Social media needs to be a part of every marketing campaign. In my last post I described the importance of designating an employee or team who will manage the company’s social media pages, but the social message should be integrated with the rest of the company’s marketing strategy. A successful social media plan includes research, a strategy with a consistent message, intriguing and interactive content, and good use of web analytics.
It takes a significant amount of research to figure out exactly what you want out of your social media activity. I never stop researching, because there is always something new to learn about building a brand on social media. You need to know the basics, like how you can best reach your target audience through social media, but also doing a full SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and competitive analysis will give you the best idea on what platforms and content your business should focus.
Your company’s marketing personnel will probably already have an updated target audience and SWOT. If your business has a sparse team, however, perhaps everyone has a hand in the marketing. To integrate the current marketing strategy and message into your social media plan, you will still need to understand how audiences use each platform. What I find most helpful is researching other companies who have maintained a successfully active presence on social media. Forbes.com and other business-minded sites often post “best of” lists, including companies who rock at being social and engaging consumers. The lists almost never include the same companies, but they can give you a starting point of what it takes to get more followers, likes and shares. Here are two lists from 2014 posted on the Forbes and Fortune websites. Take a peek at others in your industry, too. What are they doing on their Facebook and Twitter accounts? Is it working? What could you do differently to make your business stand out?
Research doesn’t end once you have a good sense of where and how your company will shine. A good social media manager will continue to research emerging tools and platforms. They will stay up-to-date on the industry in order to share better information with consumers. The continuous research helps the company’s strategy, message and content evolve with their audience.
Strategy and Message
Social media is a great tool for consumer engagement and word-of-mouth marketing, also known as inbound marketing, Your goal is to bring consumers to you through engaging content. The strategy to execute that goal is mapped out by the research, and sets the stage for the message or core mission of your brand.
The strategy answers a minimum of these seven questions:
- What goals do we have for social media, and how will we accomplish them?
- Which social media platforms best align with our audience and can best represent our brand?
- What message do we want to send, and with what tone?
- What kind of content will inspire our audience to interact?
- How often should we aim to post on each platform?
- Will we use any social media management tools, such as Hootsuite or Shortstack?
- How will we measure the impact of our activity?
It’s best to go in with a clear focus, a detailed picture of how your company can interact with consumers and accomplish whatever goals have been established. Don’t try to choose too many platforms or goals, or separate from the company’s mission in an attempt to please everyone. This will confuse the message, and then the content will be inconsistent. Whether your company wants to re-establish brand identity, boost sales, or just engage with consumers, that goal should be considered with every post. Use the research, map out the plan, and move on to content creation.
Content and Tone
Now that you have a plan and a focused message, you can create content that reflects that message. Consumers read and engage with content that is useful, novel or entertaining, but a social business should keep the content consistent with the brand identity and goal as well. Companies with the most social media success post with personality. Their posts are amusing, relatable and human, yet keep a certain tone across the board. Many also opt out of being “too promotional.” You can leave the promotional materials to the advertisements while still promoting your brand just by humanizing it through well-fitted content.
As for original content creation versus found and shared content, there is no perfect ratio. I have seen companies that only use original content related specifically to the brand, and others choose to use second-party posts for nearly 50 percent of their content. I certainly wouldn’t suggest using only shared content, however, as that would do next to nothing for boosting your company’s message. Both original, or organic, and shared content require staying up-to-date in the industry as well as big news for your core audience. The company is responsible for being responsive on social media. If your business is geared towards airplane fanatics and there is an aerial show or aircraft exhibit touring the country, you better post content about it or watch your brand identity lose some status points. If your company just made headlines for something that could blemish them, it is absolutely necessary to take the initiative of informing consumers about what is happening.
Content creation takes time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 500 to 1,000 word blog post or a funny meme. Original content requires research, creativity and expertise, and sometimes certain computer software. Content with images are much more likely to be read and shared. Websites with videos have shown to retain more new visitors. If your social media team doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in graphic design or producing videos, they better get familiar with at least creating simple images that go along with well-written pieces. (Fortunately, these are skills that can be self-taught through how-to videos and guides found all over the Web.) To make things easier, you may want to set up a few templates to make content creation a faster process. For instance, you can use the same color scheme and fonts for certain stories or graphics, and have a rule of where the company logo is located on every piece.
As content is posted and consumers start engaging with your brand – or if they are not engaging – your company has the ability to analyze and modify its social activity. Every day, every post can be measured for views and engagement. Not all social platforms have built-in analytics, but there are many tools that help a business keep track of website or landing page traffic generated by social media or other sources. In your business’s research and strategy, the tools to use may have already been decided. If not, you will want to figure out the best way to measure your business’s social media impact. Will you use Google Analytics, or pay for tools like Simply Measured or Sprout Social? You might not mind knowing the absolute minimum of how your activity is doing, but some companies feel they benefit from knowing more than just a visitor count but even tracking who is talking about them all over the Web.
No matter what form of measurement you choose, use it to your company’s advantage. React to what consumers are saying about you and how they are engaging. Put more of the kind of content people are sharing and figure out what brings them to the business website or influences a purchase. Any information is learning material, and good social businesses will evolve as their audience interacts with them.
I hope this information encouraged you to look further into developing your brand identity through social media. It is a great tool, full of many other tools, for every business or organization. If you have anything to add, or have a different opinion on social business strategy, please feel free to comment below!