What is Social Media?
In simple terms, social media describes 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.
The feeling in the business world about social media tends to be polarised between those who think it’s an enormous waste of time and those who are embracing it in full. Organisations who choose to ignore social media risk being left behind completely, alienating internet savvy customers and future employees in the process. 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. Those organisations that have a clear, strategic social media plan will gain enormous competitive advantage by using the right tools to suit their business and target market. While the Social Media tools are simple, aligning them with the organisation can be complex.
Here are 10 tips to consider when developing the social media strategy for your organisation:
- Use Social Media internally first– Start using social media tools internally to improve communication between team members and your best customers. Collaboration tools include: Wikis, Basecamp HQ, Central Desktop, and Sharepoint. Meeting tools include: Gotomeeting, Webex and Skype. Instant Messaging tools include: MSN, Gmail chat. Cloud computing tools include: Google Apps. Internal social network tools include: Yammer and Salesforce Chatter.
- Set the ground-rules – 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.
- Start Listening– Social Media is best described as a series of online conversations. Just like in normal life good conversationalists are great listeners. 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. Luckily there are a myriad of tools available to listen including Google Alerts, Socialmention.com, LinkedIn groups, Twitter search and OpenFacebook Search.
- Identify your target market– As with any communication plan you need to 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.
- Start responding– When you have listened and understand what people are saying and where they are saying it, start responding on specific industry blogs, joining Twitter discussions, commenting on Youtube, and slideshare.net or starting discussions on LinkedIn. 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.
- Create your own initiatives and get others involved– You’ve done the research, now dive in! Choose your tools and set up your initiatives. 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.
- Measure – Everything online is measureable. 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.
- Fail fast– 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. If it’s not working move on.
- Syndicate– 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.
- Train and educate– Train your team to use the Social Media tools you decide best suit your target market. Train your partners and customers on these tools so they understand how to get the best from the information and value you provide. Oh and finally, train and educate them again, and again and again.