Social Media

Turning Random Social Media Posts Into a Strategy for Success

Businesses say they have a social media strategy when in reality they often do not. The reason is they have not approached social media strategizing with the same discipline and vigor applied to strategizing for other marketing channels. — By Joshua Ferdinand

Most companies utilize social media as a marketing tool, but it is a tool that was added on to existing marketing plans. That is just another way of saying that it was a random act of marketing in that people are driving its use while the business follows from behind with annoying advertisements and self-congratulatory posts on product greatness.

Social media has matured as a tool for managing competition, increasing revenues, and developing long-term customer relationships, so it only makes sense to develop an effective strategy with measurable goals that is a good fit for the company. Developing a written strategy forces business leaders to think in terms of understanding customers, social media content, what is most important to the business, and desired marketplace influence. Without a strategy, the business is likely losing customers to competitors and missing out on opportunities to develop enduring customer relationships.

Writing the Battle Plan
"You should never go to battle before you've won the war on paper," said famed business consultant Philip Kotler. The ease of access to social media, and the ability of employees and customers to access information via social media while bypassing the company's online presence, are marketing game-changers.

Entering the social media battle is easy, but entering it without a plan for winning equates to lost marketing opportunities. Pushing advertisements on systems designed to build relationships is only going to annoy people, rather than attract them. Social media should not be thought of as another channel for delivering marketing messages.

There are numerous reasons for a business to develop a social media strategy.

Some are obvious, such as people now use social media to share information about products and services they like or dislike, or to ask for advice on future purchases. The business wants its brand to get positive reviews and recommendations.

A second reason is that social media messaging should be consistent and responsive. How does a company know employees, customers, or potential customers are providing or getting the right information unless the social media channels are monitored and analyzed? False information is regularly passed around online as the truth. How do business leaders know the marketing tweets are attracting the target audience?

Social media strategy establishes specific business goals, a path to achieving the goals, and the types and means of measurements.
A third reason to develop a social media strategy is to develop a network of key influencers who amplify the marketing messages by sharing product and services insights, industry standards, and problem-solving answers. It is common to see "ISO" on Facebook posts now. "In Search Of" inquiries are often about products and services, and the more others recommend a company's solutions, the better. Social media influencers or brand ambassadors also help the company strengthen the company's reputation, but that can go either way. People can be pleased or disappointed with a company. A social media backlash can cause irreparable harm to a business.

Finding the Right People Among Millions
The ultimate business purpose for using social media is to drive sales, and there are multiple channels and ways to do so. People become customers in response to successful branding efforts, like Instagram feeds, or new sales to existing customers are made. Posts, tweets, and blogs can convert non-customers into customers.

Social media offers customer service by providing two-way rapid communication between the company and the customers. Positive results lead to new sales.

Social media strategy establishes specific business goals, a path to achieving the goals, and the types and means of measurements.

The first step is determining what the company wants to achieve. Is it new purchases, leads, stronger social media presence through positive posts and retweets, growing the number of followers, becoming an industry expert, and/or sharing product and services insights so people get more attached to the brand? Chances are there will be multiple goals, but each one should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). Goals must be aligned with overall company goals. Social media goals should not be stand-alone add-ons. They should be impactful, thoughtful goals that enhance the business effort. The objectives drive progress toward goals.

Use critical information like the description of the ideal customer prototype, current customer demographic and market demographics to decide the best marketing formats to reach desired customers. They include posts, images, videos, links, tweets, etc.

Each social media channel has unique characteristics, and the generations have preferences. Facebook and Instagram are two of the most favored social media sites for millennials. Teenagers like Snapchat and Instagram, and the number of teen users is expected to trend upward on these sites, while Facebook's teen users are trending downward. Baby boomers use Facebook and Pinterest but have low usage of Snapchat.

Decide on the social media channels that will produce the desired results, and then learn everything there is to know about marketing on those sites.

Train, Track and Adapt
Coordinate the marketing effort to ensure no mixed signals are sent. The strategy should include employee training and methods for regularly communicating current information about the company. This will limit the amount of misinformation transmitted.

Savvy companies monitor social media for all mentions of the company, competitors, and industry. The social media strategy must include the process for monitoring.

Finally, measure progress toward goals based on an established timeline. Identify the analytics for assessing the strategic plan is on track to achieve goals. If it is not, then it is time to regroup and adapt the plan. Analytics can provide information about the competition, audience profile and size, traffic, reach and engagement, sentiment analysis, and content. It also provides a way to identify how well each social media channel is contributing to the company's goals.

The strategic plan is all about ensuring social media is delivering desired results, and that requires an investment of resources designed to promote success. There are third-party analytics tools available, and they are a good investment. The time and effort put into the strategic plan can deliver big results when social media is approached as a marketing opportunity that is as important as traditional marketing efforts.