Does this sound familiar?
“My business is ‘out there’ on social media. I have a Twitter page, a Facebook page and a YouTube channel—but I don’t really know what I’m doing and I don’t have a strategy for using social media to drive business.”
If you can relate, know that many businesses are in your shoes. Over the last few years many business owners and leaders have wanted to make sure they got on the social media bandwagon, but in truth have no idea how social media works, how it should fit into their overall strategy, or how to manage or optimize it.
This begs the question: How do you shift from having a basic social media presence that puts you “out there” to leveraging social media as a channel to build awareness, drive customer engagement and/or generate new leads?
This post gives a checklist of key considerations to get to the next level. Every business is different, but this list is a solid foundation.
Your Checklist: Social Media That Drives Business
1. Decide the role social media should play in your marketing mix.
You should consider the potential role of social media in the context of your overall marketing strategy. For example, should its role be to:
Enhance your brand’s digital footprint?
Find and attract leads? (using the right channels)
Engage and build loyalty among current customers?
Position you as a thought leader? (either by creating your own content or curating the work of others
In B2B companies, social media’s role may also be determined by whether the company is using or moving toward a Social Selling strategy, where social media channels are invested in strategically to help the sales team build and develop connections and relationships. Social media can be a great way to scale communications and support the sales process and there are many tools, resources and consultants to show you how to optimize this idea.
Social media can also play the role of market research. Many find that social media channels can be a great investment for learning more about customer needs and market opportunities. What better way than to use social media to get to know your customer; to learn about where they hang out, what they care about, and what conversations they get involved with? The more intelligence you can build about your target customers the better, and social media can be a great investment to “listen and learn” and gather meaningful intelligence.
2. Decide a few objectives for your social media that you can most likely achieve.
For example, if you’ve decided that its primary goal is to build awareness about your brand’s thought leadership, you may want to set objectives based on quantity and quality of follows, shares and/or referral links to your website.
If you’ve decided the objective is to find new leads, you could set an objective to use social media to attract a certain number of new quality leads each month, or you could set an objective to test whether social media affects the number or quality of leads coming through your website.
If you’ve decided the objective is to build loyalty among current customers, an objective could be to increase revenue or share-of-wallet by a certain percentage based on assumptions about the impact social media might have.
3. Decide which social media channels have the most opportunity to meet your objectives.
Today you may have a presence across multiple channels, but through research about your audience you might find that you need to penetrate some more than others to achieve the objective. For example:
LinkedIn may be a great investment to help B2B sales reps find names, build new connections and join Groups to give advice in an area of expertise.
Google Plus may be a great place to engage the tech community and to optimize interactivity and real-time communication using Google’s robust toolkit.
Twitter may be useful for building a following and leveraging hashtags to help your content get found and shared broadly.
Pinterest may be the channel of choice if you have a visual brand like food or wedding photography.
The point is to try and understand where your prospective and current buyers will be hanging out and having conversations, then choose your social media channels accordingly.
4. Consider a strategy for posting and sharing content as well as finding and attracting followers.
If your objective is thought leadership demonstrated primarily through Google Plus content and YouTube videos, your strategy could be to invest in highly compelling and unique content over a year’s time, using Google Plus to post the content, share narratives about what it matters and/or start a conversation thread. Or you could use Google Hangouts to replace or compliment webinars and videos with interactive Q&A sessions on topics your constituents will find valuable.
Or perhaps you’ve determined Slideshare.net is a channel where your target audience is likely to go to for content and/or ideas to improve their business, informing a heavy investment in stellar presentations that may get you exposure as well as new leads.
5. Develop measurement goals, find tools, and understand benefits.
Just as you need to decide the role social media will play in your broader marketing plan, you need to decide what you want to measure and why.
Whether you want to use social media purely to gain deeper insight about your audiences or plan to invest heavily in content and real-time engagement on your social media channels, you may want to build a scorecard on the type and level of the response to your efforts. Comments and sharing metrics are different from the number of Likes, Tweets or +1s because they can be indicators of engagement (whereas Likes may be an indicator of general acknowledgement that your content and/or brand are meaningful).
In general there are two critical considerations for measuring social media:
Measuring the right things. For example, if your goal is brand awareness, you probably want to measure Reach and Sentiment. If your goal is to find leads and/or build loyalty among existing customers, you probably want to measure Conversion and Engagement. This Slideshare presentation from Ogilvy on measuring social media might be helpful.
Figuring out how it impacts your revenue. You’ll need tools to effectively monitor activity and consolidate data so you can decide whether the goals are being met. This iidentifies different tools.
6. Consider best practices and policies for execution and management of your social media presence.
For posts on channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc., don’t promote too much or post content that is “all about you.” What do you want people to think as they view your stream? If they see nothing but promotional and self-serving content they probably aren’t as likely to follow or engage.
If you plan to hire staff to manage your social media content, be sure to hire people who understand marketing and messaging best practices and who know how to align social media content to the broader brand strategy. In other words, do not hire someone just because they are “into social media.” There are many smart people who use social media every day for personal reasons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how it can/should work in a business context.
Hone in on the channels most likely to move the needle. As mentioned above, consider where your target audiences are likely to be and focus heavily on those channels.
If you have employees and multiple people involved in posting content or deciding who to engage with, make sure you develop some guidelines and policies so that everyone is singing from the same hymnal and so that you protect your brand and voice.
Finally, if social media is important to you as a channel to optimize, you may want to hire a social media consultant who specializes in both strategy and execution to ensure you drive meaningful results. A good consultant can help you: 1) determine social media’s role; 2) confirm the channels to optimize; 3) set objectives and measurement goals; 4) set up and/or refine your pages so that you have a consistent look, feel, and message; 5) kick-start or implement campaigns and measurement tools; and 6) train you and/or your team on how to manage and optimize ongoing.
is a practical, no-nonsense B2B marketing and communications consultant serving startups, SMBs and marketing agencies. She helps companies develop and execute effective marketing and communication strategies and plans.