Social Media has become all pervasive—72% of all internet users are active on social media. Smart companies spend their time listening to the conversations that customers are having with them and with each other. This is what social media is really about, listening to and engaging with customers. It is not another mechanism just to push out content through blogs, Twitter, or Facebook but a reciprocal conversation. Having a clearly defined and successful social media strategy is no longer optional for organizations – it is essential.
Search engines are the new home page for organizations. 93% of B2B buyers start their search for a product or service on a search engine, not a company website. While organizations might update their website monthly, blog posts are updated once or twice a week and Facebook or Twitter at least once every day. Social media creates repeat opportunities to show up in a customer’s results because search engines favor fresh content.
Social media also gives your organization a chance to be the “known” brand and to increase customer trust. It puts a face on your company, allowing your employees in sales, product marketing and product management to become known and trusted by your customers. It’s an old adage but true: People buy from people they like: 90% of people trust recommendations from people they know and only 70% trust brand websites.
This post outlines several chief weaknesses in many social media efforts and provides marketers with actionable strategies for creating a successful social media program.
1. Lack of a Social Plan
Not surprisingly the chief weakness in many organizations’ social media strategy is the lack of an integrated, cohesive social plan. Many jumped willy nilly into social media a few years ago, often with disappointing results. Avoid this by being clear about your goals and specific about the objectives and strategies with which you plan to achieve them. Are you planning to become a thought leader in a certain market segment? If so, what are your best social channels, specific objectives, and what are the tactics you will use?
For example if your goal is to increase sales, what is your best channel? Is it LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook? Let’s say you are a B2B business. LinkedIn is likely your primary channel. Your goal might be to increase Sales by growing your LinkedIn exposure. Your core strategy might be to create thought leadership content on LinkedIn’s recently expanded publishing platform. In order to do that you will post new content once a day, Mon through Friday (during peak LinkedIn activity).
A social media plan must be targeted, specific, and measurable in order to be successful.
2. A Fragmented, Disparate, Social Footprint
It is common for companies, large and small, to have a fragmented social footprint. Multiple social media profiles are often the result of the individual efforts of various product and marketing groups experimenting with social media and then abandoning it. This is also typical of corporations where there have been recent acquisitions or large turnover in staff. Unfortunately, social account proliferation creates a diffused and inconsistent brand perception in the marketplace.
3. Not Nurturing the Right Channels
Who is your target audience? What are their roles and titles? Does each audience require unique messaging? Do they play in different social media channels? For example, most businesses have two types of customers: users and the decision makers who approve the purchase. Often these two audiences do not overlap; they have different pain points and retrieve their information from different places. Where are the places on social media where these two types go to find info and potentially engage in conversation, e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter? Identify the channels for every kind of buyer.
The second step is to identify and quantify existing social profiles by counting fans, followers, and likes. Engagement can be measured by quantifying likes, comments, shares, retweets, mentions, replies, or clicks. How recently have these profiles have been populated with fresh content? A constant stream of fresh, relevant content will attract customer engagement and loyalty. Stagnant profiles with low engagement turn off or confuse potential customers. These profiles are candidates for consolidation or deactivation. Your best strategy is to focus on and nurture the channels and profiles that best serve your audience.
4. Not Matching the Right Content with the Right Channel
Your target audience and the places they congregate on the web will also dictate what type of content you should produce. For example, on LinkedIn, a primary channel for B2B companies, blog posts and group discussions are useful tactics to build awareness and thought leadership. For Facebook the most engaging (and shareable) content includes visuals such as videos and photos. Twitter is an ideal place to promote immediate news items and future events.
5. Not Socializing Social Media Throughout the Company
Your social media policy must be widely socialized so that people understand the need to consolidate accounts and for consistency in both messaging and regular updating. Establish rules for setting up new accounts. However, don’t just be the “social media police!” Encourage people outside of marketing to participate and get them trained on how to use social media.
No matter how large your marketing team you will need to identify subject matter experts within your organization who can regularly create meaningful content and/or monitor social media discussions. Regular creation of content is one of the biggest challenges of social media. Get your in house experts to contribute to the company blog, create white papers, and tweet out upcoming webinars and events.
Expect to have to sell the importance of social media. Often product management, editorial and product marketing teams see social media as “one more thing” they do not have time to fit into their schedule. However, when they begin to see it as part of their emerging identity as an influencer and thought leader, it will become an important part of their job, not just another add on.
6. Not Amplifying Your Message Through Partners and Influencers
Every industry has influencers and every business has partners. Build them into your social media plan. At its heart, social media is reciprocal and they will return the favor. Your partners can help you to reach new audiences within your own industry and adjacent industries, in addition to amplifying your message. Partner and influencer amplification should be an ongoing priority.
7. Not Fully integrating Social Media
Arguably, you are not taking advantage of the full value of social media unless you incorporate it into other marketing activities. For instance, if your organization is hosting a webinar, the webinar should be promoted on social media with a registration link. Registrant info can be captured and funneled back to the email marketing department to ensure that they receive company updates, offers, and other email communication regularly. Social media can also be invaluable in supporting a product launch or for soliciting immediate feedback.
Thanks to social media, organizations now have access to an unprecedented amount of publicly available information about customers. Don’t forget the greatest value of social media: turning customer insights into actionable data! Customer insight is an invaluable commodity for every department and function from sales to development. to customer service. It is often here that a skeptical department (or executive) can be won over. Too many social media programs remain siloed and the valuable data they capture about customer needs remains within marketing walls.
Share your customer insights widely across the organization and help your company become not only a listening culture but a winning culture. That’s the whole point. Right?
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