SOCIAL MEDIA!!!! DIGITAL MARKETING!!! CONTENT MARKETING!!!
Every business hears those terms being bandied about every day. They are made to feel less than and that their business will go under if they are not on the cutting edge of whatever is happening in digital. The reality is, there is some truth to it, but not in the way you think.
Digital and Social Media are just tools. Yes tools, like a hammer
is a tool, like a drill is a tool, like a great knife is a tool to chef.
Do you need to use the tools? Absolutely!
Because someone else in your industry is already using them and is getting exposure to your potential (and possibly current) customers that way.
Do you need to jump into every aspect of social media or digital marketing banging away at everything that might look like a nail with your Thor sized hammer and expecting the sales gods to bend to your will? No!
Like your business needs a strategy, your social media efforts need a strategy. Don’t be scared by the terminology (learn it, but don’t be scared by it). ‘You need a strategy’ is just a fancy way to say you need a plan. You would not try and run your business without having a plan. You would not try and run a marathon without having a plan. Why would you trust your online presence to willy-nilly efforts without a plan? The good news, is you don’t have to. And the primary thing you need to know about to write your social media plan is Your Business.
(Having said that, I am going to throw in a disclaimer here. Social media and digital marketing may not be for the faint of heart, completely inexperienced or busily overwhelmed. Hiring a professional to educate, guide or assist you can make a world of difference to your success.)
So how do you write a social media strategy? Or how do you work with a social media professional to write a strategy?
Follow the 5 W’s that you learned in elementary school and you will have a good headstart on an effective social media strategy:
WHO are you trying to reach? (Determine your target audience) – Almost every business wants to believe that everyone is their target customer. Unfortunately that is just not true. If you have not already, you need to figure out exactly who is your target audience. It may be customers. It may be influencers. It may be brand advocates. Whoever it is, you need to be very clear about who they are, what they like, what makes them respond and how to communicate with them.
WHAT are you trying to achieve? (Determine your goals and objectives) – This is not just your social media goals. These are your BUSINESS goals. What business goal(s) are you trying to achieve by participating in social media? Are you going to use it for sales, lead generation, business development (yes, those are 3 different things!), customer service, R&D, etc? What matters to you most?
– Recommendation – choose one or two to start with. You can expand the purposes you are using social media for as you become more familiar with how social media and the various platforms work and after you have measured the success of your current efforts. Don’t overwhelm yourself to start with. Frustration will only lead to limited success.
WHEN will you know if social media is working? (Determine your success metrics) – All social media and digital efforts should be measured. They should be measured against your business objectives. The measurement criteria should be relevant, actually measurable and specific. Whether the metric is number of new leads, increased percentage of sales or some other business relevant criteria, an effective social media plan will spell out, in advance, what the desired metric is and the measurement criteria.
WHERE is your audience online? (Determine the best place online to reach your audience) – You want to reach your audience where they “live”. This means figuring out where they are spending their time online. There are multiple studies, reports and blog posts that detail social media demographics, but one of the most complete is generally the Pew Internet study. Figure out the demographics of your target audience – age, sex, income level, education level, etc… Then review the demographic study results to determine the top one or two platforms they lean towards. In addition to determining where your audience is spending their online time, you need to determine which platform is most conducive to your type of messaging. Is your messaging going to be primarily text, visual, audio, video, etc…? Based on which platform your audience is most likely to be on, which one of those is most conducive to relaying your message in the medium you will be using most often? Most platforms will support multiple types of content, but some, for example YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc… will be most effective with the type of content they specialize in.
WHY are we using social media? (Constantly re-evaluate your strategy) – At regular points in the process of implementing a social media strategy, you need to take a step back to the beginning. The goals, objectives, tactics and metrics that you started with need to be examined, re-evaluated and, when necessary, reconfigured. Social media and digital communication change by the moment. This does not mean you need to be changing your strategy that quickly, but it does mean, you need to be constantly confirming that you are headed in the right direction with relevant, engaging messaging on the platforms where your audience is likely to see and engage with your message and be ready to adjust as needed.
Bonus! Just like you learned in elementary school, there is a 6th “W”…
HOW? How you write a strategy, get started, manage a social media program and measure the results involves taking the time to understand your business objectives, the social media landscape, emerging trends and platforms, your audience, how to reach them and how to get them to act (if that is your objective). It is work, just like any other marketing, lead generation or business development is work. A few things, such as adhering to the tenets below will help ensure your success.
Be Human and be real
“Talk” to your audience the way you would want to be “talked” to. In other words, don’t always be trying to sell to them. No one likes constantly being sold to.
Educate, Inform, Entertain – these types of messaging will generally resonate, depending on your audience and your product/service
Make any calls to action clear and easy to act on
While these 6 W’s will not take the place of a full, well-thought out and researched social media strategy, they will give you a good base to start building that strategy. They will help you ask the initial questions that will provide the foundation. The answers will allow you to make good decisions on what platforms to use, what messages to send, how to send them, how often and the myriad of other factors that go into a complete social media strategy and its implementation.
With over 30 years of successful business operations, communications and entrepreneurial experience, as Chief Digital Strategist at Bell Digital Strategies, Gloria Bell specializes in helping companies evaluate and maximize their digital footprint, develop their digital strategy and cultivate an effective social media presence. In addition to consulting with businesses, she is an Adjunct Professor of Social Media Strategy at Drexel University. Following her corporate career, Gloria founded Red Stapler Consulting where she worked with businesses and technology startups providing them with business process and operations consulting and social media strategy and implementation. Gloria is known as a passionate social media practitioner, entrepreneur and volunteer.
She currently serves as a co-organizer of PodCamp Philly, PodCamp East and is a co-founder of the Philadelphia Women In Tech Summit. Demonstrating her commitment to the social media and entrepreneurial community, Gloria has also served on the Chapter Board of Social Media Club Philadelphia and on the Philly StartUp Leaders Leadership Team as the Events Director. She also serves on the board of the tech incubator, Seed Philly, as an advisor to TechGirlz, as an instructor and advisor for GirlDevelopIt and as a mentor for Lean Startup Machine and Startup Weekend. After several years in the Philadelphia area, Gloria has returned to her Texas roots, makes her home in the Austin area and is looking forward to integrating herself into the Texas social media and technology communities. Truly believing in the business benefits of both on and off line communities, Gloria regularly speaks on the use of social media in business.