Hands up if you have a social media strategy in place. My guess is that there are relatively few readers of this blog post waving their hands in the air shouting: “I do. I do. Me. Over here!” However, there will be a lot of people out there hiding behind something, anything, as they know they don’t have a social media strategy for their business and even more who have not the first clue as to how to write a simple social media strategy for their business.
Fear not. Whether you own a business or are an employee, whether the organisation is big or small, private or public, a membership organisation or straightforward commercial business, it matters not. What does matter is if you have an online presence, use social media to promote who you are and what you do, but are doing all this without a strategy in place.
This is the point at which I roll out a quote from Alice in Wonderland to make you think about why you MUST HAVE a strategy. There are no ifs, buts or maybes here, it is imperative that you think about and plan what you are doing with your social media activity if you want to achieve results – you do want to get results, don’t you?
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go” said the cat.
Now you understand why you must have a social media strategy for your business, keep that thought at the front of your mind. Don’t stumble at the first hurdle, which is usually: “What the hell needs to be in it?” The answer is in just 8 steps.
Your social media strategy does not have to be elaborate, perfect or long, but neither should it be on the back of a fag packet, beer mat or equivalent. Think carefully about how the following 8 steps apply to your business.
There is no one-size-fits-all, and you can add as little or as much as you see fit to the 8-step framework below. The only thing you must stick to is that the social media strategy you end up creating MUST work for your organisation – be practical, not theoretical.
So enough preamble. These are my 8 steps to writing a simple social media strategy …
Step 1 – RELAX – Get into the ‘zone’
Sit down. Get comfy. Turn off the ringer on your phones. Don’t look at your emails until you have at least finished the first draft of your social media strategy.
Step 2 – TARGET – Who are you trying to reach through social media?
Who are your customers/clients? Be specific. Look at your marketing plan (you hopefully have one!) and this information should be included. I’ll help you out here … for me, I want to target: sole traders, owner-managed businesses, membership organisations, corporates (with or without in-house marketing departments), and aerospace companies, predominantly in the South East where I am based. Now, what about you?
Step 3 – CONTENT – What do you have to offer your target audience?
I love the phrase “Conversation is king. Content is something to talk about.” By this I mean that what you ultimately want to achieve through social media marketing is that the people you need to target are having conversations about you. In order for them to talk about you, they need to have something to talk about and this is where great content comes into the mix. Work out what your audience wants to know, i.e. what they will find interesting and of value, and provide that information. Place this content where your audience will find it, e.g. your website, your blog, basically, give this content a home online. Now you need to be where your targets hang-out so you can provide signposts for them to find and read your content. Step 4 covers this.
Step 4 – PLATFORMS – Where does your target audience hang out?
There is one fundamental question to be answered … do your targets actually use social media? If not, then you might as well stop right now and spend your time and investment on a marketing activity that will reach (the vast majority of) them. If you believe they do use social media then think about: Do your targets use Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook? Google+? Pinterest? etc etc etc. As a general rule, if you need to connect with consumers, Facebook could well be a good place to hang out. If you want business people, then LinkedIn would be better. If you are in a visual environment, e.g. you sell products, then Pinterest is worth looking into. When great content is available and your targets are forward-thinking, then Google+ is where they are likely to be. Basically, you need to be where your targets are – there is little point marketing places on a pre-school activity scheme at an old people’s home!
Step 5 – CONNECT – Find where your targets are
Now you have worked out where your targets hang out, and have great content placed somewhere online, e.g. your website or blog, then you need to connect with your targets. It is not a case of “If I build it they will come” so just because you have this great content doesn’t mean who you need to reach will find it. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) aside, you need to ‘seed’ your content on the social media networks your targets hang out, with links back to where it can be read, so when you connect with someone they will follow your breadcrumbs around the internet. Don’t be a shrinking violet and sit back to wait for people to come to you. This will just not do. You need to be out there, where they are, and actively reaching out to them.
Step 6 – CONTACT – Make it easy for people to connect with you
Social media networking is a two-way street. One part is when you have done the hard work in the above steps and have found people you need to target. The second part is for when people have found you and you then need to make it easy for them to connect with you. The simplest way is to include social media icons on your website, preferably on every page. The easier you make it for people to contact you on the various social media platforms, the easier it is for you to build a business relationship with them
Step 7 – ENGAGE – Have lots of conversations
In step 3 I said that conversation is king – it is now time for you to think about how you will engage with your targets so they can have a conversation with you. Sometimes this will be as simple as a ReTweet (RT) or a follow on Twitter and the other person replies to say thank you. There may be a post on Facebook that you comment on or share and the original poster responds. This is how conversations start and you never know where they may lead. For instance … I was followed on Twitter by a business local to me and as always, I read this person’s bio and looked at their website. I decided I was interested in what they did and what they had to say so I followed them back and sent a tweet saying what a good idea their business is. One tweet led to another – as can so often happen – and now they are a client which I advise on their marketing and write content for (take a look at what the amazing Clandon Wood is all about).
Step 8 – ACTION – Don’t let your strategy gather dust
It is great that you now have the knowledge to write a simple social media strategy but just having this strategy in your hand/desk is not enough. You need to put it into action. Think of your strategy as the skeleton of your social media activity and you need to add the organs and the blood to make it come alive – this is the activity plan. Write a schedule of daily activities and commit to following through (this often proves more difficult to do than writing the strategy!). For example, Day 1 = spend 15 minutes on Twitter and RT anything relevant / find new people to follow, tweet a link to new content on your site/blog. Spend 10 minutes on Facebook reading your newsfeed and commenting/sharing posts. Write a blog post and send a link out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Analyse the stats relating to traffic to your website, monitor any increase/decrease in followers / likes/connections. You get the drift.
You’re nearly there
As I said previously, this is a framework for a simple social media strategy. Simple or not, its mere existence puts your business further up the ladder to marketing success than your competitors who do not have one. Remember point 8 and put your strategy into action otherwise it is of no use to you or your organisation. Make sure you give a copy of the final strategy to everyone in your organisation who needs to stick to it – there is no room for corporate mavericks when it comes to social media marketing
Blatant sales pitch
If you were to work with me, your social media strategy will have more depth, be aligned with your business objectives, and be an integral element of your overall marketing strategy. Think of the pint of Guinness analogy – the framework detailed in this post is the froth at the top of your pint – OK, a bit fluffy and a taste of what is to come. A full social media strategy from me is the black stuff – the real deal with substance.