Social media has exploded exponentially over the past few years. Many marketers find themselves rushing to start a plan or strategy without really understanding how to use social media or how social media can help their company. While some marketers believe social media is a platform for direct sales, others see social media as a communications vehicle to listen to and engage their customers. Which ever school of thought you may subscribe to, one thing is for certain, without a social media process, your online marketing efforts faces an uphill battle.
In this post, I outline 10 steps to developing a social media process. The information listed below should serve as a primer to developing a social media strategy for your business. No matter how small or large your business, you can benefit from the information below.
Developing a Social Media Process
1. Monitor and Listen
Explore and listen to what others are saying about your company as well as your competitors. This will form the basis of your reputation online (as well as your competitors reputation). Develop a monitoring strategy to discover:
- issues discussed by customers and others that impact your brand
- opinions customers have about your company, products and competitors
- people who are or can serve as influencers in your market
- places where your customers post comments, e.g. social media platforms such as Facebook, chat rooms/forums, or blog comments
2. Establish Goals
Do not fall into the trap that many marketers find themselves in with social media implementation; they set up a social media account, make a few posts, then stop or post inconsistently. Set clear goals and goals for what you want to achieve. Some social media goals may include:
- developing relationships with your customer base and community
- establishing your company or brand as a credible source
- providing outbound company communications
- utilizing social media sites as a customer service platform
- repositioning your company
3. Limit your Social Media Platforms
Not every social media website is for every company or product. Select the more important platforms that benefit your company’s objectives. Communication messages are different for each platform. If your company produces only one or two videos per year or you are not consistent with video production, then you may want to avoid video sharing platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo.
4. Develop Key Messages
Based on your company’s social media goals, develop clear communications that help your organization engage with your target audience in a meaningful way. Consumers want relevant information that’s important to them. This may include:
- company closures that may affect employment or the community
- how-to videos that relate to using your products
- important policy or legal information that affects the consumer
- links to relevant third-party content
Ask yourself, “What topics will portray the company in the best possible way?” It’s also a good idea to develop a master list of canned messages or responses to the more frequently posted comments by consumers. This helps keep your company’s communication consistent.
5. Create Good, Useful Content
I mentioned this in # 4, directly above, create relevant information or content that is important to your target audience. Direct sales messages have no place in social media. Social media is considered a platform to “mingle” and share valuable stories (content) that benefit your target audience. Content should help solve your audiences problem as well as inform them. Some common types of marketing communications vehicles used to deliver meaningful content may include:
- Powerpoint slides
Remember, relevant content is key to your success. Make certain the content share is in-line with your communication goals mentioned in step 2, above. When commenting and/or responding to comments from your audience, keep them relevant and helpful.
6. Assemble a Social Media Team
If you work in a small to midsized business (SMB), maintaining the social media process and communications responsibility often falls on employee’s who already have other organizational responsibilities. Establishing key roles and responsibilities are essential for organizations regardless if a dedicated online marketing team exists or does not exist.
Responsibilities delegated to key employee’s may include:
- uploading content
- managing videos
- responding to customer comments
- specified topics or issues
- monitoring each social media website and blog comments
Establishing a posting time schedule is important; keeping in mind that businesses with customers in different time zones may need to monitor social media activity, including posting relevant content, early in the morning or later in the evening.
7. Commit Time and Resources
If you are developing a social media process, then commit the time and resources required to successfully manage a strategy. Some items that require commitment may include:
- developing a content schedule and editorial calendar, especially for blogging
- training staff responsible for the social media plan
- keeping your organization informed on your social media events
- daily or weekly meetings to discuss strategy and issues that may arise from comments
- deciding to keep your social media monitoring in-house or outsourcing it to an agency
8. Promote your Social Media
Add your social media sites, i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to your website as well as all of your offline marketing communications collateral. If you do not promote your social media presence, your customers will not know you have one.
9. Online and Offline Event Integration
This step in the social media process is important for larger organizations with teams handling offline and online marketing. Both offline and online marketing teams must coordinate with one another to make sure consistency across all marketing communication channels. Develop a strategy and plan for keeping the offline marketing communications team aware of all social media communications. The opposite holds true for the offline team, keeping you, the online social media team aware of all events and outbound communications.
10. Measure your Success
Measuring success is critical to any social media strategy. Observe and analyze your social media analytics. Check for spikes in your data; is there a specific post that generates more comments and traffic? How about a specific time of day or certain geographic areas that tend to respond more than others? Learn to analyze the data and make adjustments as necessary.
Social media is new to many companies who do not understand it or know where to begin. Developing a social media process and getting organized is a good beginning toward social media success. Remember, good, useful content that engage your target audience and consistency are key to your success.
Smith, P.R. and Zook, Zee (2011) Marketing Communications: Integrating Offline and Online with Social Media. London, United Kingdom: Kogan Page Limited.