How to develop a successful social media strategy close

Julie Coassin
Julie Coassin
In Musings, Online Innovation
3rd March 2009
How to develop a successful social media strategy

"It is not that the internet is a particularly recent invention. It has even had its very own economic crisis. So why are companies still struggling to engage with it?

Of course, every company worth its salt has a website, not least those who have sent their executives to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

But the discussions here suggest that many companies are still struggling to move beyond having a colourful website towards really using the internet to their advantage.

And to make things worse, hardly any company knows how to cope with the rise of social media - the Facebooks, Twitters, blogs and YouTubes of the digital world."

The above comes from an article on BBC News written by Tim Weber during the World Economic Forum. Weber reports that most companies simply haven't got a clue about social media, and either bore, ignore or upset their potential audiences. Even if there are some great examples to prove to the contrary - Zappos on Twitter, Blendtec on Youtube, MyStarbucksIdea to get consumer feedback or Southwest Airlines on Facebook - I agree with Weber that most companies are struggling to enter the social media world and are not properly using the power of the network to gain opportunities and build relationships.

Does your company really get what social media is all about?

Social Media is people having conversations online. These may be your customers, employees or investors. It is the shift from a broadcast and unidirectional mechanic to a many-to-many model. Conversations are facilitated by online tools that people use to share content, stories, opinions, insights, experiences. These tools include blogging, social networking, micro-blogging, video-sharing, bookmarking, photo sharing, wikis...

Social Media is empowering people. They are now able to create, select, share and converse on any topic they like. As already discussed in a previous article, there is nothing you can do about these conversations happening online. You don’t have control anymore! However, you can certainly participate and engage with people using these Social Media tools. The key is to start now.

Well, that being said, you might be one of those who don’t know where to begin to join the conversation. That’s not a problem at all; it is never too late to connect. What you do need are some guidelines. The thoughts and links below will help you have a better idea about where to start.

You may have already started to enter the social world. After all it is shiny, new and so many people are using it. It’s the ideal channel for advertising! But that is the wrong purpose, you need some direction! Why don’t you read on as well?

Fundamentals of a Social Media Strategy

"We need to be on Twitter", "Oh, and we want a blog" Don't jump into social media just because everyone else is doing it. Take a step back and take a closer look at the POST method invented by Forrester’s analysts Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li authors of Groundswell, one of the most important books on the phenomenon of Social Media. POST stands for People, Objectives, Strategy and Technologies. It’s a four-step process for social strategy which will help you define the appropriate tools to implement in order to get the most of Social Media.

Firstly, People. Know your customers and assess their social activities. You should already have a rough idea of who you are targeting but most importantly you should identify how they use social media technologies. The Forrester’s Social Technographics™ Ladder classifies consumers into six overlapping levels of participation: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives.

The Social Technographics Ladder

If you are not sure how to profile your customers, you can use the Social Technology Profile Tool. This free tool will allow you to define your audience’s social computing behaviour. Just select age, country and gender to see the result.

Beyond Forrester’s Social Technographics™ Ladder it is highly recommended to listen and monitor the good, the bad and the ugly. The list below offers some great FREE tools to listen and learn what your consumers are saying about your brand, how they participate, the tone of voice they employ, the information they are looking for etc. The only advice I could give is to be prepared for what you might discover.

Google Blog Search - Google's index of blog posts.
Google Trends - shows amount of searches and Google news stories.
TECHNORATI Search - search the blogosphere.
WhosTalkin - social media search tool that allows you to search for conversations surrounding the topics that you care about most.
SocialMention - social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and microblogging services.
HowSociable? - provides a simple way for you to begin measuring your brand’s visibility on the social web across 22 metrics.
Twitter Search - Search keywords on Twitter which "self-refreshes".
TweetScan – search for words on Twitter.
Twitrratr - distinguish negative from positive tweets surrounding a brand, product, person or topic.
Twilert - Twitter application that lets you receive regular email updates of tweets containing your brand, product, service.
Hashtags - Realtime Tracking of Twitter Hashtags.
Friendfeed Search - Conversation tracker.

Objectives - Ask yourself what you want to accomplish. What are you trying to achieve with Social Media? No, getting rich is not the answer! Although an effective strategy should pay off financially in the long run with increased brand awareness and customer loyalty. So do you want to:

  • Listen to your customers?
  • Talk to them?
  • Support them?
  • Energize your best customers to evangelize others?
  • Embrace them and their ideas?

If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you know the direction to take? Stop utilising Social Media because it’s cool, slick and popular and use it because it is effective in helping you to reach your goals. Deciding what you want from Social Media will directly determine the best strategy to adopt and the right tools to use.

Strategy - plan for how relationships with customers will change. Start figuring out what will be different after you have implemented the tools. Determine the strategy for achieving your objectives.

Technologies - Despite the impressive number of social media tools available, you should only join and participate in the platforms that matter to you, and make sure you don’t waste your time in the ones that don’t. (ie: Building a blog just because it's trendy and because your competitor has a blog) But honestly, if you have properly determined your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can easily decide what tools are appropriate to you: wikis, blogs, podcasts, content communities, micro-blogging, social networks...

Some final tips before you really join the conversation

  • Always be yourself, real, human, transparent, helpful, and give more than you get.
  • Try to humanise your brand as much as you can.
  • To really see the result, invest time into it and to resource it properly. It takes time to develop relationships in the social media world. Finding your BBF (British Best Friend) in one tweet is exceptional. Think of Social Media as a long-term strategy!
  • Remember that you’re not in control anymore. Members are.
  • Relationships are the new currency in Social Media (see The Essential Guide to Social Media)
  • Stay connected on a constant basis and be responsive.
  • Don’t broadcast yourself, instead contribute to the conversation and provide something of value.
  • Finally, keeping it simple is sometimes the best route.

At codegent we have been helping to develop our clients’ social media strategy as well as benchmarking them against their competitors and tracking their reach and results. Drop us an email if you would like to find out more.

I hope this post will give you a better idea on how to develop a successful Social Media strategy. Please feel free to share your own experience on entering the Social Media world.

Next time, we will look at how to measure your social media effort.

Illustration credit: Matt Hamm