By Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Company and The Conversation Manager (Kogan Page)
When it comes to creating a digital strategy, so many people put too much emphasis on Facebook. Facebook is a powerful tool that you have at your disposal, as are Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and so many other social networks, but it should not be the centre of your digital infrastructure.
People often go out chasing Facebook likes without stopping to think how likes will bring in additional business. I always urge businesses that their digital objectives should always be linked to overall business objectives, and therefore it is vital to build a bridge between digital strategy and business strategy. To make your digital efforts work for you, you should consider the following points.
Your own platform should be the heart of your digital strategy
Quite simply, the best place to achieve your business objectives is on your own interactive platform. For most businesses this will be your website, but rather than the traditional approach to a website whereby you would build it and then it was “finished” until you rebuilt it three years later, sites now should not be static, but should grow in content and evolve to becoming more like a digital magazine showcasing your business.
If you are going to link digital and business goals, you need for a platform to share content, start conversations and capture data. Research on Emarketer showed how a brand or retail site has much more influence on consumer behaviour than Facebook content.
Use social networks intelligently
So you’ve got your interactive platform? Great, but you still need to bring visitors to it. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have huge audiences ready to be entertained, educated and generally engaged with. However, make sure you use these social networks to guide people to your website – if you only post content on Facebook it is like fishing with tasty bait but no hook to actually make it count.
Slideshare, Pinterest, Flickr and YouTube are great options for presentations, videos or pictures. Users may find your content there, but you could also embed this content on your own site and share the link of the site on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to increase the impact of the content.
Consider the long tail of your content
The additional benefit of placing content on your own platform is potential to create a content long tail. The shelf life of content on Facebook and Twitter is very short and after a while is very hard to find.
Placing content on your own platform has a big SEO (search engine optimisation) benefit. Long after you have posted it, people searching on Google for advice or information on that particular topic will come across your content, opening your brand up to a fresh new audience.
Try to maximise the reach and impact you are getting for your investment in content. Use hyperlinks to link your content on social networks, link back to older content to guide users to stories from the past that are still relevant, and take the time to embed YouTube, Pinterest or Slideshare content – people like pictures.
Think real-time to boost conversation and traffic
Keep an eye on news stories and trends that are relevant to your business and your target audience. Social media is all about what is happening now, so by using real time content marketing well you can increase the reach of your digital channels and really engage people. While the first three points in this article are about creating your own stories, this one is about hijacking other people's stories to get the attention to your brand. However, tread carefully; you don't need to get involved in every news story, so choose the subjects that match the DNA of your brand.
Make sure you capture data
The better your content, the more people will want to hear more from you. If they like you and see you as a trusted resource, give them the opportunity to share their data with you. By doing so they’re giving you permission to communicate with them, but remember it is not an opportunity to take advantage of them or you can quickly lose their trust and become just another nuisance. Data driven marketing should be a precision weapon, and only by using the data in a very targeted, relevant way will you have impact and long-term success. The customer has given you data to allow you to speak to them in a personal way, so manage the relationship wisely.
By Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Company and The Conversation Manager (Kogan Page). Follow him on twitter @StevenVBe or visit: www.stevenvanbelleghem.com