Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Developing and Monitoring a Social Media Strategy

My colleague (and fellow blogger here), Sarah Cornelisse, and I have recently made presentations about social media strategy.  It's an absolutely critical topic as businesses explore ways to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. to engage customers, other business owners, consultants, or even educators like me.  The primary point we make is that the things a business owner hopes to accomplish though these tools should be consistent with the overall business goals. Allow me to explain...

Developing the Strategy
In business planning, we often teach that a strategy describes what the business is going to do to get from where it is to where it wants to be (as defined by goals and objectives). The social media strategy, then, reflects the plan to use social media tools to achieve the business's goals and objectives.  There should be a clear and compelling reason to use social media to achieve the business's goals, then.  Starting a blog or a Facebook Page shouldn't be done "just because."

The reason to do any of it lies in what you want to accomplish.  If you want to reach out to customers and your customers are on Facebook, then developing a Facebook Page makes a lot of sense.  If your research shows that your target market is not using Twitter, then don't start tweeting.  Simple, right?

Once you think you know which tools to use (which may require some trial and error), you should identify what you wish to accomplish through each one.  Are you using the tools to teach people about what you do? To provide insider information on discounts/sales? To provide useful information (such as recipes)?  Deciding at this stage what you hope to accomplish, along with how you plan to measure progress, makes tracking your progress much easier.

Like a great QB (yeah, I'm a Colts fan), you must implement
the play. (Source: wegotthiscovered.com)
Implementing the Strategy
Implementing a social media strategy requires that the right people have the right tools to present the right message.  The right person (or people) is the one who knows the business and can "speak" for it.  The right tools may include computer hardware, tablets (such as an iPad), a mobile phone (an absolute must, in my opinion!), or training on how to use the tools.  Good social media users know how to craft an engaging tweet, cut a Facebook post down to the most critical information, and when to include content such as video or photos.  They also know how to generate connections and possibly leads through relationship development.  (Note to self: Blog about that...)

Those representing the business should have a good understanding of the business and should know exactly what the business's owners are hoping to achieve through social media.  With that, these people can manage the messages on a day-to-day basis.

Monitoring the Strategy
The coach (yeah, I'm also a Braves fan)
watches to see if the results meet expectations.
(Source: www.zimbio.com)
Analyzing data from your social media tools can help you be sure that your implementation is on target!  Facebook Insights, blog statistics, You Tube data, and other tools, such as TweetReach, can provide data on items such as how many people viewed your post, how many clicked on it, how many shared it with others, etc.  Some tools will even provide demographic information, revealing who is most likely to respond to your post.

Armed with data and the goals you set for your social media activity, you can now compare the two and see how you are doing.  Are you reaching the people you hoped to reach?  Are you communicating effectively?  Is it leading to growth in fans, followers, friends, etc.?  If you are achieving your social media goals, which should have been set to move you toward your business goals, then this success should lead to increased customers, sales, and profits.

Parting Thought
If you're new to social media, don't expect your profits to double within days of launching a Facebook page (for example).  Your social media plan should integrate into your broader marketing plan, leading people consistently to like you, follow you, friend you, etc.  In most cases, it takes some time for a business to build a community on social media, but it does happen with a well-considered plan and persistent implementation.  Even though you may hear that social media are "free," you absolutely must understand that it takes time (and time = money) to create and post engaging content and to respond to other's content.  However, your strategy will help you use your time wisely!

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