Social Media has played a part in most businesses since it was invented but still the sentiment in the business world about social media tends to be divided.
There are those who think it’s an enormous waste of time, who choose to ignore social media and risk being left behind completely because they are alienating internet savvy customers and future employees in the process.
And then there are those who embrace it fully – those that have a clear, strategic social media plan and gain enormous competitive advantage by using the right tools to suit their business and target market.
But what is Social Media?
Social media, in simple terms, is the term used to describe the tools people are using to share text, video, images and information online and the networks they are using to connect with each other. It’s the evolution of the internet from a broadcast medium to a massive online conversation where free, easy to use tools, available 24/7, give users the ability to share and spread information (both good and bad) quicker than any other communication channel.
While the Social Media tools are simple, aligning them with the organisation can be complex. Organisations that jump without strategic thought will waste a lot of time because they have no overall plan and are caught up with the different forms of social media available.
Here are 10 tips to consider when developing the social media strategy for your organisation:
1. Start using social media tools internally to improve communication between team members and your best customers. Take advantage of collaboration tools such as Basecamp HQ or meeting/IM tools like Gotomeeting, VSee and Skype.
2. Write a social media policy for yourself, your employees and where appropriate for customers and partners. Even if your organisation is not officially using social media, chances are your employees are using social media at work so you need a policy. The policy can be short, but should clearly outline how employees should behave online, what they should and shouldn’t say. You may also need a response guide outlining how you will respond to good and bad comments about your organisation online.
3. Start Listening to online conversations. Listen to what the leading organisations in your field are doing, listen to what your customers are saying online, keep up-to-date with industry blogs. There are a myriad of tools available to listen including Google Alerts, Socialmention.com,LinkedIn groups, Twitter search and OpenFacebook Search.
4. Know exactly who you are targeting – Where are they online? How do they communicate? What are they doing online? Why will they listen to and eventually buy from you? You will already know a lot of this about your existing customers. Often sending out a well-structured survey on surveymonkey.com will provide you with more clues as to where and what you should be communicating. Combine this with point 3 and you are on your way.
5. Start responding on specific industry blogs, joining Twitter discussions, commenting on Youtube, and slideshare.net or starting discussions on LinkedIn when you have listened and understood what people are saying and where they are saying it. This will give you an
understanding of the tone and topics that interest and engage people, and you will start to get noticed by the online influencers in your industry.
6. Choose your tools and set up your initiatives. After you’ve done the research, you will by now have a feel for which tools, initiatives and type of content best suit your customers. It could be blogs, discussion forums, linkedin, facebook, slideshare etc etc. Focus on spreading the content that adds the most value to your target market. Ask customers, partners and others that can add further value to contribute a guest post or video. This fosters community and adds value to the people who visit your online community.
7. Regularly check your analytics to see what is working and not working. Are you achieving your KPIs? Keep doing more of what’s working. If something’s not working change it or stop doing it. See next point.
8. If it’s not working move on. Social media tools are free and quick to set up. The most wasted resource will be the time of you and your team. Once you have a plan for a tool set it up and test it. Find out how much value it can add as quickly as you can. Measure carefully and try different tactics.
9. Connect up the various social media tools so that you only have to create a message once and promote it via all your social media tools and networks. Tools like Hootsuite, Ping.fm, Bit.ly, Tweetdeck and Postling enable you to do this automatically. This ensures you get your message your target audience in multiple places, with little additional effort.
10. Train your team to use the Social Media tools you decide best suit your target market. Trainyour partners and customers on these tools so they understand how to get the best from the information and value you provide.
How has Social Media helped your business? I’d love to hear your thoughts – comment below.