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Creating a Social Media Strategy

Last night I attended a social media panel, With Jack Matthews, CEO, Fairfax Digital; Cliff Rosenberg, MD, LinkedIn Australia; and David Whittle, CEO, Mark, organized by the Australian – Israel Chamber of Commerce, and hosted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. During the panel discussion, Mr. Matthews said –
If you don’t have a social media policy for your company, you’re making a big mistake!
I totally agree with Mr. Matthews, and would like to add, that a social media policy should be introduced, in conjunction with a social media strategy. The policy is great for employees of the company, but the social media strategy should be created and implemented at the highest level of the organization.
Nick Shin has published his 7 Steps For a Successful Social Media Strategy a few days ago, which I’ve used a few tips, and added some clarifications here:

…According to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Report, 67% of marketers plan to increase their use of social media channels including blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.

As more companies integrate social media into their marketing and communications plans, emphasis needs to be on creating a social media strategy.

So how exactly do you develop this strategy?

The Prerequisite

Before you develop your strategy, make sure your upper-management team believes in social media and that the first goal is not to sell, sell, sell.  In other words, if your business is jumping into social media because “everyone else is doing it” or because you want to sell product rather than to build relationships, please step away from social media.  Social media is a long-term commitment and not a marketing gimmick.

It’s important for the organization to understand that testing and experimentation are keys to success.  This comes naturally to an organization whose culture embraces being proactive and open.  The reason why all businesses need to have a social media strategy is because it prevents any misunderstandings and emphasizes why social media is relevant to your business’ overall goals.

Here are some key points to consider…

#1: Determine Your Goals and Objectives

Determine who owns social media.  Whether it’s marketing, PR, or communications is irrelevant.  In a perfect social media world for businesses, social media instills a collaborative approach and breaks down silos. What’s important is to understand your social media goals and objectives and how they tie into your overall company goals.

Keep it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely (aka be SMART!).

#2: Research, Research, and Research Some More

Rather than jumping into social media, prepare yourself so you know what to expect.

  • Develop a list of social media sites where you can potentially engage with your target audience.  The list will most likely start off with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and a few select blogs and forums.
  • Check out each of the social media sites on your list and do additional research to determine relevancy by searching for your brand name, your competitors, and your target keywords.  Listen to what’s out there, identify, and understand your target audience.

#3: Create a Digital Rolodex of Contacts and Content

When social media is done correctly, relationships will build naturally.  Begin making connections by following the conversation.  You can do this by subscribing to blogs in your industry and by making a list of influencers who are relevant to your business.

This becomes handy when it’s time to provide content on your social networks.  Read Emily Proctor’s article in which she provides some excellent pointers on a social media content strategy

#4: Join the Conversation to Develop Relationships

You can start joining the conversation by posting comments on blogs and forums, answering questions on Yahoo! and LinkedIn, joining groups related to your industry and joining Twitter chats.

Begin developing relationships by following and friending influencers and those in your industry.  Don’t just look for people with thousands of followers; you’ll be surprised by the value that someone with only a couple of hundred followers provides.  Look at measuring twitterers influence on (surprise, surprise – twinfluence.com)

#5: Strengthen Relationships

It’s easy to hide behind your avatar or profile picture, but face-to-face is incredibly powerful.  I think more people are now realizing how underrated the in-person interaction really is because of how far social media has come, allowing so many people to “hide.”

Attend offline events related to your industry—not only to strengthen your knowledge base but also to network and strengthen relationships with those you might have conversed with via social media but never met in person.  A popular offline event is known as a tweetup.

#6: Measure Results

Goals and objectives of your social media strategy.

  • Improve brand presence across social channels—The measurement goal here is an increase in the number of followers on Twitter, number of fans on Facebook, number of comments, number of times your brand is mentioned in blogs and forums and so on.
  • Increase positive sentiment about your brand—The goal here is to convert the number of positive mentions while taking note of negative mentions.  Has the ratio of positive to negative comments improved?  With the good comes the bad in social media. Get used to it! The positive is great, but the negative is better! (Read A Complaint as a Gift – Jannelle Barlow)
  • Develop relationships for future partnership opportunities—This goal is to keep track of those with whom you’ve connected.  For example, if you met a potential speaker for your webinar, include that person into your digital Rolodex. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for it! If a vendor contacts you through your blog, capture that lead and take note.
  • Increase traffic to your website—Keep track of visitors to your website who come from each of your social media sites.  If you’re promoting an event using social media, consider using a unique code to track the campaign.
    Use GoogleAnalytics extensively! It’s free, and very comprehensive!

Measuring social media is a never-ending debate.  What metrics do you use to measure social media?  What objective are you measuring those metrics for?

When it comes to measuring social media, it takes a multitude of metrics as well as trending reports to get a sense of what to improve.

#7: Analyze, Adapt, and Improve

Your social media strategy doesn’t end with measurement; it goes beyond that.  You need to analyze your social media campaigns, adapt any new findings into your current processes, and improve your efforts.

Testing and experimentation will perfect your social media efforts.

As you dive deeper into the never-ending pool of social media, you’ll quickly understand what works and what doesn’t.

More specifically, you’ll develop favorite tools to use, realize that there are certain days and times where it doesn’t pay to be active in social media, and come to the conclusion that you still have lots to learn.  It’s a wonderful new world and I hope many of you are as thrilled to be part of it as I am.

Conclusion

Social media strategies will vary for each business and for each industry.  However, one thing is clear: social media needs to have “all hands on deck” in order to be successfully integrated into your company’s goals and objectives.

I consider the social media platforms like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., as tactics that tie into the social media strategy, which is a part of your overall PR, Comms and Marketing strategies.  In other words, outline your social media strategy and support your strategy with tactics.  Without a carefully thought-out plan, you’ll eventually be overwhelmed with social media and even worse, get burnt out by it.  Use this guide as a stepping-stone to your social media success.

Does your company have a Social Media Strategy? How do you implement it? What did you learn from that process?

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  • Chris Foster

    I would add

    #The Prerequisite

    Start by being social internally, use internal microblogs, blogs, wikis,videos etc. Get employees used to the tools and the etiquette of engagement.

    Collaborate with partners and suppliers, show them the success you are having internally. They should be part of your strategy and can help to build your own authority and influence.

    #1 SocialMedia supports>PR supports>Business Objectives

    #2 (a)Target audience is your existing customer base, where are they?…go there. (b)Who are the first degree friends of your existing customers, where are they…go there (c) Existing customers are your evangelists, leverage them

    #3 Leverage your customer/partner/supplier email databases via online tools that can connect the dots and advise you, what networks your existing customers are on.

    #4 Trust
    attention + trust = influence attention + trust = authority

    People trust people, not companies…show the person behind the tweets.

    Use actual shots of people that work in the business for your website, in place of stock photos.

    #6 “The measurement goal here is an increase in the number” Sorry disagree on that point.
    “When it comes to measuring social media, it takes a multitude of metrics” Maybe just ask the accountant for one metric: change in profit :)

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Chris – Excellent points!
      I agree with all, however would like to highlight your #4 – “people trust people, not companies!” I think this is a great point, and a way to make the conversation a lot more personal and therefore trust-based (especially on Twitter!).
      This point can lead to the discussion whether to use company logo or a person’s photo, but that’s a completely different blog post 😉

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Glenn Hansen

    Raz, great points and a well-presented piece. I particularly like points #4 and #5, and I always like to emphasize with this that Social Media is about Communication, not about tools and technology.

    So when you discuss “Join the Conversation” and “Strengthen Relationships” I think of clear, concise communication as the tactic to deliver on the strategy.

    I encourage business professionals to focus on that, not on the technology, no matter the social media tools used.

    Thanks, Glenn

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Great input, Glenn, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Raz

    I would add listening as a big part of the strategy. It seems that you may be putting listening into research above. Listening is ongoing and helps with the strategies and tactics portion when you look how to obtain objectives and ultimately the overall goals.

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Suzanne, listening is an important part of the strategy, however it is not just in the research – it will start there, but will continue through development of the relationships, and through Strengthening the relationships phase.
      Offline, or online – we have two ears and one mouth, and we should be using them in that ratio.
      When we analyse, and adapt, we’ll base our actions on the community’s feedback. That’s where we’ll show and prove we’re listening, not just hearing.
      Thanks for your participating, and helping me clarify :)
      Raz

  • http://www.thenumbersgame.com.au Leanne Berry

    Hi Raz
    On point 3 a great tool to get started with your existing contacts in Outlook is something like Xobni – it lets you see what platforms your contacts are connected to and allows you to connect with them – this can give you a “safe” place from which to start your online journey
    Leanne

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