By Ingrid Froelich at SDL Web Content Management Solutions
Dancing is loved by some, dreaded by others - there are those who are confident and uninhibited and others who stand along the sidelines. For most businesses, now is the best time to dance to the social media tune and participate. Remain a wallflower and there is a good chance that you’ll miss out on the golden opportunities social media offers.
The question is how to best communicate, interact and research, to optimise this interaction with prospects, partners and peers. How can you use the social web in way that shows measurable results for your time and effort?
Why social media?
It’s easy to make a number of valid arguments for participation in social media. These include increasing your visibility & awareness, website traffic, brand personalisation — as well as enlarging your online footprint. This all means that you will achieve more points of customer engagement, which will in turn, will aid lead generation and also customer support.
Practice makes perfect
To date, many organisations’ efforts have been ad hoc, with social media used for “push” efforts only. Rather than interaction-driven, many LinkedIn posts, blogs, tweets and Facebook pages are dominated by links to events, downloads or websites. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but these types of activities don’t take advantage of the interactive opportunity.
Listen to the beat
While it may seem that social media is about directing the conversation, a large part is actually about following. Social media provides invaluable information about your competition and customer sentiments. How customers and prospects talk about your brand, the topics they bring up frequently and their favoured content, can give you insight into the features of your products or services that stand out more. Social media can also provide critical feedback on what needs to be improved.
You should establish how your competition participates? What do they say, and further, what do customers and prospects say about them? This analysis may help to identify your unique selling points and ways in which you can differentiate your message and approach. Listen carefully to and share information from the influencers, since they can sometimes change the tune, at the snap of a finger. In addition, starting a dialog with an influencer can provide invaluable interaction and exposure.
Learning the steps
Those first tentative steps are likely to be a bit awkward and nervous. The more you learn the steps and figure out the best moves for different target audiences and purposes, the better you’ll get. Some best practices have now emerged, in terms of planning social media, so these tactics can be integrated into an overall marketing and communication strategy.
Those moments before the dance– whether tucking in your shirt or dancing a few steps in front of the mirror–prepare you for that moment on the dance floor. In terms of social media participation, the preparation is, admittedly, quite a bit more involved, but preparation is critical to success.
The audience - like any marketing or communication initiative, target audience analysis can help you identify the best platforms for the most effective communication. It also helps you identify key influencers in your market, whether that is analysts or even competitors.
Check out the venue - what is your current status with regard to social media? Who participates and how? And what target audiences are priorities? Taking a look around can help benchmark future activities.
Define your goals - by prioritising target audiences, you can create objectives for each. What do you want from each? And perhaps more importantly, what do they want from you?
Identify your posy - who in your organisation is best placed to help with social media initiatives? This may include individuals in marketing, management, customer support, sales or IT... Your selection depends on the overall goals for the initiative and influences participation.
Choose your partner - prioritising tactics can highlight where to spend time. For example, blogging can be highly effective, but frequently requires more commitment and effort, whereas social networking may be less effective but involve a greater time commitment. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of different platforms can help you make a better match when associating tactic with target audience with goals.
Make it easy to interact.
One of the quickest ways to join is to make connectivity with social networks and communities easy. “Share this” links and widgets can give audiences a myriad of ways to not only interact, but to share content.
In these economic times, measurement is crucial. This measurement can take the form of the following:
Activity - both what we and others say and do. For example, number of posts, number of tweets
Reach - the number of connections, followers, mentions of brand and audience reached
Actual interaction - replies, comments, likes, re-tweets, click-throughs and lead generation
Measurements are important as they will justify and gauge your effectiveness. They help to point the way to improvement by clearly showing you which social media tactics and approaches work best.