Social media has grown from a curiosity to an integral piece of corporate strategy in the space of only a few years. Nearly overnight, business owners have brought on whole teams of specialists to craft effective social media strategies and manage multiplying numbers of social media accounts. The truth is that you can build an efficient and valuable social media strategy by following a few Best Practices. Successful businesses start by identifying the social networks they need to be active on and the tactics they need to use on each network. A good strategy will discuss the type of content to be posted — including a discussion of “Voice” and “Tone.” Following the social activities of others is useful to come up with your own “style.” When you find a brand whose approach you like, spend some time studying what they do with their followers. Watch for several weeks and get a sense of the cadence of their social activities. Immersion will give you confidence for the next step — Implementation.
Here are some Best Practices as you put your plan into action:
Nobody has time to waste. Take a look at your strategy and review the reasons your business is implementing a social media marketing plan. What do you want out of social activities? Are you trying to drive people to your website, your blog, or your Facebook page? Focusing on your ultimate goal will guide your next steps: what you do (what channels you will use), when you do it (what schedule you will aim for), and what content you’ll share (blogs, ebooks, testimonials, webinars, tip sheets, etc.). This kind of analysis can head off social missteps (remember the United Airlines baggage handlers’ debacle?) and help you focus on what’s important and productive.
Social media is global now; it doesn’t sleep. Your social media management tool needs to allow you to easily schedule messages, unless you have employees who cover all the time zones in shifts! Even while you sleep in, say, Duluth, you will want to schedule messages to go out to your customers in Tokyo during their workday.
If you want to take scheduling to the next level, look for a tool like HootSuite that integrates with a Contact Relationship Manager like Nimble and offers the ability to schedule large batches of messages at once. This will be an incredibly useful timesaver when it comes to managing campaigns or contests that require heavy messaging around a certain period of time.
GEO When it comes to interacting with your customers, those in different locations may have different needs, speak different languages, or follow different trends. You’re going to want to optimize your searches and filter them by language to help you curate relevant content for different demographics.
KEYWORDS Through social media, businesses can keep their finger on the pulse of their industry. Setting up keyword search streams provides insight into what your customers think is trendy. This can be great intelligence to help you develop a marketing strategy that focuses on your customer’s lifestyles and personal preferences. There are lots of apps that will help with this; you can set up Google alerts for free and chose how often you want to be notified.
Keywords are useful for keeping track of competitors’ activities but they’re also useful for tracking brands that are complementary to yours. If your product or service is often purchased in conjunction with another product or service, keep an eye on the complementary product’s social media activity. Be ready to take advantage of promotions or recent sales — because these are potential leads ready to be converted.
COLLABORATION It takes two, as they say, to tango, especially when it comes to being social. An effective social media campaign will benefit from collaboration. Set clear expectations and solicit employee buy-in. Can your employees help you with the management of your social presence? Are they enthusiastic about participating? Do you have a social media management tool that enables you to seamlessly collaborate with your team to ensure you execute an integrated social media management strategy? The answers to these questions can mean a greatly amplified social voice for your brand.
REPORTING Gone are the days of social media purely being about “building buzz.” It is now a line item in budgets as business owners invest resources to turn social relationships into business opportunities. With a line item comes the need to demonstrate return on investment.
Set up a system for analyzing important metrics (such as click-through rates on shortened links, clicks by region, and top referrers). It’s also important to have access to Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. You’ll want to track your Twitter @mentions and watch trends as people follow you on Twitter. Are you on Google+ or LinkedIn? What metrics will tell you if you are succeeding? You might have to pull your statistics from several places, but the data is valuable and worth a bit of trouble.
Access in-depth granular metrics on the efficacy of your social media programs. This is important because you will understand which messages result in the highest number of conversions, which platform is providing the greatest return — even what time of day is most effective to drive traffic.
WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED Social media is here to stay, but it’s still in its formative stages, and a lot of brands are still just skimming the surface of its business potential. To maintain a competitive advantage, businesses need to stay alert and aware. Develop a strategy you are comfortable implementing, even if you start small.. Then stay focused. Don’t waste your time telling your followers where you’re eating lunch. Have a purpose, prioritize your tasks, and keep good metrics to track results. When you do these things, your social media efforts will result in increased revenue to your business.
One of the most pressing questions whether you’re a social media newbie or a social media maven is: What’s the best way to post information or share content to optimize your reach?
A study was recently conducted with more than 200 companies to determine how social media professionals may optimise their engagement with both business-to-business and business-to-consumer conversations.
Researchers evaluated numerous factors such as the number of words in a post, the time of the posting, the day of the week as well as punctuation and the usage of hashtags.
As with many communications and marketing tactics, the answer depends entirely on the targeted audience.
The key finding: Mondays and Wednesdays are the best days to post on Twitter if you want to reach consumers. For LinkedIn, Monday is your best day.
But if you want to reach other businesses, Tweet on Wednesday and post to LinkedIn on Sunday.
And what about the use of hashtags? Hashtags are best saved for business-to-business-oriented posts but don’t work nearly as well if consumers are your target.
The biggest surprise for me was that the use of questions marks significantly minimizes your click-through rates between 25 and 52 percent as compared to posts without questionmarks.
Check out this infographic for details on how to maximize your social sharing efforts. It’s an Eye Opener!
Are you designing and scheduling your social media for real results or do you need a hand with all the busyness?
What do you find gets the best results?
Here are 10 very simple steps to make sure that your social media marketing programme starts smart, has a strong launch and allows you to get the most from your new B2B communications.
1. Determine Social Media Marketing Programme Goals
Though it’s a brand new era, the place to begin is with the age-old exercise of goal-setting: Will you be working to generate new leads and sales, increase awareness of your offerings, decrease marketing spend as compared to traditional media, ensure the relevance of your company, decrease purchasing cycles, extend the reach of your market footprint… or achieve other goals?
Remember, you’ll be investing time, budget, and resources into your social media marketing programmes, so the first step is to determine exactly what you’re seeking to achieve in return.
2. Conduct Three-Point Research
A well-planned initiative always involves research at the outset, and with social media there are three key types of research that you’ll need to conduct—customer, competitive, and community:
To ensure that your programs deliver a high level of value, identify your customers’ business needs, challenges, and technology preferences.
To differentiate yourself from your competitors, understand which programs, tools, and content they are (and are not) employing.
Learn which online professional communities—and influencers—are relevant to your business sector so that you can start building relationships with them.
3. Set a Strategy
Now that you’ve determined your goals and done your research, you can move on to setting your strategy.
A (very) common misstep by marketers starting out in social media is that they identify a tool before setting a strategy: They just know “We need to get on Facebook, Now!”—but don’t know why they should, much less how they’ll use their presence to achieve business benefits.
Once you’ve set your strategy for reaching your goals, the set of tools you’ll need becomes very clear—whether your social media marketing strategy is to educate your audience on a business subject, produce an outlet for like-minded professionals to network, initiate a new communications channel or application that saves executives time and solves business problems, or create a new outlet for crowdsourcing product development.
4. Identify your Marketing 2.0 Toolset
Providing an unprecedented array of tools, technologies, and platforms, social media offers B2B marketers more choice than ever, at the most affordable costs. So choose wisely and make sure that the tools you choose support your strategy (step 3) and map to your audience’s comfort levels (step 2).
Some professional audiences are more comfortable participating in online forums than they are using Twitter or Facebook, whereas others might prefer content delivered in text, such as in the form of a blog, rather than via audio podcasts or online videos.
5. Define ROI Metrics
Now that you’ve designated your goals, strategy, and tools, it’s time to define a set of metrics to evaluate your program’s ROI.
Depending on your goals, metrics might measure the number of leads generated, increase in sales, the number of brand mentions and whether they’re positive or negative, improvement in search engine rankings, level of user engagement, and so on.
The point is that you’ll need to closely track progress, so you’ll want to define which metrics you’re assessing, how you’ll assess them, and how often. And you won’t only need them for your own department… Trust me, your boss will be asking for them, too.
6. Train Your People
Because these two-way tools give rise to powerful, customer-led communities, many marketing practices have drastically changed. The BIG action point here is to not only prepare your social media program but also prepare your people for social media.
Ensure that everyone involved with the program understands the fundamentals of marketing and communicating with these new media, practices that increase success rates, and what practices to avoid in order to decrease risk.
7. Create Content Processes
Social media marketing programs don’t have specific start and end dates—once they’re launched they keep going and need constant attention and care. Far too many marketers create the program, but not the processes needed to support the program.
Creating processes is key in ensuring that your programs remain “fresh” with new content and are managed by resources that can answer users’ questions in a timely fashion, interact with the community on a regular basis, and take care of issues when they arise.
8. Implement Monitoring Systems
In this new world order—where everyone has a voice and everyone is empowered with the tools to amplify their opinions, preferences, and ideas—monitoring online conversations is not a luxury, it’s a priority.
Whether a customer is expressing a compliment, voicing a complaint, or offering a suggestion, you need to know about it, no matter where on the Web it’s being mentioned.
There are plenty of free and paid services that will enable you to monitor online mentions; you’ll also need to identify which resource will be tracking brand mentions and responding to feedback when necessary.
9. Launch… and Promote!
Now that you’ve done the upfront work, built your program, created your processes, trained your people, and instituted brand monitoring systems, you’re ready to launch.
But just as we learned during the Web’s early days, the “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality is a surefire way to fail.
It’s a good idea to stay in beta (or soft-launch mode) for a couple months to ensure all features and processes are working optimally, but when you’re ready you’ll most definitely want to promote your new social media marketing program and have a plan for doing so.
10. Facilitate Internal Communications
Once you’ve shared your program with the world, share the lessons learned and the progress of your social media programs with other departments and groups in your organization that would also benefit from those insights—such as Management, Customer Service, PR, Sales, and R&D.
You might distribute monthly reports, or make a quarterly event of holding brown-bag lunch briefings where you invite representatives from relevant departments to discuss findings and next steps—and let social media be a way to open up conversations within your own company, too.
What tools do you use to market through Social Media and how do you measure? We’d love to hear in the comments below!
To most business owners who have spent years and thousands of euros building their brand and developing a client base, chucking it all away to reinvent your business probably seems like the height of insanity. And if you do it on the fly or haphazardly, it probably is. But there are many reasons to tweak your business model, or to try out a whole new one, that make perfect sense. If you do it thoughtfully, it could be the best business decision you ever make.
Here’s our guide to reinventing your business, one smart step at a time.
Know When to Make a Change
The first step is deciding if it’s the right time for a change. Carol O’Kelly, a strategic marketing specialist and business development mentor says she sees a pattern with small-business owners. “Most people who come to me have been running their businesses for about seven to ten years,” she says. “They spend the first three years absorbed in getting things started. Then they’re in a growth phase for three or four years. Then they hit a hole, can’t sustain the business or don’t find the work challenging anymore and want to try something different.”
Many factors can push a small-business owner toward reinvention – it may be a market driven push, the need to spend more time with family or lack of financial sustainability. You may just be bored. All are legitimate reasons for change. But you need to be practical, too. Any change involves risk. You need to set out very clearly why you feel you want to change and be specific about it.
Decide What You Want
After the decision is made to change, you need to decide what type of change is necessary to meet your goals. “Once you decide there’s something you can do better, you need to decide whether to make a little tweak or a major overhaul,” O’Kelly says. “You have to decide what’s best for your brand. It’s a matter of looking at your core competencies and concentrating on what you’re best at.”
“Entrepreneurs have more ideas than they have time for. The absolute first stage is deciding to cut off all those other ideas and focus on one. Making a decision to make a decision is the hardest thing for entrepreneurs to do.”
The easiest way to figure out what to change – and at what magnitude – is to work backwards. Are you chiefly interested in reducing the hours you spend in the office? Are you sick of selling office supplies and think running a dog bakery is your destiny? “Once you have clarity on your goals and values,” O’Kelly says, “you have a compass to guide you and help you decide which ideas are good and which are simply the desire to do something different.”
Follow the Plan
The next step is something every business owner should be experienced at – developing and following a business plan. You need to approach each change as if you’re starting from scratch. You need to think it through thoroughly, figure out who the competition is, how you are going to beat them and what the costs are.
Entrepreneurs and owner/managers tend to rely on intuition a lot, but you need to make sure other people think your plan is a good idea. Sit down with a mentor for an hour and justify your proposed changes.
Make the Switch
During the transition, you’ll likely be running two businesses at once as you phase out the old business model and ramp up the new one. “Sometimes reinvention means running two businesses simultaneously for almost a year,” O’Kelly warns. “It’s overwhelming, and business owners are often so excited about the new model, they want to let go of the old model. It’s not fun.”
The solution is to create a detailed exit strategy. Allow time to negotiate new leases, bring on new employees or train current employees. Be transparent through the whole process with vendors, customers, employees and, most important, your family. Give everyone notice that changes are coming, when they will happen, what it means for them and why it is important for you.
Mentor and Manage
Even those committed to sticking to their business plans can start to deviate. O’Kelly suggests bringing in outside help. “Business owners sometimes need people to bounce things off of to keep them from going off in crazy directions,” she says. “Some people go through a grieving process. They’re letting go of a piece of something they’ve built and need to process that. There’s a lot of stuff to deal with, but if you don’t, it will come back and bite you hard.”
Although the process can be rough, reinventing your business can be a rush. “It’s an exciting place to be.” O’Kelly says.
Wonderful flashy graphics, bright colors and spinning messages, they may look great but do your potential customers actually know what you are trying to say?
I think the biggest mistake we make in marketing is making everything so difficult for consumers to understand that they just don’t get what it is we do. And if they don’t understand it, they won’t feel compelled to act or buy… Marketing is about informing consumers about your products and services and telling them why they should pick you over your competitor – it really is that simple.
Are you doing that? If you are not it’s time to really analyse your marketing strategy and evaluate the point you’re trying to get across.
How do you do this? It’s by moving a customer from the point of just attracting their attention to inspiring them to actually take action – which is making a purchase from you. There are four basic (but often forgotten) steps to doing this.
Step 1: Get their attention
You have competition, it doesn’t have to be a lot of competition – but you have competition. It is up to you to get the attention of your consumers. Do you know how to do that? You speak to their need. You inform of them of the solution that you provide for that need. If you don’t provide a solution that benefits their business – it’s time to get back to the drawing board.
Step 2: Create a marketing message that speaks to them
You know your solution, and you know they need it, now you have to create a message that says “I’m your answer.” Have you done that with your marketing message? If not, why do you think they will buy your products or services? If you don’t inform them about your product who will? Craft your marketing message so it’s easy to understand and a consumer doesn’t want to walk out of a store without purchasing your product or service. Your marketing message has to speak about the solution as well as creating an urgency for the need. Have you done that? If not, again take it back to the drawing board!
Step 3: Evaluate different marketing methods
You have to examine the different marketing methods available today and really evaluate which ones will work for you, with your target market in mind and your budget in sight. Be aware of, and informed about, different marketing methods and which ones will work with your market. It’s not a one size fits all deal and these new marketing tools are changing every week. It’s an exciting time for marketing with all the new mobile and digital tools becoming available and the winning marketeer is the one who harnesses these new tools tightly and creatively for their business.
Step 4: Use marketing methods that are visible to your consumer
The reason you need to evaluate the different marketing methods and tools is so you can select those that are more visible to your potential purchaser. The great thing about marketing a small company is the ease with which you can create tightly targeted campaigns depending on your given audience for specific products or services. Don’t feel that a nationwide TV campaign is a must if a creative digital and mixed media campaign is affordable and successful. When you select the right marketing methods, you create a market position for your business that your potential consumers will see. When you select the wrong methods of marketing, you might as well throw your money out the window.
Choosing a name for your e-business requires just as much time and effort as naming a brick-and-mortar store. Here’s how to get started.Q: I’m opening an online store and was wondering how important the name of an online business really is. Should the name reflect what the business sells, or is it better to come up with something catchy and easy to remember?A: What’s in a name? When it comes to your business, a lot more than you might think. Deciding on a name for an online business is no less important than deciding on a name for a brick-and-mortar business. In each case, coming up with the business name is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. The right business name can help you rise above the crowd, while the wrong business name can leave you trampled in the rush. With the economy in a slump and competition on the rise, now more than ever it is important that you put considerable thought into coming up with the perfect name for your business.Unfortunately, this is a task that is easier said than done. We live in an age when a business called “The Body Shop” might repair wrecked cars or sell bath products to teenagers, so before you send your letterhead to the printer, consider the following points to help you select the business name that’s right for you.The first thing you should do is determine if the name is already in use by someone else. You’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs forget to research this point and open a business with a name that is already in use. If the name you choose is available, you should immediately reserve the name and apply for legal ownership.Another important thing to consider, especially for an online business, is the domain name for your business. The domain name is the Web site address (or URL) a customer will use to find you on the Web. Is the domain name for your business name available? If not, is there a domain similar to the business name you’re considering?You’ll undoubtedly discover that securing a suitable domain name is actually harder than choosing a business name. Most logical domain names are already reserved, but you might get lucky. Keep in mind that domain names should be short and descriptive. Whatever you do, don’t use a domain name that is a confusing amalgam of letters and numbers that’s hard to remember and even harder for your customer to type.One good way to approach the task of naming a business is to do so from your customers’ point of view. Your business name should clearly define your offering and communicate your message to customers. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes for a moment. If you were looking for a business that provides your product or service, what would you expect that business to be called? The name of your business can also spark subconscious reactions in customers that may drive them to you or drive them away.Finally, let’s talk about things to avoid. Experts agree that you should avoid using generic terms like enterprise, corporation, partners and unlimited as part of your everyday business name. These terms are fine for the legal business entity name, but are often too unclear for everyday use.Here’s to your success.
Remember social media networking takes time, the more involved in it you and your organisation become, the more time it will take. The more successful you become within the social media world, the more interactivity you encourage, the more successful you will become but it will take still more time. So, the key success factors for any strategy come into play with social media – know what you want, have a clear end goal and then find myriad ways to achieve it.
Begin with the End in Mind
Strategy isn’t the end goal – It’s the path you take to get to that end goal. So, first you need to think about setting some goals for your Social Media work. What do you want to achieve (end goal) by getting involved in social media. Remember, social media is highly measurable, but also include softer goals such as building a strong community, loyalty, trust and interactivity around your brand. Don’t measure your Social Media strategy solely in terms of percentages or ROI.So, let’s look at some basic goals you can achieve through Social Media:
• Increase customer base
• Generate leads
• Drive sales
• Build awareness
• Make money from your content
• Establish thought leadership
• Educate customers
• Reach new channels of customers
• Improve internal communication
Questions Before the Strategy
Before you go too far down any one path, you need to ask some basic questions:
• Are your key customer groups or influencer groups likely to be online?
• How are you going to add value through their online contact with you?
• How do you plan to engage them online through your new social media platform? Interactivity is key to repeat visits but it’s not all about selling.
• How well suited is your brand to the Social Media environment?
• Which Social Media platforms are you planning to include in your strategy? LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogging, Podcasting, Twitter etc
• What measures will you use to determine the success or failure of your strategy?
• How long are you going run with this new strategy before you call it a success or failure?
• Who has overall responsibility for each area? It’s critical that each message you send out to the market is aligned with your brand story and that you react to any feedback/comments/queries quickly.
• How will you incorporate this into people’s daily jobs getting them actively enthused?
• Are you ready to handle negativity? Platforms like blogs, podcasts and videos allow for external comments, not all of which will be good, and some company cultures aren’t ready to engage with those opinions.
Even looking at those few questions will tell you a lot about your business and whether or not Social Media is actually a good fit for you and your internal capabilities at this stage.
Where are you going? How are you going to get there? How do you know you’ve arrived? Simple?If you’re going to put a social media strategy into place, you need to know where you’re going (end goal), align and develop the paths you’re going to take (which platforms, who’s responsible, how to engage), measure the journey (what factors signify success or failure) and funnel all this back into the original strategy as you proceed, to make it more robust, better targeted and more effective as you move forward.
First Step to Social Media Success
Listen…!Seriously, before you start developing a Social Media strategy for your organisation – Listen…Listen to what’s going on in your market – who’s playing in Social Media?What are they saying? What platforms are they using? How are they bringing value to their communities? How are their brands represented and their stories told? What are they doing and how can you do it better?Also, have a listen to what the market is saying about you – even before you begin to court feedback through actively engaging in Social Media the market may be talking about you – you need to know what people are saying.
Have a look a couple of basic listening tools:
Google Reader and Google Alerts – set these up on your iGoogle home page so you can instantly see when someone mentions you. Don’t just set your alerts for your company name; use your own name, names of people on your team, directors, influencers, clients etc. Set up alerts for business areas where you are the leader, events that you run – anything that will relate to your organisation and will give you feedback on market reactions.
Technorati – Go to www.Technorati.com, search for your company (again using product, brand, personal names) in the search bar, and see what people are saying about you. Note the little orange RSS subscription button in the upper right. Copy that link location (Right click the link and say “Copy Link” or however your browser words that). Now, put that into Google Reader as one of your listening searches. Repeat this for your competitor’s name, brand, individuals, and some industry terms (make them succinct).
Google Blogsearch – Go to Google Blogsearch and do the same thing. Sure there will be some overlap, but it’s important to capture both. The subscription to searches link is on the left hand side about 1/3 down the page.
Try Summize – if you’re thinking about using social networks and social media, it’s likely that some of your customers are using Twitter. If so, go to Summize and put in your search terms there, too. Input as many searches as you need, copying the RSS feeds and putting them into Google Reader as above. Build a strong catalog of searches initially, you can prune the bad or ineffective ones after you have tried it for a while.
About You!What do you think? What else should we work into this “Starting a Social Media Strategy” piece to make it more useful to your needs?
Redstorm CEO, Carol O'Kelly, is a very hugely respected, award winning, keynote speaker in the areas of Personal Branding, Strategy, Communications, Executive Presence and LinkedIn. She has a huge passion for what she does and for the clients she works with. From C-Suite Personal Branding work to Communications Strategy projects and her Advisory roles, she brings all her energy, enthusiasm and focus to her work.