By Rebecca Heard, Senior Planner, Indicia

Once upon a time a brand looking to increase sales could call up their agency, slap together a back-of-a-fag-packet radio commercial with a brash Buy! Buy! Buy! Call-to-action and they were pretty much good to go. Today, things are different and nowhere more so than in social. The interrupt-and-repeat mass advertising mode just doesn’t cut it.

Of course, you know you can reach, engage and sell to your customers on social channels, but the environment is foreign: it’s personal, resource-intensive and hard to measure. So how do you get started? Here are my top tips:

Have a goal

What’s the point? What are you trying to do with social media? The goal shouldn’t be to be amazing at social; it should be to be amazing at your business with the help of social. All too often brands dive in without a clear road map or a vision of what social media can do to enhance the brand. Whether it is to increase brand awareness, client engagement or decrease customer support inquiries, you will never get beyond tactical conversations without a defined goal.

Set your KPIs and benchmark

What KPIs will you use to assess the effectiveness of your social strategy? There is an array of complicated data points in social media and you need to think about what you want to measure from the onset.

For example for an awareness strategy you might consider: reach, impressions, number of new fans or share of voice. While for loyalty, you might decide to measure: brand sentiment, engaged social fans and word of mouth.

Keep in mind that along with clear KPIs, you also need benchmarks for success. For some, the idea of reaching 100 fans is something to strive for, while other quickly reach 1,000, 10k, 100k and set their sights higher. There are many social bench-marketing tools available to measure this including Fanpage Karma, AgoraPulse and CScore.

The Brand Story

It’s not about redefining your brand story, it’s about telling it in social. Disney isn’t about movies, it’s about magic. Apple isn’t about technology, it’s about innovation. Every brand has a story. It is your job to identify what your story is and communicate it in a compelling way. Ultimately, your story sets you apart from competitors and can never truly be replicated. Your brand story should act as the blueprint for all communications in the social space. It needs to be at the heart of everything you do.

Know your audience

Unless you know your audience and understand what makes them tick you’ll never be able to have a genuine conversation with them in the social space.
Do you research: what’s your audience’s demographic? What time of day are they online? What type of posts excite them?

One way to achieve this is through data profiling – by combining customer data with the wealth of behavioural, attitudinal, lifestyle and demographic consumer data available, you are able to paint a rich profile of each of your customer segments.

Listen and Learn

Social marketing isn’t about gate-crashing a conversation you weren’t involved in. It is about finding authentic conversations your audience are having about your brand story and adding to it.

For example Nike’s brand story is centred on inspiring athletes. Through campaigns like ‘Find your greatness’ and ‘Endless possibilities’, Nike gives the impression that it has as much of a stake in an individual’s athletic performance as the participant.

The lesson is simple: only by understanding the conversations happening around your brand, can you create content and spark conversations that add value rather than clutter.

Create engaging content

Content and conversation go hand-in-hand when creating a solid social media strategy. Content generally takes the role of ignition, whereas conversation acts as the fuel to make any social media idea spread.

To create compelling content which inspires your audience to listen, engage and take action, you need to tie what you know about your audience and your brand narrative into a content plan. In my experience the best content plans contain a mix of:

• Real-time content – with an onus on piggybacking on breaking-news events
• Pre-planned content – looking at key events, dates which you can plan context around

The key challenge is to evolve from simply being a company with a product to becoming a valuable source for interesting, entertaining and useful content.

What channels?

Build your social strategy on channels relevant to your audience. If they are active on Twitter and LinkedIn don’t use Snapchat or build a cool Tumblr because it’s the latest fad. Relevance is everything.

When it comes to channels, you need to remember that the way you engage with your audience in each channel should always be specific – they all require specific micro-strategies. To blanket them as collective social is a big mistake.

Have a conversation

Planning time to respond to those who are engaging with your social content should be a top priority. Creating authentic, human conversations is easily the most impactful and effective action a brand can do.

Measure, test and continually improve

You can only arrive at digital and social success after carefully measuring performance and engagement. To keep moving forward and evolving, you’ll need to continually monitor your metrics and test new initiatives.