For now you need to put SEO, SEM, display, email and pretty much everything else on the back burner. If you don’t have a well-composed strategy for social media, everything else you’re doing is a waste. If you’re still considering social media to be “new media” or an emerging channel please take this advice and make social your absolute number one initiative until things get to a steady state.
From here on out, you also need to realize that all media is social. Everything you now do is in the public eye. It is open to criticism as much as it is there for admiration. For all of the fans you’ve got, you may have just as many detractors. You may have spent months developing strategies for your overall marketing plan, but if you haven’t considered social media channels as your primary messaging tools you’re wasting time, money and opportunity.
1) Social Media is Cheap. Yes, you heard it here first. Even considering that you’ll be investing a ton of time on an ongoing basis, this should be your most effective channel to drive the metrics that count. From my experience, Facebook advertising is more cost effective than PPC was before everyone jumped in on that game. Properly executed viral campaigns through social channels can be even cheaper engagement tools.
2) Everything Leads Back to Social. Even though you’re a legitimate brand with decades of goodwill-building reputation, everything that you do and say will be judged and fact checked. Chances are that somewhere on the Internet there are chat rooms dedicated to the adorning of your brand. To balance things out, you’ll likely find reputation-damning message boards spewing oceans full of vitriol about your brand. While there are things you can do to manage your reputation through SEO and PR, social media remains your most controllable source of brand-supporting information. You can’t control channels that you do not manage. Since most of the users of the web spend a large amount of time on Facebook, it is important that you maintain a visible, active presence there. Remember, everything you do and say is now social media and you can have a say in your brand’s image.
3) All Channels Are Not Equal. If you’re delivering the exact same update or post across all of your channels, you absolutely don’t understand the dynamics of each social media network and channel. Look, I’m a data nerd and I take very little in marketing at face value. Analytics tools give me information that makes me a more effective marketer. I rely heavily on demographic data by channel to influence my posting and messaging. For example, in North America our Twitter followers are predominantly male. However, on Facebook our fans are nearly the exact mirror opposite in composition, being primarily female. That said, it is unlikely that any product or service I promote on Twitter will be entirely female focused. For instance, if I’m promoting an oil change offer on Twitter the subtlety in my approach will cater to the male psyche, yet be sensitive to a broad audience. On Facebook, I would tend to promote ideas, thoughts, merchants and deals that appeal to a female audience. Additionally, as you delve deep into the intricacies of each channel you’ll become familiar with facts like how women may share more with people they know on certain channels. You may also find that men take action at a higher rate. You will also find that men may be more apt to comment on a controversial issue on certain channels over others.
4) Listen to Your Audience. Don’t Eavesdrop. Remember, you have control over what is said or not said on channels that you manage. If you’re doing things right and you’re engaging your audience, comments will be aplenty. Some will be good, others may be maligning. Be cautious about how you respond and contribute to both fans and detractors. You want to foster an environment of open discussion. This can’t happen if people feel as though big brother is watching. Of course, you’ll want to monitor channels for libelous or defamatory information that has no merit, but I implore you to be careful about responding to and commenting on every positive or negative comment in a public forum. Formulate a set of best practices for the management of discussions. Ultimately, listen to what your audience is saying and reply when the context of doing so will provide a benefit to your overall strategy.
5) Make Social Easy for People. Nearly every channel of marketing and advertising now offers some type of integrative sharing, liking or posting tool. Use them liberally. Make it very easy for people to do the work for you. However, don’t just assume people are going to share your brand on their own. You have to guide your audience in subtle ways to share information with their circles of influence. This task is difficult for most marketers to comprehend, however this is pot of gold for marketers. Unique information, catchy topics, controversy and of course cat photos are a good way to get people talking. However, make sure that the incentives for sharing support your goals. It is easy to confuse your fan base and complicate your strategy with irrelevant posts.
I’m passionate about the utilization of social media as a supporter of reputation and a driver of revenue. I believe that most of the world’s biggest brands, in their best efforts are falling short of what they need to do to properly extract 100% of the value of social media marketing. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but in my mind the most fundamental information that all marketers need to amplify their results. Remember, social isn’t easy. Social isn’t always fun. If you think social media is always fun, and is easy you’re probably not doing it right and you’re probably leaving a lot of money and opportunity on the table.