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Approaching Social Media Strategically

by Brendan Morrissey As I mentioned in my last blog post , there was a lot of interest in social media expressed among the attendees and exhibitors at CEDIA Expo 2011. Manufacturers and retailers simply can’t ignore the 800 million Facebook users worldwide and massive number of consumers using social media. Acco

by Brendan Morrissey

As I mentioned in my last blog post, there was a lot of interest in social media expressed among the attendees and exhibitors at CEDIA Expo 2011. Manufacturers and retailers simply can’t ignore the 800 million Facebook users worldwide and massive number of consumers using social media. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, two-thirds of online adults now use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

With the rush of many companies to tap into social media, two main points are often lost. First is that social media itself isn’t a solution, it’s a toolset that should complement your other marketing efforts. Think of it as a way to nurture and enliven customers and prospects, using information and content that you create or that you selectively share with them, based on relevancy to your business and your audience. Second, random social media tactics without an overall strategy are seldom effective. Like most things in life, dabbling without a plan – even a modest one – won’t be worthwhile.

Most businesses say they will invest in social media in the next 12 months (either time, money, or both) but many are perplexed by the myriad options. Simply creating a Facebook page and expecting to garner hundreds of valuable followers because “if you build it, they will come” is not a viable plan.

So I offer the following tips on how to strategically approach social media.

• Give people choices. Some people spend half their day on Facebook, while others scan their Twitter stream several times a day. I suggest starting with the Big Four: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ (which just opened up to business profiles recently – you could be an early adopter!). The key is to develop a consistent presence and information stream across social media channels, allowing your fans and followers to use their preferred channel to stay connected with you. In order to do that, you generally need a tool to consolidate publishing and inbound messages.
• Use the right software tool for you. There are dozens of tools on the market to help you manage your various social media channels. Without one, you are faced with manually updating, posting and responding to comments from several different sites and having limited ability to measure or evaluate your efforts. Look for key functionality such as advance scheduling of posts/tweets, automatic sending to multiple platforms, URL link shorteners, and reporting/analytics. Some tools are free and can be adequate, but they won’t likely provide much in the way of reporting and tracking.
• Attract followers directly and indirectly. Once you have set up your base content, get as many friends, family and employees as you can to follow you, connect with you, and “like” your Facebook posts. This begins to build a presence and ensure that when a prospect sees your social media profile, it doesn’t look like a digital ghost town. Then leverage your current lists of clients and prospects, and email them with links to your social media outlets. Likewise, add buttons/links from your website to your social media properties.
• Set measurable objectives. Without metrics, your social media effort might as well be just another “spray and pray” marketing effort. Instead, think of social media as you do a marketing campaign and build a plan to get something out of it – like 100 new fans or followers this month, registrations for an event or giveaway, etc.
• Engage your followers. Attracting a large number of fans/followers is a start but you need to give them a reason to keep coming back. Give them a heads up on deals and announcements, reward them with special offers, ask them for their input, and occasionally reward those who share your content. Another way to engage your followers is through pictures and short videos. Develop a schedule with your desired frequency and topics to be addressed. Those in the print industry call this an “editorial calendar.”
• Be personable and informative. Don’t just post dry, rehashed content. Post in more casual language that reflects the personality of your brand, company or owner. However, don’t go overboard with personal messages like what you did over the weekend or what you had for lunch. Endeavor to provide some valuable, actionable information with each post. Remember, you don’t have to create all the content yourself, you can also share links to other online content your followers may find useful.
• Don’t drown in details. Social media can be a powerful tool but it’s also very easy to overdo it by posting too much detail or too often. Think of social media posts and tweets as headlines. Use them to entice your followers into a next-step interaction and give them reasons to read more. For example, tease them with a message that drives them to your website to download a free guide on “Five Key Criteria in Selecting the Best [your favorite product here].”

All of that is just to get you started. As you ramp up your social media efforts, you’ll learn how to best leverage these new media channels to engage your customers/prospects. Don’t be disappointed if the goings are slow at first; stick with a solid long-term social media plan that emphasizes measuring results and tying in social media with your other marketing efforts. Above all, ensure your content is relevant and your posting frequency appropriate – don’t be the boor or the broken record at the cocktail party, be the one that people are happy to see and hear something interesting from. And don’t neglect to establish some shared responsibilities and continuity in case there is turnover on your staff.

Finally, as the holiday season heats up, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy and profitable 2012.

Brendan Morrissey is CEO of Netsertive.