Many company leaders understand that in order to survive in today’s business world, their companies must have a social media presence.
But to the detriment of many organizations, strategy is lagging (way) behind.
And when no strategy is present, here’s what happens: Individuals from different departments tweet at will, using the company’s official handle.
Some of these 140-character messages are loaded down with cumbersome language from the company’s web copy guidelines; others are peppered with abbreviations like “u,” “r” and “2.”
On Facebook, users who “like” the company’s page find that their news feeds are bombarded with promotions, surveys and so called “news.”
Meanwhile, clients are posting positive and negative feedback on both sites.
Sometimes these comments receive responses; sometimes they don’t.
And that’s not even taking into account LinkedIn, Pinterest, the company’s blog and more.
In using such a scattershot approach to social media, organizations are missing out on major opportunities to engage with potential and current customers, manage their reputations, and more — and they may be alienating social media users in the process.
Without a social media strategy, how do you know what you’re trying to achieve, what you should be doing, how well you’re doing, what you should be measuring and what the return on investment (ROI) of your social media program is?
In my book, Maximize Your Social, I explain how companies can create a strategic social media framework, leverage opportunities that each social media channel offers and implement a data-driven approach to monitor the success or failure of their social media programs.
Here are 11 essential components of a comprehensive social media strategy.
Branding: Be consistent across all channels.
Most businesses already have brand guidelines (including naming, color scheme and imagery), and these should be applied to your social media properties as well.
After all, branding is all about consistency, right?
The challenge, though, is that most branding guidelines don’t include any guidance for the most important part of your brand in social media conversations: Your voice.
“Although your brand guidelines might make mention of tone and vocabulary for use in web copy, social media will challenge those guidelines when you need to have a conversation with an average person,” I point out. “In most instances it’s okay to be less formal on social media channels — just make sure that your updates, statuses, comments, etc. ‘speak’ with a unified voice. In the planning process, be sure to ask who represents the voice of your company in your social media branding guidelines.”
Content: Engage in conversation.
Although cynics might dub it a mindless vacuum, social media is really about the convergence of communication and information.
That being the case, what you share and talk about with social media users is important.
Content provides the medium to help you engage in conversation — and creating content that is truly resourceful and shareable can have many long-term benefits to your company’s social media presence.
“Keep in mind that content isn’t just about blog posts, photos and videos. Think outside of the box! Presentations, infographics, memes and even discussions (such as in a LinkedIn Group) are all types of content that should be considered for your social media strategy.”
Curation: Share meaningful content.
If you’re just talking about yourself in social media, no one wants to listen (much like regular conversation).
It’s only when you begin to curate content that is of interest to your followers and promote it, together with your own content, that your social media accounts begin to breathe new life.
“If you work in a business-to-business (B2B) company, this will often come down to content that you might already be sharing with your current and prospective clients on sales calls, in newsletters or during informative webinars. If you work for a company that sells directly to consumers, it might mean sharing more photos and videos of who is using your product, stories about your brand that have never been publicly discussed, or resourceful information to nudge people into realizing they need your product.
“And don’t forget that crowdsourcing content is also a great way of curating — especially if it is from your own fans’ tweets about and photos of your products.”
Channels: Join the right networks for your company.
There are currently more than 50 social networks with more than 10 million members.
You can’t — and shouldn’t — have a presence on every single one of them.
Deciding which social networks to engage in, and creating internal best practices and tactical plans for each of these networks, will form a sizable part of your social media strategy.
“While most companies concentrate on the more established social networks, depending on your industry, the new emerging social networks of Google+, Pinterest and Instagram might be equally important."
Frequency: Post strategically, not constantly.
No two social networks are alike, and with limited resources, you’ll need to decide how much time you are going to spend on each platform, as well as what you’ll be doing there.
This will help you to maximize your ROI for time and resources spent.
It’s also important to tweak your frequency strategy for each social network from time to time so as to maximize the effectiveness of your posting.
“Believe it or not, frequent posting doesn’t necessarily make your social media more effective. For instance, research shows that when a brand posts on Facebook twice a day, those posts receive only 57 percent of the likes and 78 percent of the comments per post that a single post receives.”
Click here to read part 2.
Neal Schaffer is author of Maximize Your Social: A One-Stop Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy for Marketing and Business Success. Named a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer two years in a row, Schaffer has created social media strategies and trained dozens of companies, from startups to Fortune 500 enterprises. His work has been recognized by the media, appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes and more. For more information, visit www.MaximizeYourSocial.com.