Social media is probably the fastest growing channel for businesses of any size to build their brand, create loyalty, provide real-time customer service, and reach out to existing and potential customers. This is really no surprise when you consider how quickly social networking sites have become part of people’s lives. In a recent blog post, Which Social Media Channels are Best for My Business, I gave some pretty eye opening statistics that illustrate just that:
- 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. met via social media
- 80% of companies use social media for recruitment
- YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world
- Facebook has over 1.2 billion users worldwide
Facebook alone accounts for 1/7th of the world’s total population. Needless to say, businesses are quickly realizing the need to get on board with social media marketing and social networking. But it evolves quickly and there’s no handbook to tell you how to get started and how to protect yourself from being the next social scandal.
If you’re new to social media or you’re not sure you’re doing it right, there are 2 main things you need to consider before going social:
- Performing a Social Media Audit
- Your Social Media Policy
How to Perform a Social Media Audit
There are 6 steps to perform in a social media audit:
- Goal setting and measurement
- Tracking & Optimization
1. Goal Setting and Measurement
You can have multiple goals under multiple social media campaigns. Those goals might include things like awareness, loyalty and sales. But before defining these actual goals, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Are we using these media to build relationships? Are we providing a new customer service channel or trying to generate new business leads? Do we want to poll our markets for existing product improvement ideas or increase awareness among current customers about new products or services? When going social, you need to set realistic expectations. Start out small and define some reasonably achievable goals.
The second step in the social media audit is analysis. Analysis will tell you what gaps in your current marketing programs can be filled with social media. Oftentimes these gaps include customer outreach, brand advocacy and brand awareness. The best way to define your gaps and decide how to approach them is by asking the following questions:
- Which social media tools and programs are our competitors employing?
- What is their content focused upon and what subject areas are they covering?
- How can we differentiate from their social media offering, content and brand personality so that we offer our audiences unique value?
- What gaps in our current marketing programs can social media help us to fill?
- How do we get our SEO team involved to tell us what keywords are working and converting versus which are not?
Marketing in general is about getting into the minds of our consumer and finding out what keeps them awake at night. Once we figure that out, we can use their needs and wants to create our overall content strategy. After creating your overall content strategy you need to decide how you’re going to go about developing that content. If your organization does not possess a subject matter expert with the time and ability to produce content your consumer finds valuable, how are you going to recruit content creators? How are you going to differentiate your content from your competitors? You also need to figure out what channels your customers consume content on to determine which channel is right for you.
During the promotion phase of your social media audit, you need to determine how often your content will be created and when and on what channels it will be distributed. A lot of organizations, including our own, utilize an editorial or content calendar.
Which monitoring tools are we using for listening to buzz on our brands, markets and competitors? To ensure that we’re monitoring for all buzz and important feedback, have we identified all the appropriate keywords and URLs to include in our automated queries?
There are two specific tools I like to use to monitor buzz about our brand or product. The first is Hootsuite. With Hootsuite I can set up queries based on lists of users, keywords and hashtags across all my social media channels.
The second tool I highly recommend is Google Alerts.
With Google Alerts I can monitor the entire web for mentions of our brand, our products and services and even competitors. You can set up email notifications any time that Google finds new results on the topics or terms you’ve selected.
6. Tracking & Optimization
That last part of your social media audit is tracking and optimization. This is where you determine what needs to be optimized and improved over time. Again, you can use built in analytics reports in tools like Hootsuite to determine which posts have the highest clickthrough rates or receive the most favorites, likes, retweets or shares. You’ll be able to see when the best time or best day to post is and how long you should wait before responding to inquiries or complaints.
Your Social Media Policy
After completing your social media audit, the final step you should take before going social is creating a social media policy for your organization. You may be thinking, “I work with adults. We’re all responsible. Why do I need a social media policy?” All you have to do is Google “Burger King employee in Japan” or “Taco Bell employee” to realize why you might need a social media policy. Workplace social media policies are gaining attention as the number of people commenting, sharing, liking and tweeting every aspect of their life continues to grow. A social media policy will protect your company from the potential effect of your employees’ personal social media activities. And no matter how much you trust your employees, it’s always better to take precautions than swallow regret.
There are 5 key points to include in your company social media policy:
- If you use your social media account for work in any way, you much identify yourself as an employee
- The rules that are in the Code of Conduct apply to your social world also
- You must state that the views expressed are your own
- Use a personal photo, not a company logo
- Act responsibly and ethically
Be sure to include consequences for violations, and information for reporting issues. And on a final note, you’ll need to make sure your policy is updated regularly to stay consistent with all the policies contained in your employee handbook or HR guidelines.
Now that you’ve completed your social media audit and created your social media policy, it’s time to dive in. Your business will have both successes and failures in social media, but accept the good with the bad and keep going. And remember, social media takes time. Conversion won’t happen overnight. Be persistent, be unique and over time social media marketing will work for you.