Over the last weeks, I’ve been talking about the different Social Media types – Social Networks, Blogging, Social Bookmarking, Social Media Sharing, Social News, Forums, Chat/Instant Messaging, Virtual Worlds, and Social TV. While each type on its own is great and can be used easily, the main question remains – When should you use it and when should you stay away? For people to use the different Social Media types personally, they usually fade in and out of the different types depending on what they do. For business, this is a different type of thinking. Businesses usually want to see some kind of growth in their business if they are going to put money in an area and this includes social media.
But how to increase growth?
As with anything in business, you have to have a plan. Does it have to be big? It depends. The factors differ from company to company. If your a small not for profit business, then no, your business doesn’t have to be big. However, if your business in a multimillion dollar company, then yes, it should probably be in the bigger range. It depends on a range of things: the size of the business, how big the department is, what the CEO/owners want from the department, and the strategy or plan they have.
Not having a strategy or plan is where most businesses fail in social media. They hear about a new and popular social media program and they want the department to instantly use that one. It is and isn’t that simple. You have to take a look at the plan of who the business wants to reach, why they want to reach them and its usefulness. Not having a plan and wanting a department to instantly use a new piece of social media is going to cause social media fatigue or overload. I mentioned this in my first blog, but Matt McGee from Marketing Land even said “if your tired now, you haven’t seen anything yet”. Why? Because the use of social media is going to get quicker and more of it. Everyone has many opinions and there are thousands of different social media program out there. I’d hate to think if just one CEO decided the company needed to be in each social media program – its just not humanly possible. Decisions must be made and at the start of those decisions should be the type of social media image the company wants to have and action plan or strategy for it. You wouldn’t have an entire marketing department without a plan for them would you? Its the same idea.
The list below are just some of the ideas for strategies using Social Media. Some of these suggestions came from many places – Convince and Convert, Mashable, Social Media Examiner. I took the steps from one of these, but most of the articles I’ve read fit into these steps. Read them below.
Step 1: Build an Ark – As I’ve said above, no one person can do it all. Collaboration is the key and no one person should really own the social media for a company – everyone should work together. By working together in the entire company, you can get feedback from all levels – from the top to the worker who either wants to know or gets asked all types of questions. The more of the same types of questions get asked, that’s what needs to be answered. Not only answered, but then telling everyone that the question or concern has been answered so they know the information is there. Everyone is time stressed, so if the person wh
o’s job is to write content up, maybe you should conciser outsourcing it. This can be done in house or out. By in house, maybe each department should write up a small what’s new each week. Or maybe, you have someone who has a passion to write, well then sign them up and work with them to get their passion on either a blog or social media. I know many people love social media – use and discovery of it. If you have someone like that, see if the
y can use some of that power for the company. If none of your current employees have this type of passion, then maybe you need to look outside the company to ease the stress. However, if you are going to use some of these people within the company and/or have a department (no matter how big!) remember to keep everyone communicating with all of the people contributing. The more they feel like a group and share among themselves the higher they feel valued and everyone will be more productive and you will accomplish what everyone, no matter at what level, wants the company to achieve.
When I was working, they knew I had a love of IT and social media (and knew what it was), so they offered to me to be the person responsible for the region’s social media, and this included being on working parties. I jumped at the opportunity as I was using my skills in that area. Then when we had a metropolitan conference, they put me in charge of using social media. For me, this was really interesting as it gave me something I could work with and I felt appreciated because it went well. The downside was the venue we were using was trying to slug each person who used their network for social media a good amount of money to use it, so people were stuck using their phone plans which reduced the amount of posting that was done on the day unfortunately. However, we were the first to try and do something like that, so it was a really good learning curve for everyone involved.
Step 2: Listen and Compare – Everyone should always know what their competitors are doing – both in marketing and in social media. In fact, you must have customers if you are in business. Ask them question
s as they know what they want and don’t want. Some questions I would suggest: what do they think of things your competitors are doing right/wrong, do they know you have a website and do they use it, wha
t social media do they use and would be interested in seeing offers made to, and the questions could go on and on. These questions will guide you to where you should aim your strengths and where you need to
stay away from. Also, the more casual you present your information, the more receptive people are. Yes, I could talk very proper, but people probably won’t understand fully or misunderstand. However, you don’t want to speak by abbreviating everything either for the same reasons. Rick Mulready has 3 ideas that should be used:
- Find where their customers talk and “go deep.”
- Create content that people want to talk about.
- Use social media to listen to customers.
Keeping all of these ideas in mind, will ensure that you will reach all types of customers high and low. I do this while writing these blog topics. I make sure that I take time to explain things that people might or might not know while keeping in mind there are others that are reading these to find new information they might not know.
Step 3: What’s the Point? – As I’ve mentioned, if you have a plan then you have asked what the business hopes to gain from social media. What do you want to accomplish? Higher Sales? Higher awareness? Loyalty? Higher Profile? Each of these are valid points, and need to look at things different ways. You must understand what the overarching goal is for your company and direct your strengths that way. In developing the informative content, this will drive your strategy as well, so make sure your social media is narrow to a point of what will be useful rather than its new let’s use it. Further, as most of the net is now searchable by smartphone, make sure that whatever you use can be used on either Android or Apple products because if they aren’t, then you will driveway customers from those areas, which is not what you want to do. And finally, make sure that you always link back to your main website which contains more about the company, your products and what you are about overall.
This is a really important step. You have to identify where you want people to come from and what they use. If you don’t, then you could push people away. This one of the main reasons why I have 2 blogs – one I concentrate on IT and computer information and one that has everything else – this includes family history, elections, feelings on topics (like immigration), and the list goes on. If I was to merge these blogs together, people would be confused as to what I was trying to accomplish. Further, I do share out each blog as I post – to my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn sites. As I’m trying to get awareness of my blogs and retain followers, this is my focus.
Step 4: Select Success Metrics – Once you have decided why you are going to use social media then comes the question – how are you going to monitor how you are coming across? What
are you going to look at to see how what you are doing online affects your business? Also, make sure to keep updating whatever social media you decide upon. This is why choosing the social media you use is so important. You don’t want to use manpower and time on software which doesn’t fit in with what your customers are saying to you and the ones the customers do use, make sure you do regular updates for it. Leo Widrich offers 3 key tactics:
- Frequency: Post around 5-10 times a day on Twitter and 1-4 times a day on Facebook for optimal outcome.
- Timing: Almost all research studies highlight the main work hours from 8 am to 8 pm as good times to tweet and post to Facebook.
- Multiple sites: Post to multiple social sites, in addition to your own blog or website.
This is hard to do unless you have the time to invest in it. I’m a very busy person, and I write 2 blogs which I put up one article a week because that’s all I can get to. However, what I haven’t said is that I check both blogs for feedback daily and answer them as soon as I get them. People love feedback in those areas. As I mentioned above, I also post things in multiple areas so I reach out to many different people. I make sure the blogs are posted during the day and not just any day – during a weekday – which is when people are more inclined to read IT blogs because they are at work. My personal blog I used to post during the week, but found I wasn’t getting too many people accessing, so I changed the date to the weekend. My reader rate skyrocketed! I was and am shocked because I was getting about 10 or so readers and now its up to between 40-50 readers a week, so it does make a difference.
Step 5: Analyze Your Audiences -Who are you trying to reach with your product or with social media is probably the main topic of this step. Businesses concentrate on getting something said through social media rather than what they are actually saying and how you say it could attract one type of cohort over another. Do you want to stick with your current customer base but want to hear what they are thinking about your product or company or do you want to reach younger people? Older people? Should you add one of these types of cohort because you haven’t added them before? What do you have to do to to communicate with this desired cohort? When looking at a cohort that is
new to them (or revisited if that cohort has been targeted before and then dropped for a reason) how are you going to track to see who is new and who is reoccurring? From what I’ve read, it seems that people forget to track things like this when using social media. When you use analytics or statistics for social media or websites, these are very important to see if you are indeed hitting your goals that you want to hit and if you’re not keeping track of them, then your going to miss great opportunities because you are thinking you are getting to the cohort when you’re actually not. For instance, if I was targetting work force age ( approximately 20-55 ages, I would make sure I include the adaptability for people to use smartphones. Why? Because according to a study that was held in August 2013 (published 24 September 2013), they found 60% of people who used smartphones used social networking apps. That is one huge group! You will only know this once you start to use your Analytics social reports and use helpers to find your content with the hashtags. Steve Cooper sums it up with five reasons:
- Promotions—hashtags make it easy to track a promotion’s activity across many social platforms.
- Unification—you can track a hashtag across all the major networks or filter them individually using new tools such as Tagboard.
- Conversations—giving a customer your website URL doesn’t make it easy to begin a conversation, but hashtags do.
- Targeting—unlike going after a general web surfer on the open web, people who use hashtags are likely to engage in social conversations and therefore are more likely to share a positive experience they’ve had with your brand once you’ve broken through.
- Innovation—because they’re so flexible, simple and ubiquitous, more businesses are able to find creative ways to add power behind the hashtag.
I use my analytics reports that I get from both my blogs. Before I revamped the family website, we didn’t have the analytics on it to analyze, so that went lagging. However, now I
have reports, which shows me the numbers, and where people are accessing things from. I was shocked one of the higher readings I was getting was from Eastern Europe, because they never entered my mind for targeting. Because of these reports, they have really opened my eyes to the world instead of US, Canada, China, and Australia.
Step 6: What’s Your One Thing? – I guess the one of the bigger things is – are your customers going to WANT or have enough passion for what you do/sell to have you be apart of their lives. Maybe look at using videos and YouTube to convey what you do and your passion for your business. Sometimes making something funny or interesting enough, gets noticed and explodes internationally and before you know it, people internationally want your product/service. Look at the different younger people who now have careers because they put videos up on YouTube and they were passed around. If you don’t think what you sell or do is that interesting, can you make a how to do or tutorial on how to do something? This will get you noticed as well by both customers and maybe employers. If you don’t feel like doing a video, just look at your content that you
are both putting on websites, but also your posts on all social media. Remember to only include content that has a value to both you or the company. The key is to always ensure that the authored content drives your vir
al coefficient or other valuable user actions and you can do this by including website links and pictures. In fact, in my IT classes, I always stress give the people pictures – especially pictures of yourself because it connects the reader with you. Once you get a personal connection, people will feel comfortable coming back and giving you information. There are also Infographics that are used now. Infowhat? Infographics are pictures you can have made up as a visual representation of words. In the past 6 months, these have become very popular. I’ve even used them in my last blog post. There are many free online tools which you can use to make them.
I know I’m considering using a video for my page on our website. This is because there is so much writing that it really takes away from the whole experience. I thinking if I do go down this track, I will link to a script for those with accessibility problems. This will also make others connect to me because they can see and hear me. I have done some how to videos on YouTube, because I use them as references when I teach my IT classes. This way if learners want to go over a section of things they learned in class, they can get to it no matter where they are and it doesn’t matter what time of the day it is. Further, if anyone is looking for how to videos and they like mine, they will come back if they know I’m easy to understand and explain everything very well, so I can become popular that way as well. I know from working in many types of customer service jobs, you can get more from giving people honey rather than a sting because they are being annoying.
Step 7: How Will You Be Human? – If the customer gets to know you, your product/service and your business they will become more open and will come back for repeat business. Treat them like they matter and not like they are a number, and people really open to that type of contact. Let’s face it – some customers are not on social media (I know this for a fact because I have a brother, mother and father that are not on major social media. Note: My father is on LinkedIn but I’ve only seem him on once in the last 10 months), but they are on email. Then you have others that have some social media accounts, but don’t check them everyday (I think I just heard a gasp from around the world at that one!), but they do check their emails. This can be the easiest ways to connect with customers. Sometimes people get an email in and they will pass it along on social media sites for you and as it comes from people other users trust, they would be more willing to give a business a go because it came from a friend or family member rather than a cold call.
Some places consider having a blog as a way to communicate as well. It is a way to keep people up dated as to what is happening. Further, people also use many different social media types for real interactions in as it happens. This way people can get an answer right there and ask all the questions they have without waiting. Some customers like this type of interaction and some thinks it adds more value to the company. However, this requires someone being available during the times you want this to be available or 24 hours a day 7 days a week, all year and you have to balance that with being a cost benefit rather than just an expense. Then you have just posting quite a bit during the day with updates and posts about what’s happening. You can also use what they call lead generation cards. These make it easy for users to express interest in what your brand/company offers. Also there are using writing tools that are out there. These can help with the content and help with your specific needs. Sherice Jacob has an unique list of apps, websites and software programs for online writers. Don’t get too upset if you don’t get any interaction with readers. Give the readers something they can comment on and in them commenting, you can get interaction and people asking and commenting on things being said.
I do this by trying to respond to each blog comment that is left. Sometimes they can be deemed junk because people are trying to sell things, which I don’t post or reply to, but I sit down and reply to each even if its to say thank you for the great comment or I will look into that suggestion. This makes people connect with me as a writer. I do most of my posting on Facebook, and only let certain people in because its “my space” rather than a public area. I do have Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest for those who must keep up with what I am doing (along with the blogs), so I don’t feel back about keeping something that is just “mine”. I have used websites which use the live person behind a prompt and I have to say it freaks me out. Its creepy for you to sit there reading a page in a website and you get this prompt from someone saying “I’ve noticed that you’ve stopped on this page. Is there anything I can help with?” I felt like saying “Yes I’m reading and it would be wonderful if you went away”. I have never used the lead generation cards, writing tools or Sherice Jacob’s apps but they do sound really interesting. If you are new to this site, I do ask if there is anything I forgot or anything I’ve misspoke about to be brought to my attention, and so far people seem to think I’ve got it right, which I’m happy about.
Step 8: Create a Channel Plan – basically this is a reminder – you don’t need to be on every single social media site – just be picky. As long as what you post on the social media counts and doesn’t take away from what you do, you’ll be a winner. Sometimes you only need to do one or two social media programs and will get more across using them then you would if you used all of them combined. If you use a few you might want to look into using a Social Media Management System (SMMS) which I’ve talked about in my first blog post. If you only have to open up one website and not 2,3, 4 or more, how good would it be to keep track on on
e screen? It is an option and, in some cases, you can actually give others on your team access to post as well which will help with the social media overload. If you do your social media well, then you will have a higher engagement and that will convert to a lower cost to the business overall which is why we are using social media isn’t it?
I know I’ve tried to limit just what social media I use because it was getting out of hand. About 6 months ago, I was in overload land myself. Finally, I said enough and limited to about 8 diff
erent programs. I also trialled out a SMMS, which I found while it was good for me, I just didn’t like the overall feel for it. Keep in mind, at the moment, I’m using social media for personal enrichment; however, if I were in the business world, I would be using a system. These allow you to control everything in social media world. Be aware, though, while these systems are good, they have limitations still because the companies that control them need to work with social media groups and get approvals to merge their technology withe that of the SMMS company. An example would be Google+ and HootSuite. Last I checked these didn’t work together, which was a bit of a shock as Google has over taken both Twitter and Facebook in social media apps.
I do encourage you to only use what social media is needed and what enhances your company or work. I know for some small business owners, they are too small and too busy to be worrying about social media, but do they actually need it? I would say yes. If you are in a trade – fixing engines, laying and waxing hardwood floors, etc then why not take a picture and post it up on one of the social media picture sites? It doesn’t require much other than stopping and taking a picture and uploading right from your phone. If you have a professional do your website, they can link your social media to the website via a link and people can go there to see examples of your work. Its not much once you get it set up and it might just get you more customers! There are ways to always use social media for a purpose for your company, business or products – you just have to find a few that you are comfortable with.
As you can see, I’ve listed up 8 steps, but keep in mind there are many, many more websites out there that have more of these types of tips. So, now tell me…. what have I forgotten? Do you know of any other tips that can be used in creating a plan/strategy? If so, let me know and I’ll add it to the list…