Social media is the concept of people creating and sharing information and ideas with each other. The information can be in the form of text, pictures, video, audio or even data. With the rise of the Internet the cost, effort and skill of participating in social media has reduced significantly. This has resulted in many of us now being involved with social media every day, without even thinking about it. Social media is often mistaken for social networking, social networking is just a component of social media; it often adds the social glue underpinning the media publishing. It is also important to point out that social media is not just used for digital marketing, social media can also be very effective for a whole variety of things such as corporate publishing, support services, citizen reporting and many crowd sourcing initiatives.
By investing a little time and maybe some creativity, the ability to identify, reach out to and engage with a community is unmatched.
Setting a social media strategy
When considering a social media strategy don't concentrate on the technology; think about your goals, objectives and aspirations then look for the technology that can assist. It's too easy just to do something because everyone else is and not really understanding why you're doing it or what you are hoping to achieve.
Some simple things to consider that may help you define your strategy for your organisation or brand:
- Increase Awareness: Do you want an increase in your brand awareness?
- Encourage Engagement: Do you want to encourage conversations, feedback or more content?
- Drive Transactions: What is your end goal?
- Understand Sustainability: How can you ensure you keep to your timescales?
- Manage Risks: Do you know the risks?
It's probably very simple to say you want awareness, interactions and transactions, which is fine but in that case you need to define success criteria for each of them. You will also require a plan on how you encourage people from one objective to the next.
This series looks at each objective more closely:
Many people make the mistake of believing they need to start a community around their brand or project. This is certainly not the best way to start. People are already organising themselves into communities online, so an easier route is to connect with existing groups. However, ensure you listen before you engage, don't expect to start broadcasting to these communities and get a positive response. You wouldn't start shouting in a real life social situation and expect people to take you seriously, unless there was a very good reason too and even then you can only do this for a short period.
Always assess the groups you want to connect with and where they are, each community on the web has a very different demographic and style, so they should be engaged in a different way. What may work for a network such as twitter will not necessarily make sense on Facebook or LinkedIn.
When trying to increase awareness make sure you make it as simple as possible for others to help you amplify your message. Give them information to forward on (a URL pointer to some content), a user or hashtag to follow (twitter), give them groups to join (LinkedIn), organisations to become fans of (Facebook). Work on a viral aspect to your plan, if you get this right the exposure you can generate on the internet is one of the wonders of this age.
Then consider the metrics, most people have little idea of the amount of information that can be produced even by a simple awareness campaign. Without monitoring its progress, it will be near impossible to measure its effectiveness. Campaign effectiveness should be the best utilisation of your resources for the greatest return. Free and paid for tools allow you to quickly and easily monitor where, when and what is being said about your brand. And as these tools have advanced, the data can be segmented for sentiment (analysing social conversations to draw conclusions about its "emotional" content) and the reach of your conversations (how many people had the opportunity to see the message). Although, it's relatively easy to find out what is happening, these tools can rarely process the information to tell you 'why' something is happening and therefore will generally require an analyst who can make informed decisions to improve your campaigns.
Read the next consideration, Social media for digital marketing - Encourage Interaction.