Issues
Yes, you can hire an intern. And no you can’t. Anyone you hire to assist with your social media strategy, content generation, and monitoring, will need training and a framework in which to operate. Many companies get into trouble by having untrained, unpaid, interns “do” their social media.
As you define the strategy for your social media presence, you will need to dedicate staff resources to create content, monitor channels and respond to comments and questions.
One full-time employee can oversee the content, posting, and monitoring of a social strategy. If you don’t have the luxury of employing a full-time social media strategist then consider who on your team can share the duties. Assign a channel to staff members and have them dedicate a few hours each day to managing the channel. Conduct cross training to encourage collaboration among the team. And create a social media guide that everyone in the company has access to. This includes training on how to, and to whom, to escalate problems or questions that will surely pop up from time to time.
How do I measure ROI?
Using the goals and objectives you created in Step 1, how are you going to measure success? Is it based on engagement, click-throughs, word of mouth/shares?
Determine how you want to measure your reach and monitor performance with the built-in analytics from some of the channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube), use a free tool such as Tweetchup to analyze your Tweets, and/or utilize HootSuite or Cyfe, two social monitoring sites among many, to pull all the data together in one place.
At the end of each fiscal quarter, you can look back to see what performed well and which posts got negative reactions. Based on this information you can adjust your content for the next fiscal quarter.
There are two theories on social media ROI. Some believe that social media is just that, social, and it can’t be measured in dollars. Your finance team probably won’t like that approach so proving ROI is essential. For that, you will need to determine or collect information on ‘cost per acquisition’, how much a referral costs you versus sales, customer lifetime value, and so on.
Once you attach monetary value to each click from Facebook to your website and from the landing page on your site to the order form, you can start tracking ROI. Make your finance team happy and you’ll be left to Tweet, Post, Snap and React to your heart’s content.
Ready for Take-Off
Social media is ever evolving so you need to be as agile as possible while planning for tomorrow. Sometimes you will stumble and sometimes your content will go viral for mysterious reasons. It is important to remember that you can start small and build up a social media empire. Trying to do everything all at once might work for some, but the rest of us need to take it channel by channel. Promote that channel in all your correspondence with your customers, on your website and in email signatures. Add it to your advertising and business cards to show new customers that they can find you on social media.
Begin where you feel most comfortable, be consistent and you will see results over time. Bon voyage on your social media road trip!
Chaffey, Dave (2016). Global social media research summary 2016, SmartInsights.com
Duggan, Maeve (2015). The Demographics of Social Media Users, Pew Research Center
Fox, Gretchen (2016). Top 5 Mistakes With Onboarding And Managing Junior Social Media Employees, Forbes.com
Godsall, David (2015). 11 Stats that Show How 3 Billion More People are About to Join Social Media, HootSuite.com
Lee, Kevan (2015). The Delightfully Short Guide to Social Media ROI, Buffer.com
Mongello, Kimi (2014) Timing Is Everything. Post Smarter Right Meow. Sumall.com
Cisco® Visual Networking Index (VNI) (2015). The Zettabyte Era—Trends and Analysis