Until recently many businesses seemed to think it was enough to simply create profiles on the various social networks and ‘tick the box’ to say that they were ‘social’ but do nothing further. This was never the case but until recently seemed to be enough for some, however, businesses no longer have a choice but to actively engage in social media and invest time and effort interacting with their online audience.
Social media is both an astonishingly powerful form of marketing and, in contrast, a potentially disastrous form of media that can irreparably damage a brand. Knowing how to manage your social media strategy and capitalise on the enormous power and opportunity that it offers will turn, what has been considered by most, a necessary evil into the most powerful weapon your brand wields to gain new clients and keep existing ones happy and engaged.
With people turning to social media as soon as they have anything bad to say about a company, brands need to be able to respond swiftly and deal with any situation before it goes viral (which any story potentially can). Social media marketing is no longer a case of sharing a story once in a while, it’s now one of the most important elements of a company’s brand, marketing, sales effort and support.
Any business that feels it doesn’t need to worry about social media, and that it’s not relevant to them, are missing out on a huge opportunity to tap into a resource of enormous power and potential benefit.
Monitoring social media
The most important element of any social strategy is creating and maintaining engagement with the brands audience. Turning potential clients and existing customers into fans of your brand is the prize awarded to a dedicated, transparent and genuine company.
Sharing relevant content, engaging with those who follow your brand and responding to questions, comments and complaints swiftly and efficiently will build your following, visibility and influence online. Having the tools in place to allow you to achieve this is imperative.
- Tweetdeck for instance, enables you to add columns based on various criteria within Twitter. Adding columns which display tweets based on certain search terms enables you to highlight anyone mentioning your brands name, your products or something that you may have published. This allows you to respond to those tweets quickly and effectively, which is seen by those following you and those that might follow you. You can also follow Tweets from competitors, industry influencers or particular individuals in order to see a more concentrated stream of content.
- Reditr is very similar to Tweetdeck but instead monitors Reddit. Brands are starting to use Reddit more and more for their social efforts however care must be taken as Reddit employs some strict rules when it comes to adding content and engaging with others.
Brands not properly monitoring social media, and engaging, are in essence simply pushing content out, one way, that’s just not ‘social’.
Support via social
Many brands now offer support through social channels. The advantages, in the eyes of the customer, of support through social channels is the instant nature of the medium, support is offered in front of an audience and so a potentially large number of people see the brands performance, good or bad. Another advantage of social channels is that they enable the addition of media, which traditional telephone support doesn’t.
One important element to be taken into consideration, especially when dealing with a multinational client base, is that social media is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year and a resource will need to be assigned to respond to these queries whenever they may be received, from whatever timezone.
One of the great advantages of support via social media is that people are able to, and quite often do, check their updates many times daily. They can be quickly informed, proactively, of any issues and easily kept up to date should a problem arise with your products or services.
One great example of the power of social media for brands is the recent case whereby Buffer was hacked. The brand managed to turn a potentially disastrous situation into a PR triumph through their exceptional transparency and quality of crisis management through Twitter updates.
Buffer quickly announced what had happened and, more importantly, what they were doing about it, in a clear and honest way. You can read more about this here.
Care and time should be taken, prior to launching any social support to clients, that the experience is personalised as much as possible from start to end. People need to feel that they are receiving the best possible service and that they’re important to the business. Any social support channel should be:
- Easy to use
- Quick (as close to instant as possible)
- Efficient – the tools should be in place to deal with issues and not just directed to telephone or email support
- Personal – the service should be polite and friendly, the client should feel special and a priority
- Standard – social support should not be offered as a premium service
It’s important not to forget about the traditional methods of support. Although social networks are becoming more popular as mediums by which to contact brands, email is still the preferred method, and many people still like to actually speak to a support representative.
Engaging through social
Sharing, discussing and showing support for content are all essential to a successful social media strategy. Engaging with everyone that wants to engage with you, and inviting engagement from those that are not currently following your brand should be at the top of your brands online priorities.
Posing questions to your network is an effective strategy for a brand to encourage people to engage and offer an opinion. Many businesses ask their customers to suggest new functionality which affects the product road map and ultimately creates a product or service that is built by clients. Others use feedback from social media and other channels to shape the way in which their product evolves in a less direct way.
Offering followers special deals such as discount codes, competitions and early adoption of new software are also effective strategies to attract and retain engagement and new business.
Maintaining and nurturing relationships which are created online is an ongoing responsibility. Each person that follows you deserves to get a response to their questions and be treated as an individual by your brand. The more engaged people feel with you, the more likely they are to tell others about you and start to market your business for you, for free!
Becoming an influence in your field
A successful content marketing strategy will complement your social efforts by establishing and building influence in your field. Writing unique, informative and detailed articles will not only encourage visits to follow you but will also have a positive effect on your SEO efforts. Good content is shared and discussed on numerous social networks, increasing the influence of the author. As your following grows, so does you potential influence.
There are several sites that offer a way to measure your influence online. There are conflicting opinions as to whether or not these sites are accurate or even whether true influence can be measured at all. Sites include:
Influence is currently measured in a number of different ways, by different networks. Follower count, interaction (comments, clicks, shares etc), retweets, mentions, +1′s and ‘likes’ are all social signals that will give you an indication of how well your social strategy is progressing. It’s important to monitor your social signals and adjust your strategy to compensate what isn’t working or compliment what is.
Connecting with other influential individuals in your field should also be a priority. Connecting with, sharing the content of and generally interacting with influencers online is a great way to build your own reputation. Retweet their relevant updates, get involved in conversations, comment on updates that they publish and connect with them on LinkedIn. There’s a useful Chrome app that displays a users Klout score above their tweets, good for knowing who the influential tweeters are (if you agree with Klout scores).