You wouldn’t start an ad campaign without a strategy. You shouldn’t post on Facebook without one, either.
Nearly every business that hasn’t yet jumped aggressively into social media is looking to. Few, though, really have a clear idea of what they are trying to accomplish, how they should approach it and what resources and commitments are required to be successful.
Think about it: Do you know what social media success looks like? (Hint: It’s not one million followers!)
For those looking to make the leap, or perhaps exploring how to take a lukewarm social presence and make it better, start by listening instead of talking. That means doing a so-called social audit, where you identify your main competitors, your ideal targets and the key influencers in your category.
Here’s how to get started.
Find Your Venues - Few companies jumping into social have the time or resources to be everywhere–and you shouldn’t try. Identify the ideal platforms for your business (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) based on what each can accomplish and how they fit together. Where are your best-in-class competitors making their investments, and why?
This is not a decision to make lightly. You want to connect with your customers where they already live and play. Speaking with them where they’re already comfortable plays critical role in bringing them back to your own venues and establishing a direct relationship with them.
Discover Your Voice - Brands often make the mistake of posting in a robotic voice that lacks any sense of personal connection. Engagement happens on a human level. Companies that succeed in social media humanize their brands–they create a unique voice and personality.
Find those in your space that drive real dialog with their fan base, and you’ll notice real personality in the posts. It may be fun, witty, consultative, “thinky” or something else. But it’s not generic. Create a voice that is true to your brand and engaging to your target.
Adjust Your Volume - Nobody likes a chatterbox, but it’s also important to be active and participatory in social. Where’s that line between being invited in and asked to leave? Again, listening to the social environments and competition can guide you to the right volume in your social efforts, both how often you post and the speed, expectations and frequency of responding to posters to your environments.
Set Your Strategy
You wouldn’t start a marketing campaign without a strategy. And you shouldn’t post on Facebook without one, either. As you fight for engagement and interaction with your target customers, what unique value are you providing that will make them want to “like” your brand and engage with your content, and how you will measure and report those metrics of success. The first and most important step is to identify what you should say that resonates with your target audience. Here are some specific things that you can do to help identify where to start:
- Explore conversations from a wide variety of sources to see what issues are popping for people in your target. There are free tools you can use like Social Mention, Google Alerts, and Topsy. Be prepared to wade thorough lots of posts, but this is a valuable exercise.
- Visit forums to see what topics are of interest relative to your business. The social listening step will identify a few popular forums.
- Identify a few key influencers to help amplify you message. Follow them and listen to what they’re saying. Free tools like Followerwonk can help guide your selection.
- Visit competitor sites to see what topics are driving engagement.
Armed with a working knowledge of the social media space, the efforts of your competitors, and the interests of your target customers, you are ready to roll. Be prepared to make a long-term investment to bring your social plans to life and put metrics in place before you begin that are both measurable and aligned with your business goals.