Without a shadow of a doubt, social media now holds a place alongside print and broadcast as a major, essential marketing channel for business, you and I both know this, and as such, social media should now be held to the same standard as those channels: your social media ROI needs to contribute to your bottom line.
Now here comes the tricky part, how can you ensure that the time and money spent on developing your business’ social media presence is being used to its full potential? You can send a tweet here and there, create a wonderfully engaging Facebook post and create circles and network on Google+, but are you sure that your investment of time is also investing in the financial growth of your business? Are you measuring this and seeing leads and growth month on month?
After much experimentation, research, late nights, tears and eureka moments, I have found what I think are the simplest and most effective steps to measure your ROI against your social media input. This article gives you a framework for setting an appropriate social media strategy and selecting the right external partners or tools to support you in implementing it. Using this guide, you will be able to create a written document that details your social media strategy and maps clearly to your wider organisational/business plans and will take your social media from so-so to astronomical levels.
1) Current Social Media Audit
Before you take your social media to a whole new level of amazing, you need to sit back and review where you’re at and where you want to be at this moment in time. Work down this checklist and answer honestly where you’re at in these areas:
– What tools/ platforms are you on, and active with?
– Are you monitoring online mentions of your name or brand?
– How do you measure the success of your social media?
Target Audience/ Potential Customers:
– What social networks do our existing customers and target customers use?
– What value are you adding to your customers with social media? Why would they want to talk to your brand?
Social media goals:
– Where do we want to be in X years based on expected audience growth?
– What are your commercial goals and objectives (financial and non-financial)?
– What is the commercial angle – knowing when to sell?
– What resources do you need?
– What internal / external resources do you have?
The answers to these questions will form an analysis of where you’re at currently and then using this, the next few sections will form your plan of action. Complement this analysis with your own evaluation processes, questions, research and knowledge from elsewhere in the organisation. Collaboration and idea building with the team as a whole is the key to online success, one man going ahead full throttle will not have the same impact as a goal oriented team working towards the same aim.
2) Establishing Target Audience
So now you know who your audience are and who you want to connect with to benefit your business. I am a huge advocate of ‘Quality not Quantity’, you need a clearly defined audience who you can put your heart and soul into rather than spreading yourself thin. Your social media audience may be prioritised differently than the organisation’s key audiences, but must still be part of the overarching target audience.
At this stage it’s therefore important to identify the most relevant audience(s) for your social media activity. Are you targeting customers, partners, B2B / B2C? Where are they online? Blogs, Forums, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn? When are they online? 9-5, after-hours, early in the morning?
This will help you to set a plan on how to connect with your audience. If you find one of your key targets is an earlybird user, ensure that you schedule a post linking to a blog they may find interesting first thing. This attention to detail, will get your brand noticed and will spark an interest.
3) Setting Objectives
Your social media objectives must fit comfortably with your business’ marketing plans. They must be SMART objectives, and result from a business desire to:
– Be evident online
– To extend your “digital footprint‟
– To add to your asset base (online presence /relationships are significant assets)
– To establish relationships offering products or services and sharing knowledge
– Build network of 15-20 UK-focused industry bloggers/tweeters over next 6-12 months who are happy to hear from us and share our news with their community online.
Presenting a clear objective such as this to your MD will ensure that your ambitions are clear and the time you are spending on social media is set within clear and well stategised targets.This is also important for your own review, going back to this statement on a weekly basis and looking at the progress will ensure you are on the right track and staying focussed.
4) Key Messages
At this stage, you should be able to list a maximum of three key messages you want to impress upon your target audience. Too many messages create “noise” and confusion, reducing the possibility that your most important messages will get through.
– <Organisation name> are a trusted to expert on X topic
– <Organisation name> enjoy a dialogue with their expert online community
– <Organisation name> share unique news with their online community and provide ways for them to become more involved with the brand and sector
These key messages need to be kept in mind with every tweet, Facebook post and article posted on LinkedIn. This brand consistency will show your audience that you are not just on social media for the sake of it, but you have a message that you are getting across in a well thought out way. It also shows that you know who you are – you’d be surprised by how many big brands send out mixed-messages, don’t be one of them. A clear message also ensures that if more than one member of the team are working on the account, the tone and message is there for them to maintain and you won’t have your message going off on a tangent.
Your social media timings need to be mapped against your wider organisational and
communications plans and into an overall communications calendar. This will help you answer:
– What parts of the campaign will happen when?
– How long will they last?
– What preparation is required – content, technology, staffing, training?
– How often will you benchmark them and report on progress?
– When will you review progress?
– Other timings to manage – awards, events, launches etc.
Timing is essential will all social media practice. You don’t want to miss the boat and be left behind whilst your competitors are reaping the benefits. Its also key that you keep a keen eye on breaking news and events. Anything that you can link in a clever way back to your brand will impress and entertain your audience. Timing also needs to be accounted for with crisis management. If you have a scheduled post that could contradict or send out a negative message in line with breaking news – delete! You do not want your brand to be associated with bad taste and bad social media management. Always be on the ball, even if it means logging in on the weekend or after hours.
As part of developing your strategy you will have evaluated where your internal capacities lie and where you need external support. Where you’re hiring support, this can be plotted into your marketing budget. You should also track and evaluate staff time spent on these new activities. For example, getting them to track as below:
– Blog Content Creation: 2 hours a day
– Twitter Management: 1 hour a day
– Facebook Management: 1 hour a day
– Measurement: 2 hours / week
– Internal Reporting: 2 hours / week
–Strategy Meetings: 2 hours / month
– Quarterly Review: 2 hours / 3 months
This will mean you can genuinely evaluate the costs to your organisation of this activity against progress.
It’s essential that you decide how are you going to measure the success of the campaign, from the start. You must think about what targets and tools you will use, and properly benchmark your starting point. Measurement must be tied back to business objectives, not PR objectives. For example, increases in sales or new business enquiries.
It’s also valuable to measure progress:
– Number of followers / fans
– Number of comments / likes / retweets
– Number of competition entries
– Number of views
– Number of clicks through to your website
Most importantly, number of actions taken against your business objectives (e.g. purchased product, made a sales enquiry) Hot leads need to be documented and reviewed by the sales team immediately, do not sit on a lead that the sales team could be arranging a meeting with. Create a shared document that you update daily with a cold/warm/hot scale and chase progress on this. This is essential for bringing in hot of the press business for your company.
Qualitative – Mentions of key brand messages i.e: retweets / shares / mentions / outreach of posts:
Socialmention.com is a free tool to track mentions of your brand online and also provides feeling analysis of how your audience perceives you. Topsy.com is another free tool that provides this information. SproutSocial and Hootsuite offer more comprehensive solutions for those wanting to cover more channels, more markets and more keywords. These tools are also fantastic for efficient daily management of your account. I would highly recommend a free trial on both, get a feel for them and invest from there.
MyTopTweet.com is a great free tool which tells you which messages have been the most popular. This is a great benchmark for creating future posts that reflect the message. This is what your audience wants!
8) External Support
It’s likely that you will seek external support at some point in this activity, whether for more strategic guidance, training, or delivery of bespoke content or tools. Understanding the strategy process detailed in this document will make it much easier to identify your needs and arrange for specific support. For example you may seek one or more of the below to deliver specific elements:
– Social Media Strategist to complete Social Media Audit, assist with content planning tone of voice or create measurement plan
– Designer to create social media avatars and banners
– Copywriter to create bespoke content for site and profiles
– Developers to create tools or applications
In summary, I have put together a manageable checklist for you and your company to adhere to, which you can download here.
I can assure you that if you tick the boxes in this checklist and make every effort to reach, maintain and manage these requirements, not only will your business achieve a solid brand personality online as well as a consistent online presence, but in turn, your company will be one of the few who actually brings in business and wins customers through a carefully planned out social media strategy. Remember, ‘Quality not Quantity’ is the key to success for all social media management. Down with ‘spambots’, as I call them, and up with businesses who nurture relationships and provide excellent content and messages that impress and wow your audience. Measure, reflect and reap the benefits of excellent social media management.