Barrier entry to social media may be low but not everyone is doing it smartly. Here's a practical guide to getting started.
Everyone has their 2 cents on how to do social media as it is such a moving target and the barrier entry is so low. Another article on how to do social media is just what everyone needs!
Before I do my consultant talk on the strategic mumbo jumbo, I thought I would get the practical, technical, and procedural stuff out of the way first. So let's get started!
The Right Social Networks
Yes, Facebook is dominant in most countries (but not all), Twitter is toppling governments, LinkedIn is getting everyone head hunted, and Google+ is at 67 million users in no time. However, these social networks have a combined worldwide market share of 78 percent (see Wikipedia); they are often not your social network of choice especially in many Asian countries, such as China, Korea, and Japan.
If your target market is one of those in the 22 percent, the landscape is often very fragmented, broken down by ages and topics. Care must be taken to select the social network that best represents your target demographic.
When faced with many choices, the temptation to be on all of them is high. Don't, because building word-of-mouth successfully in social media is about creating high quality engagement. A bunch of half-hearted presences is only detrimental to your brand.
Social Media Monitoring Tools
It's important not to be too self-centered when building up your social media presence. Apart from sprucing up your page/group and making it lively, it is also critical to know what is going on "out there" away from your page/group. Many tools can help you do that, to gauge the "temperature" on your topic of interest, or to find out exactly who's-saying-what-from-where-and-when. Granularity of your need is directly proportional to their costs - the deeper you want to drill, the more expensive the tools tend to be.
How to select these tools is easily another long article, but the main point here is that you will need some tools. Don't think you can do this meaningfully manually (there is only so much those interns can do!).
Many social networks let you access their backend with APIs (application programming interfaces), allowing you to write customized apps that interact with the network. Whether you need an app depends on what you hope to do with your presence. Most advance presences have some kind of a specialized app though - to facilitate sign-up, to showcase videos, to play games, etc.
Creating an app is not a one-off exercise. As social network platforms are constantly evolving in the backend, their APIs change over time, and thus apps need to be rewritten to cater to those changes. This translates into monthly/quarterly maintenance cost.
You can easily find an app developer to create your app, but it is not easy to separate the good ones from the bad ones, as there are many of them. Check their references, ask them detailed questions about their work, visit the company, and don't pay in full. Buyers beware!
# PLANNING AND WORKFLOW
On the Fly but on Script
Apart from being fast and ongoing, social media is on-the-fly, fluid, and unpredictable. You need to understand and accept this. If you don't, your social presence will show, and it will turn people away, but it does not seem real, and it may not come across as honest.
Therefore you cannot plan ahead of time when and what exactly your posts are going to be. What you can plan though, is the types of response to expect, the stages of a conversation, the facts you may want to include, and the tone and manner of your response.
Check out this U.S. Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment, and you'll know exactly what I mean. With such ammunition in your pocket, you can be on the fly yet on script at the same time!
Social media responses need to be fast if not instantaneous, especially if your choice of social network includes a Twitter-like service. To react quickly in the digital age, we need to do away with forms and face-to-face meetings, instead using instant messengers and smartphones.
Gather your stakeholders (product development, marketing, corporate communications, customer service); make sure they all have a smartphone; set up a group on your favorite instant messenger to include all of them and voila, you have yourself an instant approval workflow and audit trail at your disposal at minimal cost.
No Gunners Please
I hear this term "gunner" a lot of the time. I am not sure about its origin but it refers to people who do postings online on behalf of their clients. I don't like gunners, and I don't think they add value. They simply flood the web with more dishonest and hard sell content. They charge by the number of posts and that is not a measurement of social media success. Whoever is doing the actual posting should understand your communication and brand objectives, have a good PR sense, and understand your script. And that's not a gunner.
Now back to the strategic stuff.
We mentioned the word script a few times above. A script is basically a manifestation of your social media strategy. It informs you of the content, tone, manner, and timing of your social interaction.
Consider the following when you develop your script.
What Are Your Objectives?
First, be very clear about the purpose of your social media presence within the context of your overall communication objectives. Is it brand awareness, customer loyalty, product showcase, or customer service, driving traffic to your brand site or e-commerce site? You need this objective to direct your script.
Short-lived tactical campaigns can be part of your overall strategy, but they cannot be your sole reason to use social media. A solid following needs time to grow and mature, and that usually don't happen over a few months. Friend collectors and those who are into casual likes are brought together by infatuation; in social media we should be looking for true love!
What Is Your Brand Voice?
Your brand voice is basically the tone and manner of your social media responses. It should resonate with your overall brand, and it has to be knowledgeable, relevant, caring, and transparent: all real life characteristics of someone you don't mind confiding in. So how can your brand be all that while staying on brand? That is yours to figure out.
Be the MC! Be Interactive
Managing your social media presence is exactly the same as being an MC. You need to lead the room, read the crowd, engage the audience, and have harmless fun. A good MC never just reads off a script, they are always spontaneous yet never run behind schedule. Having frequent, small, easy, and instantaneous rewards for your following also helps. It's a quick way to create word-of-mouth without being too hard sell.
Customer Service and Crisis Management
Expect to receive complaints from customers! You are not facing reality if you don't anticipate that to happen. Think about the typical complaints you get from customers (don't tell me there are none) and draft out a response plan. It will be very handy when you see the first complaint on your social media presence.
A positive way to look at a complaining customer is to see a passionate customer. If you act quickly and show them that you care, more often than not, they will be a happy customer again.
Now that you've got your own house in order, a big part, and the real part, of social media is to socialize around the web. Reaching out to other like minded communities on the web will add prowess to your social media presence in terms of traffic and general awareness. It is PR in its purest and digital form. The art is to determine what these like minded communities are, and how to befriend these influencers.
So that's about it? Not too difficult right?
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Patrick is the principal advisor of 3 Screens Strategic Advisors, a digital marketing consultancy that specialises in developing holistic digital strategy by providing digital auditing, planning, and dash-boarding services to clients. He has a deep and holistic understanding of the myriad of digital channels, and the ability to strike a balance between its art and science. Patrick worked on a variety of digital and integrated assignments with clients in the region from various industries including air travel, financial services, fashion, fast food chains, FMCG, hospitality, jewelry, property, telecommunication, and toys. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Canada, Patrick graduated as an electrical engineer from the University of Waterloo in Canada.
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