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By Robert Heldt
President and Co-founder
Social media is no longer just a place where people go to have fun, hang out with friends or let them know what they are up to. Since helping an international airline establish its social media presence in Japan five years ago, Custom Media has seen a rapid rise in firms, brands, as well as government and non-government institutions reach out to get professional help with their social networking channels.
The enormous amount of data generated on social media has made platforms such as Twitter and Facebook into marketing giants. Every day on average 500mn tweets are sent, 4.75bn items are shared by Facebook users and 9,000 snaps per second are sent on Snapchat, culminating in a whopping 2.5bn snaps per day and growing. Analysing and understanding how to work with all this data has sparked growth in social media consulting specialists.
But what does all this mean for businesses? This data offers firms valuable, real-time insight into consumer behaviour and trends. With the right approach, social media can help businesses build brand awareness, boost loyalty and increase sales. Besides, conducting targeted marketing campaigns has become much easier, with measurable outcomes simpler to track.
Social media is no longer an option—it has become a necessity, enabling firms to reach and engage with their customers. Just as it is important for firms to have a business plan, so it is crucial that social media be part of their marketing plan.
Social media is a great marketing tool to help grow your business. Embrace it. The more your firm uses it, the better you can get to know and delight your customers.
So where do you start? Here is a quick six step guide to getting your social media right.
Establish a plan detailing how your firm will be using social media to achieve its business objectives. Clearly define what those objectives are: building brand loyalty, increasing customer satisfaction, generating leads or driving web traffic/e-commerce on your site. You might want to consider a specific purpose for each channel—some firms exclusively use Facebook for hiring. Your strategy should include a crisis communication plan for when things do not work out as expected.
Conduct a social media audit of your current activity, if any. List all the channels your firm uses with the relevant data: number of followers/fans, and daily, weekly and monthly average content activity and your fan engagement rates—how many likes, shares, comments, etc.
Once you have this data, take time to research your competition. How they are using social media, what channels they are on, what type of content they are sharing, how active they are and what kind of engagement rates they get. Use this data to establish your benchmarks.
(i) Business goals—are these designed to increase sales by x%?
(ii) Social media goals—are they designed to build brand awareness?
(iii) Key performance indicators—what growth are you expecting in followers, engagement rate and by when.
Create social media guidelines and a brand persona so your employees know the tone of your messaging. Your engagement style, whether fun or serious, formal or casual, will relate to how you build your community and what type of content you will share.
Choose the right, experienced people for your team to manage your channels. I’m often surprised at how many firms leave this important brand communication task to interns. Train your employees to manage your channels, provide them with clear guidelines and a list of do’s and don’ts when engaging with your fan base.
Create a content strategy. What type of content will you share? For example, text, infographics, photos, videos. Does this content add value to your customers? Does it encourage them to engage, like or share? Establish a calendar of activity—define how often you will post content and on which channels.
Tips: i) Keep your posts short and to the point. ii) Use eye-catching visuals. iii) Post interesting content which will be of use to your customers, not just sales-focused product or brand promotions. iv) Encourage user-generated content from your audience. iv) Stay current—embrace video and other new features.
Regularly check to ensure your messaging is on brand and flag content that does not meet your guidelines. Examine your progress on a monthly or quarterly basis, establish quantitative and qualitative reporting to measure growth or decline in fan base and insight on engagement. Use social media listening tools to monitor and analyse activity. There are many free tools such as Adobe Social, Agorapulse, Hootsuite and Meltwater. Select one that achieves your goals.