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10 reasons you need a social media strategy

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 12 Dec, 2011
Essential Essential topic

And what to do about it

Social media is not a standalone skill-set, nor is it even a vocation in its own right. It's a mindset, a set of specific tools and most importantly, it's a process weaved into content and social media marketing. Our post showing the scope of Social CRM shows how social media marketing activities occur across the whole business - this Altimeter image clear shows how wide the scope of social media is.

Beyond that even - social media has to be increasingly integrated into an organisation, not owned by marketing or PR types. Social media doesn't (or shouldn't) belong to someone or just to one team unless they're the only people who care about the customer. Why? Social media starts with your customer, or worst case your fans and brand advocates (who are usually happy customers, right?). And, because of all the above - social media marketing requires a strategy, a plan, focus, direction - whatever you want to call it.

1. A commercial context is missing

One of the most significant and obvious problems with a tactical approach to social media marketing is that it risks missing on the connection with commercial goals, the connection to the business itself. We've shared (as have many others) ideas around being able to measure social media activity, this is hard to do if you focus on tactics within social media since you'll fail to see those tactics in context, against other social media tactics and wider marketing activity. There's a great post here on this and how businesses evolve into the social space, I've pasted their graphic framework below for you.

Set commercial goals, cascade social media KPI's from those goals with an efficient analytics process in place to keep everything on track. If you can't measure it then (for most organisations, in these times) it's very difficult to get the necessary resources in place - and keep them there.

2. Purpose or vision is missing

You can start out simply in social media marketing, maybe focuss on listening and interaction with the consumer of your product, focus on a channel like Facebook, and to some extent where's the harm? However, having a real purpose enables social media marketing to have a role within the wider marketing mix - everyone knows where they're going within the business and those tools and channels develop a tangible purpose. For example, we know how Twitter remains more popular with a younger demographic and especially 'knowledge workers' so this suggests that you'd either leverage it that way or be clear to your audience what you're using it for. Some businesses may share monthly promotions and offers via Facebook, or run customer service (like Zappos) though Twitter.

Having a purpose in both social media at large and within specific social channels like Facebook is important. What is your mission and how are the characteristics of each specific channel, and the types of people using them, best placed to support that? Consider how you might build relevance and trust by layering on point 3, below.

3. Social media tools and tactics are put before customer needs

The majority of conversations that I have in regard to marketing are product or service promotion orientated before they're customer orientated. How do I… [sell via Facebook, use Twitter, improve position in SERP's]. In the social space specfically, this is such a missed opportunity. If you're asking "how do I promote" before "how do I build a relationship" then I'd suggest don't even move into the social media space. It's not a promotional channel, it's a relationship channel, one that (done well, over time) earns you permission to sell. Unfortunately to many folks look at Facebook and then think it's another mouthpiece for their brand.

Focus on the intersection between your audience's needs and what you want to talk about. Advanced businesses are seeing the ownership of the social relationship with customers outside of just marketing which makes it more natural, integration of social media into the business. We know about the pioneers in social media listening and response, but let's not complicate it either. Start with basic listening and responding to what customer and potential customers are saying about your brand, learnt what those needs are. Armed with that insight, more people with a vested interest in the customer relationship can play a role in a customer-centric process, "unleash them", Jay Baer talked about this recently.

4. Content formats and topics and topics aren't aligned

In a similar vein to point 3, the social media cart often comes before the content horse, the evidence of this is a promotionally orientated approach to social media, you're saying the same dull stuff that you would in an ad or an "e-blast" (I hate that term!). Why would anyone have any interest on engaging with a brand that just promotes, even if it's cloaked in a lame competition or contest.

Great content fuels effective social media marketing - content that is focussed on entertaining, inspiring or serving the unmet needs of a would-be decision maker, more specifically. What could you create that's interesting? Consider a number of formats too from blogging, videos, ebooks, tweets/posts, SlideShare and audio podcasts. What makes sense for the consumer?

5. Managing resources and process

There's a lot to think about, let's face it, so first and foremost a social media marketing programme requires someone to own it, to create the strategy, the focus, to build a team (maybe just a small part time bunch initially) and then select the right tools to help do the job. It's daunting and there are so many tools to consider. On top of that, and in time, you'll need to think about more formal processes and governance within your organisation, for now let's not overcomplicate it.

First - set up some basic listening. Research the market and learn what's going on, how do customer talk and react to you, competitors and each other. Second - develop a fulfilment point, consider the easiest route being a blog. This is your content and social hub. Third, select the appropriate outposts and what their role is. Twitter for ideas sharing and interaction with influencers (more on that below), Facebook for customer dialogue and ideally some specific networks that relate to your market - don't just think about the big three. Ensure that you are re-sharing and encouraging re-sharing of your content matter so the big deal here is to have a content publishing process to keep things simple and manageable - you need to be active, part of the conversation. Of course, go share your content, get involved where the customer is, more in step 9.

6. You have no network of influencers to help you

The clue is in the word social, you can't go it alone. Getting your content out there isn't easy, so you need a bunch of relevant and connected folks who already have the ear of at least some of your audience. Allies. People whom working with provides a win-win.

Invest the time to research who's got influence, listening tools make it easier to see who's 'active', but simply being in the market you'll start to see who carries weight and how they relate to you. Once you know then it's old fashioned relationship building, what's in it for them to help you? Most likely great content that they're motivated to share because they want to add value to their audience. Don't forget influencers aren't just active online.

7. Competitor activity goes un-missed

Are you keeping a keen enough eye on the competitors? Just as you might monitor respective search rankings or the creative appeal of competitors, so you should their social marketing activity. It's not about being led by competitor activity, far from it. Yet the social space might be sensitive to what the bigger players do and say, this in turn might impact your perception or your position.

Know who the established players are, right? As well as established brands, keep an eye on the emerging, hungry marketers. Keep an eye on what they do on a rolling monthly basis, does it spark new ideas for you, are there ways to leverage their mistakes? Tie this monitoring to point number 8, below.

8. No means to move on market trends and changes

Ongoing research is of huge importance! Look at the change in the last five years, iPads didn't exist and smartphones were limited, are you ready for the next five? Rest assured the speed of change is only going to increase and your experience to date will probably re-inforce that? You've heard the expression that 'markets are conversations'? (The Cluetrain Manifesto) - be a part of those conversations at the simplest level. Follow those thought leaders in your space, understand technology changes and what they mean for your consumer, appreciate the adoption of changes and technologies within your market. It's not about getting lost in QR codes or the next shiny object, it is about knowing what's coming next as best you can and being first to adopt it.

The imperative - your company or organisation needs to be a part of that conversation, to be naturally plumbed in. The ideas and insight it will offer you will be worth its weight in gold, and you become an influencer, a go-to brand for insight.

9. You think every website visitor, fan or follower is a sale today

Have you ever considered, or argued about with colleagues, why the 80%+ of people on your site do nothing. They visit from all manner of sources, click and then leave. No purchase, registration or social interaction. These are the mass that are waiting for you to not market to them like your competitors are, they're way off thinking about your product or service, they're seriosuly worried about them, they're need, they're problem and how they solve it all. Are you a part of that conversation and solving those problems? In most cases no, we'll just keep saying our stuff because we're more worried about measuring up agains the competionion.

Firstly, go where your customer (those persona types) already are. If that's gap or student travel, it'll be something like Lonely Planet's Thorntree over Facebook. Consider that, as marketers we're thinking Facebook for example, your consumer is focussed on solving a problem in the best place they can, via Google. Get involved in their eco-system of decision making… trigger the conversation, develop a more open mind and share your knowledge as much as possible with the information hungry. Your competitors likely aren't, what have you got to loose?

10. No responsibility to measure the impact

Objectives, goals and a strategy provide a real context for measurement around the success of social media marketing. To get aligned, we've posted on measurement before in real detail from the IAB.

You must measure, even if it's a more pragmatic set of KPI's that demonstrate improvement in a relevant area. Ideally you'll be able to tie in a commercail value.

The risks of not thinking about the above are obvious I hope. You become disconnected, risk irrelevance and miss the opportunity over your competitors.

Ensure that you own the social media strategy, certainly don't let a PR or ad agency take the agenda. Why? The tail wags the dog, in short. The motivation of a partner is not authentically about your customer, how can it be, it's what is best for them. No faking needed, real internal people that care, that know the detail about your brand, that live your services or products. Agencies can help, of course! They do have a role to get the work done, to design processes, aid in tool selection and provide context for content development through campaigns and creative execution.

Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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