3 Steps to an Effective Social Media Strategy

social media how toDo you have a social media strategy for your business yet?

If you don’t, you could be missing out on game-changing results.

According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 78% of marketers saw increased traffic with just six hours a week invested in social media.

The businesses that do social media marketing well will see even bigger wins in 2012, as the gap between who “gets it” and who doesn’t grows wider by the minute.

The good news? You don’t need to be everything to everyone anymore. Chances are your strategy will be more effective if you keep it simple.

As Michael Stelzner predicted, “The old mantra of ‘be everywhere’ will quickly be replaced with ‘be where it matters to our business.’ …It will be essential to focus on where you’ll see results.”

Below is a three-step plan designed to help you develop an effective, streamlined road map for social media success.

Step #1: Assessment

Start with a single question: “Why social media?” The answer will dictate everything you do in this first phase. Assessment is to evaluate where you are, where you want to go and what the wins will be along the way.

Put Your Audience First

First things first: You need to clarify your audience’s needs, wants and challenges—not to mention where they’re spending time online. Use tools like Survey Monkey or Google Docs to quickly and inexpensively survey your customers.


Each time I want to learn more about my audience’s behaviors, I create a quick survey and post it on my social networks to go straight to the source.

The five major benefits of knowing your audience are considerable:

  1. Laser focus: You can create content that resonates instantly.
  2. Break barriers: Confront pain points head-on to build trust.
  3. Language: Increase engagement by being a person your audience relates to.
  4. Empathy: The more you listen, the better you can respond to specific needs.
  5. Positioning: You can become the go-to source in your niche.

Define the Guiding Theme of Your Strategy

In their book, The Now Revolution, authors Jay Baer and Amber Naslund explain the importance of defining your theme. Since you’ve identified your audience, the next step is to ask yourself what you want them to do . What’s your theme? It’s usually one of three things:

  • Awareness
  • Sales
  • Loyalty

Loyalty and awareness can both lead to sales, of course—but stick to just one overarching goal for your strategy. Consistency and simplicity are key here.

Now it’s time to get really specific. This might be the hardest piece in the assessment process, and yet it’s critical to your success. Ask yourself, what does my business actually do? What do my fans say when they’re happy? What is at the core?

Talk it out with your team. Together you can hone in on what Jay Baer calls your “One Thing”—the heart and soul of your brand. Your “One Thing” will affect every content and posting decision you make.

To borrow Jay’s examples, if Disney = magic and Apple = innovation, what do you equal?

Your “One Thing” is the voice of your strategy across every network.

Identify Metrics and Monitoring Opportunities

How will you measure your strategy’s success? Depending on your theme, the metrics may change. For example:

  • If your theme is awareness, you’ll want to measure growth, engagement, brand awareness, sharability, likes and subscribes.
  • If it’s sales, look at click rates, social e-commerce sales and conversion rates.
  • For loyalty, look at engagement, sentiment and influence (HINT: Klout and EdgeRank Checker are good sentiment-measuring tools).

strategy theme

How will you measure your strategy’s success?

It’s useful to monitor some overall trends too, like mentions of key people at your company, your company name, brand names, product services, competitors and industry keywords.

And if you’re new to data measurement, take baby steps. Start with a simple free tool like Google Alerts.

Put It All in Writing

Don’t wait for an emergency to nail down your communication policies. For example, what happens when there are negative comments? How should the company’s social sites be used? Are there guidelines for what fans and followers can post to a company Facebook page?

Drill down on the answers in a written editorial guide tailored to your business, team and goals. A good guide will address:

  • Who is your team? Who is responsible for what?
  • What’s the point? Identify why you’re using social media, and what you want to track.
  • Where? Identify the networks you want to focus on.
  • When? Be as specific as possible; e.g., blog at 8 am, post it to Facebook at 10 am.
  • How—identify team tools and platforms. Including examples is great, especially when it comes to formatting of content. Your guide should enable anyone new on the team to know what’s going on.

Step #2: Implementation

Next up: execution. The implementation phase is all about zeroing in on the details and day-to-day tasks you and your team are now responsible for.

Create a Content Calendar

Now that you have an editorial guide, it’s time to translate policy into concrete actions—preferably on an editorial calendar. The more information and detail you include, the better you can measure effectiveness. Consider:

  • What is the theme or essence of your content?
  • Who will create it?
  • When and where will it be shared?
  • How often will you create content versus share third-party content?
  • How will you deliver content—as eBooks? Blogs? Video? All of the above?

Have a Step-by-Step Plan for Promotion and Growth

There are literally hundreds of ways to get your team promoting and sharing on the key social media sites you plan to use. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Integrate social mediaon your website with plugins and icons.

    social media icons

    Visible social media icons and social plugins are some of the easiest ways to drive traffic to your social media networks.

  • Run contests and promotions or offer rewards.
  • Showcase your expertise. Drive traffic (and build a reputation) by offering webinars and training programs, interviewing experts and guest blogging, to name a few.
  • Promote your networks consistently. Add networks to letterhead, email signatures and business cards.

Identify Core Sales Campaigns

Yes, social media is about relationships first. But the fact is, once you’ve built solid, genuine relationships online, you’re going to want to use your influence to grow your business. That doesn’t mean shoving it down fans’ throats or putting sales above the relationship. It simply means that you can and should promote what you offer to the people who believe in your mission.

Establish an action plan for the core campaigns you’ll use to collect and nurture leads, like:

  • Outline promotional policy—what is acceptable, and what is not allowed?
  • Identify and implement opt-in opportunities—like a custom welcome tab on your Facebook page.
  • Determine where to direct leads—for example, will you create an eCommerce platform on Facebook with a custom tab, or sell only on your site?

Step #3: Monitor, Measure and Get Momentum

After about two months of running your brand-new social media strategy, it’s time to hunker down with your team, evaluate your progress and fine-tune the details.

Schedule an Evaluation Session

Don’t put off analyzing your results. Schedule your first evaluation meeting when you start phase one. I recommend scheduling a meeting about two or three months out from your start date. That’s just enough time to start seeing results and identifying weak spots.

Make sure you or your team members bring numbers and data to the table and are prepared to discuss them. Metrics, no matter how simplistic, will help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. Include time for brainstorming new ideas, too.

Take Advantage of the Momentum

If you’re seeing traction with your strategy at this first evaluation milestone, consider mixing it up and adding some more advanced strategies into your plan. You have momentum building—run with it!

Here are ideas for some “next steps” to take:

  • Facebook ads are a good, inexpensive way to grow your fan base, increase engagement and collect leads. Try mixing up different ad types and destinations.
  • Run a multi-level contest integrating multiple channels (like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). Use a promotion, event or reward that will resonate with your audience. Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to leverage momentum.
  • Live QAs on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ hangouts.

Ultimately, everyone’s social media strategy will look different—and will get very different results. To be effective, know your business and the metrics that matter to you. A consultancy might need just 100 high-quality fans, whereas a company that sells a product might need several thousand to see financial results.

Now It’s Your Turn

Does your business have a social media strategy in place? What tips do you have for someone putting a strategy together for the first time? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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SNL Lindsay Lohan Appearance Goes Viral [VIDEOS]

Lindsay Lohan’s return to Saturday Night Live last night has turned viral, with many fans and detractors taking to social media sites to discuss the highs and lows of the pop starlet’s performance.

On Sunday afternoon, “SNL Lindsay Lohan” was the second most-searched term on Google and the sketch “The Real Housewives of Disney” was trending nationwide on Twitter.

Lohan’s poke-fun-at-herself monologue, which featured various SNL cast members questioning whether or not the star would be able to handle hosting duties in light of her recently-troubled past, was among the most discussed topics of the night. Cast members Kenan Thompson pretended to check her eyes for clarity and Kristen Wiig patted her down.

The other sketch — a parody of Bravo’s wildly-popular The Real Housewives series that featured Disney princesses such as Snow White, Cinderella and Rapunzel acting catty toward one another at a dinner party — was also shared around the Internet on Sunday.

She also gave a shout-out to the site where so many people were discussing her performance in real time. During a jail scene sketch, while describing what her law-enforcement capabilities include, she replied: “I’m big on Twitter.”

But her overall performance was met with mixed reviews.

Many Twitter users, including @drunkenough, tweeted about Lohan’s attempt to read cue cards. Meanwhile, others praised her comeback, noting that she looked healthier and happier than she has in recent years.

What did you think of her performance? Are you surprised it went viral? Let us know in the comments.

Selling Social Media to Company Executives

I had a query from a potential customer recently about selling Social Media to Company Executives.

They wanted to know how to persuade their bosses about the value of Social Media to their online website promotion, especially in comparison to using standard methods like Google Adwords.

It didn’t help that one of the lynchpins was brandishing an article from an accountancy magazine about how the effects of Social Media were totally over-rated when it came to professional firms. However, this chap was looking at the subject at its most superficial level.

As was mentioned in the article, the cornerstone of any business is to do a great job for the client so that they go on to recommend you to other people and Social Media – particularly Linked In – is a great way of posting recommendations that might actually be seen by the people who matter. However, as the writer says, the problem is that you have no way of knowing how much of this is ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ and, since it is very difficult to actually research people’s credentials or get a feel for their personality online, it’s not totally reliable.

My own experience of Twitter has been that it is just a bunch of people thrusting ‘content’ at me with shortlinks but not much real engagement or interaction going on – despite my attempts to foster such relationships. These people collect followers like kids often hoard trading cards. They don’t value them personally, they just want a big wad in a collection.

The problem is that all these networks can get taken over by people who know how to work the system – either they or their paid helpers set about ‘grooming’ potential clients by giving value and building trust. And you need to work out whether you’re actually talking to the organ grinder or just his monkey.

This means that to make social media work for business, you have to expend some time and effort on it – things don’t just happen overnight. It’s all about growing relationships and networking – just like in the old days. Only now it can be done from the comfort of your study/lounge rather than having to hang around cocktail receptions quaffing lukewarm wine and picking through non-descript canapes.

Originally posted 2011-04-16 11:13:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


How to Maintain Traditional Customer Service in the Social Media Age

Duke Chung co-founded Parature in 2000, with a vision to provide superior customer support software accessible via the Internet. Today, Parature’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product suite supports millions of end users worldwide.

You’ve been monitoring your Facebook wall and Twitter pages, responding to customer inquiries. But what are the next steps you should take to stay abreast of the latest trends in social service?

The emergence of social media communities requires you to track a new set of customer service metrics. Fortunately, you’ll have a better understanding of who your customers are and their service expectations. In some cases, it might even mean the end of traditional service level agreements (SLAs).

Service Level Agreements — How Will They Change?

SLAs are becoming more complex to manage because of the public, viral nature of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Some consumers decide to “cut the line,” gravitating to these channels because they think they will get the fastest response.

So, are SLAs still relevant? Is it acceptable to let customers “cut the line?” Should you always prioritize Twitter service requests over requests placed through traditional service channels? What should be the response time on each channel — be it web, email, phone or social media?

The fact is that SLAs still have a purpose, but because of the very public nature of social media channels, companies need to know where their customers are and understand expected response time on each of those channels. It’s a delicate balance: Companies must understand that some channels require faster more personal responses, but traditional service channels still demand attention.

We have a few recommendations on how to handle impact of social channels on service requests and traditional SLAs.

  • Know inside and out who your customers are, what channels they gravitate to when it comes to customer service, and the expectation for response time on those channels. For example, if the majority of your customers frequent Facebook and Twitter for customer support, invest more in personal, timely responses from both your customer service and marketing teams. When a consumer asks a question on Facebook, he does not want to receive an automated response, fast as it may be. Consumers expect both personal and fast replies on Facebook. If you find that many of your customers seek help on your social media channels, host knowledge bases on those networks. It is a good way for consumers to find answers to commonly asked questions, and it frees up the time your customer service team would otherwise spend personally answering the same questions over and over again.
  • Evaluate how urgent the inquiry really is, and see if you’re able to answer quickly and personally with some initial suggestions to solve his or her problem. If the answer requires further involvement, that’s ok. Tell the consumer his inquiry has been received and that it is being further evaluated by the customer service team. This will not only show that you’re responsive, but it will also give you more time to escalate the issue and route it to the correct representative in a more reasonable timeframe. Customers will understand that every service question cannot be answered instantly.
  • Social media service instantly reflects on your brand and directly impacts your company’s marketing efforts. If you are slow to provide an initial response, or you don’t provide any response at all, it can cast your brand in a poor light. Your social media responses are public and will be read and shared with other consumers. The fact is that social media has really blurred the lines between marketing and customer service. Just make sure the two teams work together to tackle social service.
  • Don’t ignore traditional channels because you’ve become focused on social media. Remember that social media has simply provided a new channel for engaging with your customers; it has not replaced the other channels. And just because a customer is reaching out to you on Twitter does not mean you need to drop everything and respond instantly; you must evaluate and discern the level of urgency first. The balance is important: You can’t simply move all of your great service exclusively to social media channels at the expense of traditional channels.

Better Metrics Management

In social service 2.0, it’s important to track several metrics and adjust your strategy as volume and complexity grow. Response time, time to resolve, tickets opened per day and tickets resolved per day are all part of traditional customer service metrics, but social media can render them more complex.

Devise a system that allows you to track the number and complexity of support requests coming through social media vs. phone or email. Keep track of response times across sites like Twitter and Facebook. As time increases, develop a strategy to push complex requests to another channel, such as email, where customer service representatives (CSRs) can quickly match up new inquiries with cases that have already been opened. As the volume (tickets opened per day) mounts, create canned content, in the form of responses or linkable knowledge base articles, for the most frequently asked questions.

You should also monitor these additional metrics that specifically involve social media channels.

  • The “net-new” group of customers. These are the people for whom you’ve provided a support channel over social channels. It’s likely that this new group of social users is different than the customers who have been contacting you via email or phone.
  • The number of times other customers — not the company — respond to support requests and inquiries. For example, a visitor to your Facebook page asks technical questions about a particular product release, and he or she is quickly answered by one of your Facebook fans. The frequency of this sort of event indicates the value of your social support, and shows how many brand advocates you have.

Marketing and Customer Service Both Report to Social Media Training

If a B2B company has established an online community to address technical problems, customer service probably owns the social media effort. But B2C companies are heavily invested in tracking customer attitude and effect on brand issues. In these companies, marketing will have to collaborate with support teams about inquiries via social media channels.

Make sure that each team knows the protocol for dealing with social media. Hot button issues will arise — via Twitter in particular — and sometimes you’ll have to respond as quickly as possible. In such cases, it’s appropriate for marketing to step in and indicate that they’re responding in turn.

In anticipation of these issues, have a triage and a crisis response plan in place. As discussed, a negative comment on Twitter doesn’t automatically constitute a crisis that requires interrupting a service rep. Discern the nature and depth of the complaint and respond appropriately. As a safeguard, monitor who in the company is responding to inquiries to ensure collaboration between marketing and customer service.

Bottom Line: Adapt and Evolve

Consumer facing companies will have to learn the rules of the road for social service 2.0 if they want to survive. SLAs with long windows of response time simply don’t work on today’s public social platforms.

Know your audience, understand the tight response expectations on social media channels, and keep in mind the very public nature of these platforms that will directly impact your brand. Use tools like knowledge bases to save time and costs, and make sure your marketing and customer service teams are tightly connected and openly communicating with one another.

While you can’t totally control whether consumers “cut the line” by racing to social networks, you can control how quickly and personally you respond on those channels. Stay on top of important metrics to make sure you are responding to each customer, regardless of the channel he is using, in a timely, thoughtful manner that will reflect positively on your brand.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, fotosipsak, studiocasper