By Steve Richards, Managing Director, Yomego.
Social media has a reputation for being a bit wild and untameable – as a brand, how on earth are you supposed to keep control of the message in such a dynamic, collaborative environment?
On the other hand, social media offers brands a fantastic chance to get to know their customers on a far deeper level than ever before. Because it feels a bit risky, and as the area is still so new, it’s not uncommon for brands to rush in setting up social media accounts here there and everywhere in an attempt to get in on the action.
But is this a sensible idea? If brands are serious about social media, and want to see measureable results from their activities, there needs to be a formalised social media strategy in place before accounts are set up and first impressions made.
Have a social media strategy, not a Facebook campaign
Having a Facebook presence and a Twitter account doesn’t mean you have a social media strategy. Like any other marketing strategy, your social media must target the right audiences, not just use the latest channel.
There are huge opportunities on social media for brands, if you get this targeting right. Ofcom recently reported that consumers spend almost a quarter of the time on the internet on social networking sites.
Brands can not just market to consumers over these channels, but also interact with them, understand what makes them tick, and involve them in their marketing plans. But only if their social media activity is absolutely relevant to their audiences.
Social media should be considered as important a part of a marketing campaign as advertising, DM, PR or SEO. It needs sound objectives, a thought-through strategy and - above all - proper management. (This is not something to give the intern.)
If a brand puts up a Facebook page without knowing why, no-one will visit that page (let alone ‘like’ it), and so the brand won’t see any return on its investment. Consumers need a compelling reason to engage with you. Like anything else, you get out what you put in.
Ask these questions:
- Has the brand established a clear objective for using social media?
- Is there a plan for proper implementation and management?
- How will success be measured?
Some brands find it impossible to measure the ROI of social media simply because they did not define their success criteria before they launched the campaign. If a brand has an objective for the campaign, success can be measured.
Some brands may simply want to use social media to increase site visits, or sell more products (and it can work, see the oft quoted $3 million Dell sales via Twitter). But brands can also have more abstract objectives for their social media campaigns.
Creating Engagement between the brand and the consumer can be incredibly important for long-term success. Brands that take the time to get to know their consumers - by encouraging interaction, promoting the highest quality content and recognising valuable contributors to communities - build up a stock of trust with community members which matures into brand loyalty over time.
Building Brand Awareness is another popular objective. Just look at the buzz created around the recent tippex ad on YouTube. Naturally, you want to ensure that the brand awareness you are building is a positive one!
Customer Interaction can also be measured, and this factor can be especially important for brands that have created a customer service site such as eircomconnect. Impact can be measured via the decline in calls to customer service call centres as well as interaction on the site itself.
Reputation Monitoring and Management is really something that all brands should be using social media for anyway. Don’t assume that your brand won’t be mentioned on a social media site just because it does not have an official presence there.
By monitoring and listening to what people are saying about a brand online by using a Social Media Reputation tracker, the brand can find out valuable information on, for example, product performance, reception to a new line, or common issues affecting a service.
By acting on this intelligence, a brand can improve customer relations, produce development and sales; and have an alert system to spot issues before they become a major brand crisis.
Yes, some of these objectives can be difficult to measure in hard financial terms; so apply the measurement criteria other marketing disciplines to social media, such as: engagement levels; brand awareness; impact on other areas of the business such as customer service; and reputation scoring. All these have a positive financial impact on the business.
A brand with a social media strategy is one that understands that in order to get the most out of social media, it must be treated like any other marketing discipline– given clear objectives and a dedicated pool of resources who manage the campaigns properly. A brand with a Facebook strategy will have set up a Facebook page which is unmanaged, a Twitter account that the intern monitors, and then complains that it has a pitiful ROI.
The fact is, have a clearly defined social media campaign, which is well managed with clear objectives and measuring the success of it will be much easier.
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