Social media’s popularity has been rampant throughout 2012 and is only set to grow in the coming years. Web 2.0 technologies have taken real-world social interactions into the digital arena, as well as supplementing them with a host of interesting and useful features.
Research shows just some of the profound affect social is having on our everyday lives, influencing how the media works, how businesses run and even politics. Ninety-one per cent of online adults are regular social media users – so it’s no surprise that brands and businesses of all shapes and sizes are looking to tame this powerful medium and use it for their own ends.
However, social is a very different beast to other marketing tools, which has left those using it in a staid and traditional way eating the dust of those utilising its unique benefits. So what are the best ways of creating a social strategy and implementing it in a way that generates a return on investment?
Before you even consider creating a brand page on a network, you should spend as much time as you can afford planning your objectives and methodology from the ground up. Objectives can’t be as simple as ‘get more followers’ and methods need to be more complex than ‘share cool stuff’.
What type of business you run will go some way to dictating where you’ll find your target audience and the tone of your interaction, but social rewards those who think outside the box – so don’t feel too constrained in this respect.
If you have any existing social media properties, now’s a good time to conduct an audit and see what you’re doing with them and how they are currently performing. Similarly, you should also aim to conduct reconnaissance in the planning stages – find out what social media chatter (if any) is being bandied about your brand. Be sure to check out your competitors and counterparts during this period – see what they do well, what they do badly and what they’re failing to do.
Strategy and Implementation
Now you know the layout of the virtual land, it’s time to begin strategising both specific campaigns and general social media objectives. If applicable, you might also want to consider using social media as a customer service tool.
Social media is having an increasing – if indirect – effect upon SEO (search engine optimisation), so engagement, retention and growth should be your primary concerns. But gaining likes and followers simply won’t cut it if they don’t feed in to an overall strategy – so keep a firm focus on your goals.
By now, you should have a good idea of which channels to target and each tends to have its own strengths and weaknesses (although there can be some overlap). You should also implement a policy governing social media usage. This will not only help to prevent embarrassing faux pas, but also assist in maintaining a consistent tone and brand identity across the board.
Testing and Evaluation
After a pre-determined period you should be looking to evaluate how well your social media efforts are performing. There’s a whole host of analytics software springing up to help you in this regard, so determining the return on investment from social media activity has never been easier.
You’re unlikely to get things perfect on your first go (or ever for that matter), so testing to see what works and what doesn’t is a great step in honing your social media strategy. Testing and experimentation are key elements of social (and most forms of digital) marketing – so don’t be afraid to push the boat out and think outside the box.
This article was brought to you by Gerald Heneghan on behalf of Custard, a marketing and social media agency, which provides a range of tailored on and offline PR services.