It should be thought of as an online front-of-house and should be treated as such. In a tangible store front, businesses display items and auras they wish for clients to see and interact with. That principle should very much be applied online as well. Here, we look to illuminate the key points to hit when designing a social media strategy, as well as discussing what should be considered in the near future.
Figure out your objectives
The first thing to consider is what the overall aim of being active on social media is. Like any strategy, split the process into short, medium and long-term objectives. Is the end goal to generate direct sales leads? Is it to drive traffic to a specific place? Is it to cultivate an engaged conversation or online following? Once you come to a conclusion, you can then begin to work backwards, assigning goals to get you there. For instance, sparking conversation from followers primarily comes from creating engaging content. Therefore, the objectives should be set around the amount of content produced and which topics will be of most interest to your targeted audience. You need a lot of data to get this right, but it can come from fairly simple sources like customer feedback, Google Analytics and in-built analytics tools on social media platforms. It gives you a genuine understanding for their reasons for engaging with your content, and you can exploit that.
Have a Plan
Those initial objectives you set should frame an overall channel plan. You can then design content to fit each objective, tailor it to different platforms, and schedule it across a calendar around specific milestones. For example, a marketing agency might know they’ll be at a Marketing Show in November, and plan a campaign to harness engagement that gets people talking to them over social media AND at their exhibition stand in conjunction.
Funnily enough, KVA Digital did just that last year in preparation around the Digital Marketing Show. We planned out the process to get people from viewing our content on twitter to coming and speaking to us personally. We asked them to talk about their #digitalbugbears in the lead up to and all throughout the show, eventually asking them to come up to the stand to tell us those bugbears in person in exchange for cakes.
The Platforms You Use Depend On Your Target Audience
So you’ve decided what you need to achieve through Social Media, now you need to decide where to direct your shouts from atop the mountain. There are now a multitude of different social media platforms to interact with, and all offer something different to the others. As the biggest fish in the pond, it’s worth every company having a Facebook presence; Instagram is a very good tool for businesses that have a very visual aspect to them; and Snapchat is something we’re only really learning more about as a business platform by experimenting with it.
The short answer is the platforms to use depend on the type of business you are. B2C and product-focused businesses are more likely to find more joy on Facebook than B2B. It’s about identifying your audience thoroughly and recognising where they are most likely to appear. For example, 90% of Instagram users of are under the age of 35, whilst 85% of Pinterest’s’ 100 million active users are female; If you’re offering B2B services then LinkedIn’s wide age range but professional focus may appeal. Ultimately, you should be taking a multi-channel approach to social media. Choose platforms based on research into your audience’s location and what features each provide that enable you to effectively reach out to them.
If Content is King, the Video is the Crown Prince
20 years ago, Bill Gates famously made popular the phrase “Content is King”. The statement still applies today, in particular within social media marketing. The exact meaning of the word content we refer to has changed somewhat over the years. Gates defined it broadly as any form of information or entertainment and said that “No company is too small to participate”. That rings as true now as it did in 1996, albeit within slightly different delivery methods. Gates spoke of email and ‘on-line communities’ whereas we now think of the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The best place to start is evaluating the sorts of topics that are both relevant to you as a business and are of a collective interest to your audience. On top of that, think of interesting ways to display the information. Content that looks for interactions will drive up engagement and in turn improve reach. For example, Twitter polls allow people to vote on a subject and sends a notification to participants once the deadline has passed so they can view the results. This doubles the potential interactions with your brand, so make sure to keep interacting with the poll and providing fresh content for them to come back to. Infographics are excellent, effective ways to visualise key bites of data for your audience.
One trend you might be noticing more and more is the expansion of video-based content across all forms of social media. This has given rise to channels like AJ+, Mic and Tasty, who now dominate Facebook timelines with diverse, engaging and up-to-speed content around a minute long. Automatic video playing as the user scrolls down their newsfeed means they’re much more likely to engage with videos than you would see with a static image post. Sponsoring your post to reach more timelines than your organic reach will also help improve engagement
Most experts believe that video content will continue to grow in stock and success, with the advent of live video platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope giving further scope for expansion and differentiation. At present, 60% of marketers currently have a video element to their communications plan. 73% plan to include it in the near future.
Be Reactive AND Proactive
It’s important to have a combination of both reactive and proactive content. The difference between the two is fairly self-explanatory: reactive content is that which responds to trending topics, hashtags, live tweets an event or responds to direct interactions. Whereas proactive content creates and pushes original messages, starts conversations and sets the tone & topics. The most successful social media accounts will all ways have a fairly equal mix of each. Focus too much on reacting, and your audience won’t see you as original, whilst concentrating on being proactive means you aren’t engaging the audience properly and thereby missing out on creating relationships. If your objective is to generate direct sales, relationship building is the most likely way to achieve that. An inability to connect properly, reactive or proactively, with consumers online can leave lasting damage to a brands reputation in the mind of the customer.
Schedule & Measure your Content
It’s always useful to have a stockpile of content in the background. By creating a communications plan and scheduling out posts and content to go out on specific days and times, you make yourself a lot more prepared provided you stick to it. Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are useful for scheduling content like this.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter also offer analytics tools so that you can see how engaging each of your posts are, and how you’ve performed over time. By using these types of tools, you can analyse the success of different types of content and make decisions about what you communicate in the future.
Ultimately, there is a vast return-on-investment to be had from social media management, particularly when outsourced to an agency. It allows you to combine consistency within your messaging and communicate core brand values, backed by an effective social media strategy and comms plan, and an agency can provide the resources and the experience to manage it on your behalf. It’s often said that a wise man knows what he knows and what he doesn’t. What he doesn’t know, he seeks counsel for.
Written By Andrew Thomson