Social Media strategy is vital to your online success. Why does your company have a facebook page? Why do you post to Twitter? Somebody once wrote:
Planning without action is futile. Action without planning is fatal!
Online marketing is just like offline marketing. There has to be a purpose. There are a great many companies who put considerable resources into their offline marketing efforts, spending a lot of money on advertising in press/television, cultivating good contacts in PR and in the media in general. Many of these same companies fall down in their online marketing planning. Why?
5 reasons why online marketing campaigns with social media are not properly planned
- Lack of understanding about Social Media.
- Social Media is largely free – people think more about what they are doing when money is involved!
- The abyss between the marketing department and the IT department. – often the marketing people do not have the technical skills and the IT people do not have the marketing skills. Online marketing falls into the chasm between these two sets of people.
- Sheep syndrome. – Competitors are seen to be “on facebook” etc and the company jumps on board, just to “keep up”. The fear of being left behind is the motivator.
- Bad advice. – I wish I got paid every time I hear somebody say “Get on Facebook!”. Why? What are the goals behind it? How will it benefit the business?
Branding V Marketing
I’m very aware that branding is part of marketing, but for the purposes of this little debate I am making them two separate entities. Here is why.
- Branding is concerned with getting your company name and message out there. The more people that are familiar with your brand the better. Familiarity breeds trust.
- Marketing is concerned with selling your products or services. You want to identify and target people who are potential customers.
This highlights two possible approaches to planning your Social Media Strategy. You can
- Aim to reach as many people as possible regardless of whether they themselves are likely to become future customers. This is done just to create brand awareness in the wider population. It is the equivalent of sponsoring events, or billboard advertising in the offline (real world).
- Aim for a specific demographic of people who you have identified as being likely to be future customers. Here you are really selling as directly as you can, not putting effort into areas that are unlikely to yield sales.
How does this affect your approach to say Twitter for example?
Quantity V Quality in Social Media
Well in the case of Twitter, you would be linking to as many people as you can to increase brand awareness, having a “more the merrier” approach to building connections. You can see this often on twitter where people have 1,000 people following them but are following 5,000 people. The theory is that the more people you follow, the more will follow you in return. Interaction with these people is minimal or non existent. Used like this, Twitter is not a Social Medium, it is a branding portal, and in my opinion of little benefit in the majority of cases (although as you may have read in previous posts on Twitter integration it is a useful intermediary tool).
Conversely, you could plan to only follow people with which you actually wish to communicate. People can still follow you, but your account is not swamped with lots of tweets that you don’t want to read. The intention is to interact with the people you are linked to. This is true Social Media. A great example of this being put to use is in the case of radio presenters like @SeanMoncrieff on Newstalk. Used in this way Twitter becomes a communication channel.
Which suits your business? The first option can be done with little investment (time) but the second can be highly intensive in terms of time commitments.
Could you integrate twitter into your website and use it as a open communications tool where people can ask about your products and services? Who would man it? What damage could be done to your companies reputation if it is not implemented well? Is it necessary or is the telephone a good enough communication channel?
Social Media Pitfalls
I am an advocate of Social Media for business. That does not mean that I am blind to the potential PR disasters that await companies that do not plan their Social media strategy.
What if that disgruntled employee decides to write something damaging about the company (on company communication channels in particular – eg. blog / twitter / facebook). Worse still, it could be an ex employee who finds his or herself with access to company Social Media even after they have been dismissed.
It is not just disgruntled employees you have to worry about. It could be well intentioned posting by a member of staff that erupts into a PR disaster. It could be a simple misunderstanding that blows out of all proportion, or some inaccurate information about your company (like incorrect pricing) that leaves you having to clean up an awkward mess. Indeed, where employees are posting using their real names it could be simply something they have on one of their own sites like their own Facebook account that gets found and spread. If you are a healthcare company and your employee has accessible pictures of a drink and drugs party on their facebook page then it could be a problem for the company. Your HR department probably does a search on potential employees, your competitors might too.
What is your company policy on dealing with anonymous posts that ridicule your company or your products or services. Dealing with slander in the press is a much easier prospect than dealing with it online.
Would you even be aware if somebody started an online campaign to slight your company? In this instance there is a simple fix – google alerts. Set up an alert for your company name and you will know whenever somebody mentions your company online.
This post is getting a bit long, but I’ll be posting again soon. I want to talk about blogging and where it fits into your Social Media Strategy next.
A touch of humour
If you are really finding it hard to come up with a social media strategy you could always try this site: http://whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com/