Tuesday Jun 11, 2013

The First 4 Questions of a Social Strategy

chessLet’s face it.  In many businesses, there is no social strategy. Because of all the social media buzz, a Facebook Page was launched, a Twitter stream was started, and their management was tasked to someone, perhaps by virtue of being in their early 20’s, as part of their job. They get a bemused pat on the head when followers go up, but then it’s back to business as it was done in the 90’s.

If something’s worth doing at all, it’s worth having a plan and a purpose. Even company picnics have a plan and a purpose. They’re sometimes more strategized than social is.

So for those still in the starting blocks, here are 4 things to ask to get a serious-minded social strategy going.

Question 1: Whom Do I Want to Talk To? 
Suppose I want the parents in my kid’s class to know there’s a bake sale coming up and we need cupcakes. I could stand on a street corner holding a sign everyone who drives by could see. Or, I could send out a note to the class parent email list.

The right choice is obvious, yet many businesses lunge into social without a clear idea of whom they want to reach. Not asking the question, or leaving it for everyone to assume, is a mistake. It warrants some thought.

Will you use social to introduce your product to people who’ve never heard of it? Will you use social to get people who’ve bought your product to buy again? Will you use social to get regular customers to spread the word about you? Will you use social to execute customer service? Will you use social to conduct research? Will you use social to court and build relationships with experts in your industry? Will you use social to connect to your partners and vendors?

“All of the above” can’t be the answer, at least with one strategy. Each audience requires its own strategy. Start by picking one audience, the one most important to you, and start interacting with them using the next questions. Multiple audiences and strategies can then be added as you go and grow.

Question 2: What Do I Want Them to Do? 
Many businesses ask, “What do I want to tell them?” It’s the kind of push-marketing mentality that’s falling out of favor as the public, especially younger demos, grows increasingly repelled by desperate messages from self-absorbed brands. Telling them something isn’t enough anyway. You want them to do something. But you can’t get them to do it until you know what “it” is.

Do I want them to share posts? Do I want them to talk to each other about us? Do I want them to watch our videos? Do I want them to tell us what they do and don’t like about our product? Do I want them to use a coupon? Do I want them to play a branded game? Do I want them to join a rewards program? Do I want them to check in to my location? Do I want them to contribute content?

Until you know what you want them to do, you can’t get to the next issue of what you must give them in order for them to do it. Believe me, they aren’t thinking about your needs and what’s best for you. They must be motivated by something of value to them.

Question 3: Where’s the Best Place to Reach the Target?
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Flickr, GetGlue, Viggle, MySpace, Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal, Tagged, Orkut, Reddit, Meetup…the list goes on. There’s no shortage of social networks, each with its own angle.

You’ll want to assess which are most populated with your target, and which offer effective interaction opportunities for brands. Only you can determine how large of an audience makes participating on a social network worth it. Which leads us to the next question.

Question 4: Can I Finish What I Start?
Or better yet, will I finish what I start?

Like any other kind of marketing, social requires commitment and resourcing. It’s not a hobby, or a part time job, or busywork for an intern. If you launch into the social world with no plan, no purpose, no guidelines, no source of consistent quality content, no way to respond to customers, no social technology platform that can publish/moderate/analyze your communities across multiple social channels, you could actually do the brand more damage than good.

Give social a fair shake, with a solid strategy behind it, and the reasons for doing so will become clear as the communication pipeline between you and your customers really starts flowing.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng, Kriss Szkurlatowski

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