Published in Nov-Dec 2012
So you have decided to take the plunge and give your brand a social media presence. Or maybe you already have a presence but don’t know how to build on it and get the momentum going. What is important to know is that no matter where you are on the social media spectrum, you need to be armed with a set of tools and resources that will help you achieve maximum bang for your efforts. And with so much conflicting advice about what to do and what not to do, it helps to get your brand’s social life right from the beginning.
Create a social media strategy
A comprehensive strategy will provide a directional map for social media success. With such a strategy you can navigate the choppy waters of marketing in the digital medium. Your strategy document should be able to answer the following questions:
How and where on the internet will you be listening to conversations about your brand (where will your listening posts be)?
Which tools will you use to monitor these conversations (e.g. Google Alerts)?
What do you hope to gain from these conversations and the knowledge gleaned from them?
Who are your industry’s influencers and how will you reach out to them?
What are the goals and objectives of your strategy: awareness, knowledge, trust, leads, etc.?
What is your timeline for meeting your goals and objectives?
Which content platforms will you use to power your strategy: website, video, blog, Facebook page, etc.?
What kind of content will you be producing: images, how-to guides, interviews, etc.?
How will you implement your plan; what is your engagement strategy?
How do you intend to measure the success of your social media efforts: via popularity, sales, awareness, recognition, etc.?
####Say I want to measure how well my Facebook page is doing. The most important metrics I use to evaluate ‘success’ are a constant increase in ‘likes’; monitoring my ‘interaction rate’; and measuring the ‘reach’ of my posts.
Build a policy manual for handling social media
Although this may seem like an excessive extra step to the uninitiated, trust me, a well crafted policy manual will save your (social) life in the event of any confusion, crises or staff turnover. Here is what a basic policy manual should cover.
First, you should be very clear about who will draft this policy and who in your company has the rights to modify this manual. If you are outsourcing the development of your social media policy, it is still imperative to assign an in-house contact. Second, list all the social media channels your company will be active on and what you expect to gain from them. Defining your end goals as accurately and realistically as possible will help keep you and your team on track as you navigate the social waters. Next, for each social network, define the following:
The hierarchy of people involved in content generation, research, manipulation, tracking, and monitoring. Identify how information will flow within your company to reach the end customer, who will be responsible for consolidating this content flow and how different departments will contribute and be taken on board.
What are the repercussions of mistakes made on social media; who will be responsible for any fiascos and how will they be handled?
Will one person be handling your social accounts or will it be a team effort? In either case, identify the tone of your messaging and make it consistent with your brand’s personality.
Identify the type of content you will be putting out on the network. Will it be sales content, third-party news, images only, questions, polls, links, help desk, RSS feeds?
What will be your frequency of your posting? Every day/ week/month?
How will you deal with negative comments, spammers and off-topic comments?
How will you appreciate positive comments?
What will your policy be on security features, tagging people and brands, using hashtags, creating custom tabs, etc.?
Build a content and publishing strategy
Here I typically like to use an editorial calendar. The master calendar can then branch out into your blogging calendar, your social media calendar, your Facebook calendar, etc.
You can house your editorial calendar in three possible ways: on Excel sheets (to be shared with partners and other company employees), via an editorial calendar plugin (especially if you are using WordPress for your website/blog) or via a smartphone app. Within the editorial calendar, identify the content and the frequency of content.
To generate content ideas, you need to have some kind of brainstorming session – with your team or with yourself – depending on who is responsible for content generation. Use your smartphone or whatever technology you have on hand, to continuously jot down any good ideas you see around you – you can literally derive inspiration everywhere: your customers, employees, competitors, friends, family, mass media, social networks, etc. It helps to be able to ‘capture’ these ideas when and where they occur for later incorporation into your content base.
Once you have identified your main content themes, the next step is to understand what message fits into which medium. For example, it is a proven fact that image posts do better on Facebook than long winded text updates. Or for example, Twitter hashtags can be used to start a trend or a movement.
Once you have some idea about the kind of content you want to create, identify how frequently you will be posting it. So again, refer to popular researches that identify where and when people are likely to be. Or ask your community if they are okay with your content and posting frequency. You will get a lot of valuable information from doing your own trial and error for a few weeks to see what works for you.
Choose a system for tracking and measuring your social media
And speaking of trial and error, how do you know what’s working and what’s not? Obviously by tracking and monitoring your efforts!
Let’s do this with an example. Say I want to measure how well my Facebook page is doing. The most important metrics I use to evaluate ‘success’ is a constant increase in ‘likes’; monitoring my ‘interaction rate’; and measuring the ‘reach’ of my posts.
The lifetime ‘likes’ are easy to see with Facebook Insights. Generally, you want to see a gradual climb to indicate that ‘likes’ are steadily increasing which means that your brand is gradually gaining more awareness and reach.
The second item I want to measure is ‘interaction rate’. Typically this chart will contain information about which of my posts had the most number of comments, shares and likes. This metric is important because it measures how ‘engaged’ fans are with your brand and if they are making the time (even if it’s only a second) to hit the ‘like’ or ‘share’ button or leave a comment.
The crucial thing to note in your interaction graphs are the peaks and troughs – the peaks indicate a post that received high levels of engagement while dips in the graph reveal posts that yielded little to no interaction. So your main takeaway from this measure is to do more of what increases interaction (the peaks) and find and eliminate what your fans are not particularly interested in (the troughs).
The third most important metric is ‘reach’, or how many people are seeing your posts, which mean that your posts are showing up in their news feed and are not hidden or marked as spam, and are not being pushed out by other pages’ updates.
You can view all these three metrics using Facebook’s built-in insights reports or alternatively you can subscribe to a service like allfacebookstats.com or pagelever.com for more custom reporting options.
Figure out if your brand’s social media will be handled internally or outsourced
I would always recommend that brands appoint internal resources for the management and consolidation of social media, the reason being that internal employees bring context to a conversation. The benefit of working within the organisation adds to the nuances of what makes the brand and company unique. An internal employee requires less time to train on intra-departmental workings and can instead be trained in the tools of social media, which are more easily learned.
If you choose to appoint an internal person for your social media management, make sure this person is enthusiastic about your company and gets on well with people in general – these traits are more important than any formal social media training!
If you opt to outsource your social media, the most important thing, when choosing a company to do this, is to see whether it has the right skill set. For example, do they understand your industry, have they taken the time to really get to know your company and its culture and can they serve multiple functions of your social media management – from content creation and curation to measurement and marketing?
That’s it – five simple steps to take you from a meh-social media presence to a highly engaged, aware and responsible one. Always remember that social media is a conversation, not an ad, so when you start talking to people, they will start responding to you. Make sure you are prepared and listening!
Salma Jafri is the founder and CEO, WordPL.net.