We are struggling with our social presence.
We have a large social following, but we don’t see much returns from our social media presence.
We don’t know how to efficiently track the RoI of our social media marketing efforts.
These are just some of the remarks I get to hear from businesses every day. A lot of times, the problems are fundamental in nature — things that have got more to do with what the business decided to do, and less with how they did it.
Let us quickly get the most obvious thing out of the way. Yes, social media is more integral to the success of a brand than it has ever been. Irrespective of the line of business you are into, social media adds a lot of muscle to your overall marketing and content creation. Whether the intent is promotional or the creation of awareness around your product and services, social media helps you with your broader business goals. And as a result, brands of all shapes and sizes are onto the social media brandwagon. So, no one is questioning whether or not you should be having a social media marketing strategy in place. Doing it efficiently is the part that challenges us all.
NEXT TO EMAIL, SOCIAL MEDIA REMAINS THE MOST COST-EFFICIENT AND TARGETED MEANS OF MARKETING AVAILABLE TO BRANDS
I am a huge proponent of the power of email marketing, and as such, I am a firm believer in it being the single most powerful tool available at a marketer’s disposal to give an unprecedented boost to the brand’s marketing. But after emails, if there is a medium that has the power to be both cost-effective and targeted, it is social media. And in some ways, social media overshadows the effectiveness of email marketing as well. After all, in social media, there is the added snowball effect of having a network effect, unlike emails which will always be more one-on-one.
CRAFTING A STRATEGY STARTS WITH ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
That is the starting point for formulating any strategy, and your social media strategy is no different. Asking the right questions will help you chalk out the entire skeleton of your overall marketing approach, and help you decide what different building blocks you need to throw in the mix.
So start with the very basic of questions, and try having a clear, concise and extremely crisp response to the questions you put up on the board. (Bottomline: No vague responses, no fluff, no flowery language.)
- Who you are as a business?
- How did the business come to be? What is your reason for existing? What is the absolute problem you are trying to solve for your customers?
- What stage of your business are you currently at?
- How much of business are you bringing in right now? How much business do you want to be bringing in, in six months from now?
- What are the different marketing activities your brand is engaged in? What kind of responses are you witnessing from those activities? What does the typical audience engaging with these marketing initiatives look like? (This will help you determine the best possible social media channels you should be focusing on)
- What constraints do you have when it comes to creating a social media marketing plan? (Are you suffering from lack of creative bandwidth? Are you constrained on how much ad dollars you can spend on social media marketing?)
- What are the different social media platforms you are currently present on? What kind of dedicated activity are you able to seed onto each of these platforms? What kind of engagements and growth curves are you witnessing on these platforms vis-a-vis the effort being put in?
TRIMMING DOWN THE FAT
As soon as you are done answering these questions, it is time to trim down some immediate fat. Measure what social media activities are giving you the most impact and what activities show the potential to add the most value to the business, and ruthlessly let go of everything else, or at the very least, put the rest on auto-pilot.
One of the biggest reasons why brands don’t see as much returns from their social media marketing efforts as they should is because they tend to spread themselves out pretty thin trying to do it all. Don’t do that. Be very clear and quantitative on what needs to be done, and focus on that and just that. Everything else can wait!
Trying to figure out the social media platform your audience is largely present on is a futile exercise. The answer you are invariably going to arrive at would be what you already know — your audience is present everywhere. But there would be platforms that witness a better engagement rate when it comes to the target audience interacting with the brand or the content you are putting up. So focus on those before anything else — both the platform, as well as the type, tone, format, and general theme of the content. At the end of the day, you want your audience to be as engaged with the brand as possible, so you need to evaluate what helps you achieve that objective.
LEARN FROM YOUR COMPETITION
The social media marketing efforts of your direct and indirect competitors can help you save a lot of time in reinventing the wheel. You can see what your competitors are doing on different social media platforms, what kind and type of content is witnessing the most engagement from your target audience, what are the typical conversations that are coming up as a result of their activity. This will all be a goldmine of information, and help you formulate a content plan that can potentially address the most glaring questions your target audience is faced with, and the problems they want solved. And once you have that figured out, instead of doing what you want to do on social media, strive and plan to do what your audience is looking for on their social media feeds. Instant engagement!!
Always look for gaps in the current landscape, and be the brand that can plug in those gaps for your customers.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU ARE GUNNING FOR?
Businesses are in the business of making money. So it becomes intuitive to say that the focus of your social media marketing is to generate more revenue. Sure, that indeed is the end goal. But what is it precisely that you hope to gain out of having a social media presence? This would be a well defined, clear and concise outcome you have because of which you, as a brand, are choosing to be active on social media.
Is it to handle customer grievances better?
It is to boost awareness about your product and services, and therefore broadening your audience reach?
It is to drive more traffic to your website?
Is it to generate more leads for the business, in an effort to acquire new clientele?
It can’t be a combination of all of those. “What you are gunning for” has to be a singularly isolated, clear target you have in mind — something that your entire social media strategy would be converging towards.
Your goal needs to be specific and easily measurable. It has to be grounded in reality, and well within the confines of being attainable in measurable units of time.
HAVING A GAMEPLAN
Now that you have answered most of these questions, it is time to create a gameplan.
For example, if your business objectives require you to consistently push out quality content that helps your audience make better business decisions, then you need to have a reliable content pipeline capable of churning out value-adding content for your audience. It can’t be on an ad-hoc basis wherein you are pushing content whenever possible, or worse, convenient. Create content in advance what you need to push out the next week. Maintain consistency and quality both.
Your overall gameplan, and adhering to it with discipline, will eventually be responsible for your social media success stories. So, you need to be very clear about them, and absolutely unforgiving when it comes to attaining those targets.
If there is one thing you need to remember when creating a social media strategy for your brand, it is the fact that it is supposed to be conversational in nature. At the end of the day, you need to engage your audience in conversations, whether it is by addressing the concerns they are having, or answering questions about your brand, product, and services, your social media presence is there to seed in conversations. So make that intent the cornerstone of your content marketing guideline.
- Constantly strive to add value to your consumers, whether it is via the content you share, or the comments/responses you make.
- Stick to the social media platform you enjoy actively participating on. Consistency is going to be the key. Unless you yourself are used to the platform you end up choosing for your brand, you would not be able to be ‘active’ on it, and no matter how many strategies you make, it will all come crashing down.
- Have obtainable and reasonable goals. It is easier to get carried away and set targets that theoretically feel like the right numbers to add value to your business. But as long as you can consistently keep up those numbers, once-off activity boosts is not going to be helpful.
- Be honest and sincere. Your audience can smell non-genuine behavior a mile away, and fake sincerity has never been able to instill a sense of trust and confidence in anyone. If your audience doesn’t trust you, it will be extremely unlikely they would come to think of you when they need to make a transaction in your domain.
- Creating quality content, and creating it with consistency is one of the toughest things to achieve. To do it effectively, forget all you think you know and look at it all from your audience’s lens, from their perspective. Don’t create content that you think is important; instead, create content based on an understanding of what your audience cares about the most. When you create helpful and insightful content, you are not just giving your audience a reason to pay attention to what you have to say, you are also giving them a reason to come back looking for more.