It’s happening again, this time with social. Before that, it was digital…. Websites…. Internet… email… infomercials…. radio… You name it. Marketers always look to the latest communications craze to get an edge.
To the delight of customers and corporations alike, it offers speed and the ability to share with incredible efficiency. Hence, it delivers the conversations with customers that our communications and marketing predecessors only dreamed about. To the horror of marketers (and the delight of some customers), it has the ability to bring down brands, companies and politicians alike in just one tweet or post.
That’s why it keeps getting special attention. Moreover, it’s why social media must be an integral part of the organization as a whole— not just something that resides in a marketing or communications silo. Social media tentacles must reach beyond marketing and communications to embrace the other major business functions, including sales, HR, R&D, product development, legal, and IT. To my mind, it needs to be on every department’s radar screen.
The degree to which other departments are involved depends on how communication flows in each organization, as well as the individual objectives to be achieved. Yet, in many ways, social media is not different at all. Social media is the logical extension of technology-powered communication that makes two-way dialogs easier and faster. Successful implementation, in many ways, parallels how we use other channels, but with a hyper sensitivity to the ease and speed it elicits a response. So how should we proceed?
Common Sense, Content and the Dowager Countess
Whether you are a billion-dollar-corporation or a first-time author, anyone using social media should apply a bit of common sense. Here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Objective – Define it clearly and from the outset. Whether you want to increase awareness, encourage customer engagement, stimulate event or survey participation or generate sales, know what you want your social media plan to achieve from the start. Too often, social media initiatives are started without a clear goal in mind. So it’s no surprise, those responsible have a hard time articulating the value it brings to the organization. When you start with defined, measurable objectives, such as increase event registrations or prompt a specific call to action, you will derive greater value from the entire effort. Set goals and expect results.
2. Relevant Content – It’s the lifeblood of any social media campaign. All the videos, white papers, surveys, research, photos, experts, in the world will not meet objectives unless it is uber relevant and easy to access. Content is information and entertainment. It’s long form; it’s short form, and often it is both. It’s consumed now or later. It’s discarded after one look or saved forever. It’s accessible when and where I want it to be. Given all this, the operative word here is relevance. Hence, at all costs, avoid “ready, aim, post!” Calendar it!
3. Authenticity – Don’t try to fake it; you’ll fail. Just take a run through Twitter and you’ll easily find the celebrities (or their characters) and politicians who have hired hands write their tweets. Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess (@theLadyGrantham), among my favorites, is successful because she tweets in character, even when she is not talking about the show. Others have met the wrath of the delete button because they simply use Twitter to self-promote. Similarly, successful @brand or @company handles (manned by company surrogates) speak in the brand/company voice that customers have come to know. When executives take to social media, customers, employees and investors want to know they are the real deal, not understudies. Don’t disappoint.
4. Platform – Choose wisely, they are not all the same. True, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and all the rest yet to be developed, are social media. But they are very different in what they can do for you with respect to your stated objectives. Each can attract a different audience and in a different state of mind, with varying amounts of time they are willing to spend with you. That doesn’t mean you need to create more and more content; it means you slice it up differently, depending on the platform. You would be surprised how much relevant content you can create across a myriad of social media platforms using just one industry white paper. Divide content and conquer.
5. Measurement – There’s no excuse not to do it. Data from social media offer great insight into what matters most to your customers. The beauty of social data is that it is both quantitative and qualitative. Interactions in the form of Likes, Shares, Retweets, Favorites and Pins tell you what resonates. Look for spikes and lulls and adjust your plan accordingly. Direct feedback in the form of comments and mentions can be positive or negative, but they give you real insight into sentiment. Create a rapid response mechanism to assess/manage negative comments. And be open to acknowledge the positive sentiments too. The engagement rate reflected by the cumulative number of social media interactions is important too as a way of assessing the overall effectiveness of your content plan. If you post, you measure!
A few facts: By every measure, social has gone mainstream. According to University of Massachusetts study released in 2013, 77%, 71% and 69% of Fortune 500 companies are already on Twitter; Facebook and YouTube, respectively. And the participation rate for Twitter is sure to rise to 100 percent in just a couple of years. But by that time, sure enough, we’ll all be talking about that next new communications craze.
What’s your view?