The Four Fundamentals of Social Media

The Four Fundamentals of Social Media

Chances are you or your company already has some form of social media presence. With Merchant Circle reporting that nearly two-thirds of all SMB owners using Facebook alone to promote their business, it’s a market simply too large to ignore. But how did you get there? Was your social media program developed organically, or was a strategic plan formulated beforehand? Whether you’re contemplating taking the social media plunge, or just need to take a step back and review your current efforts, let’s have a look at 4 social media fundamentals to consider and/or review.

The End Goal

An easy enough mistake to make, a number of companies I’ve spoken with have a “do-all” attitude regarding their social media presence. Meaning, they were told by others to get on board, and haphazardly jumped into the game. That’s not to say that they’re doing it wrong, but rather, too many things to too many people. There are a number of roads you can take with your social media channel, and this should be decided before launching a full-blown campaign. Examples of services a social media channel can take include:

  • Customer service
  • Lead capture
  • Employee recruitment
  • Reaching new customers
  • Establishing your business as an industry thought leader
  • Retaining existing customers and converting them to brand evangelists

So. Much. Tech.

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Now that’s not to say that you need to target one silo and call it a day. Some companies, including Delta Airlines, specifically split its End Goals across a number of accounts. For example, Delta’s main Twitter account primarily provides interaction with customers, the sharing of their stories and a healthy mix promos. On the other side of the coin, Delta’s Delta Assist channel is specifically set up to provide consumers a direct line to their customer support team. In doing this Delta is effectively killing two birds with one stone; The company is interacting with existing customers, while providing direct support access, all the while keeping the two separate, and ultimately putting its best face forward.

Likewise, a carefully selected number of various Facebook tabs can provide customers targeting information at a click. Mont Blanc’s Facebook page is a stellar example of tabs usage.  Its default landing tab is currently set to a campaign urging users to help sponsor the actual Mont Blanc, but subsequent tabs include a polished overview of the companies’ offerings, but also a tab specifically targeted at servicing your Mont Blanc product. If you can’t find the info you’re after under this specific tab, Mont Blanc has also included a customer service form mailer that eliminates the extra steps necessary to get in touch with the company.

Your Audience

Once you’ve targeted how you want to best utilize your social media (or mapped out a multi-account strategy) it’s time to find your audience. Don’t worry – there’s no reinventing of the wheel necessary. Some social media channels are more geared towards specific end goals than others; it’s simply a matter of finding the right neighborhood, and moving in.

For example, if your social media end goals are to attract top level talent to your organization, LinkedIn and Twitter might be your best first bets. Conversely, if you’re trying to reach customers that have never heard of your brand, Facebook, Twitter, and very soon Google+ would be your default choices. Either way, reaching your audience, or the aforementioned neighborhood, will take a bit of sleuthing to find.

If you’re not already, I highly recommend taking advantage of a number of monitoring tools that can help you easily identify what conversations are happening about your brand, competitors, keywords, industry, etc. A great all-in-one service for Twitter is TweetDeck. Not only will the service allow you to manage multiple Twitter accounts, but you can set up search columns for just about anything related to your industry. To get started, try setting up a few columns for your competitors, and have a view of how consumers are addressing said competitor, as well as how they respond. Likewise, plunk in a few industry related keywords and monitor not only the frequency of the mentions, but how and why these reactions are taking place. Is there a pain in the community that your product or service can address? Is the overall sentiment towards such keyword positive? Negative? Blasé? It’s exactly this type of monitoring that will allow you to find out not only where your audience is talking, but what they’re talking about.

So far we’ve used only Twitter to monitor what’s what, and who’s where. But what about the other seemingly innumerable number of places where consumers could be talking about your product or service? To help narrow down the search, one of my favorites is Social Mention. Social Mention quickly performs a scan of over 70 various outlets, and gives you real time reports of what’s going on where. Perhaps your Twitter monitoring was so-so, but after a social mention scan, you find out that the StumbleUpon community is loving your work and sharing and discussing. Needless to say, it’s time to investigate StumbleUpon a bit more.

By performing this, “Where’s the beef?” analysis, you might perhaps realize that your initial end goals should be further refined, as what you want to accomplish and what your audience is in need of might be two different things. That’s not to say that you’ll now need to throw those goals out the window, but rather, address and embrace what’s already happening, and figure out how to not only further support it, but gradually introduce these goals into the existing neighborhood. And as Blake would say (albeit slightly modified), “Always be testing!”

The Yardstick

Now that you’ve combined your audience research with your end goals, and started the wheelhouse turning, it’s time to dig into some metrics and benchmarks. While social media can be quite a fun program to run, it’s ultimately tied back to marketing and sales, both of which love key performance indicators, and for a good reason.

While you might think that you’ve got a firm grasp on what your customers are after, a bit of monitoring, listening, and adjustments can make huge differences when it comes to the bottom line. Let’s take a look at an example scenario, and where metrics provide invaluable insight.

You’ve done your research and decided on a social media campaign that will establish your organization as the premier service provider of your specific industry. To do this, you’d like to target key decision makers, as well as industry mavens across a regularly updated blog, Twitter interaction campaign, and LinkedIn networking build.

Now that you have outlet channels and a target, it’s time to consider what types of measurements can be implemented. In this scenario, key factors to examine would include:

  • Twitter followers
  • Retweet counts – and by whom
  • Number of daily interactions with followers
  • Blog traffic
  • Blog trackbacks
  • Blog content sharing across other social media outlets
  • LinkedIn group members
  • Interaction between LinkedIn group members and the company, as well as each other

A wide variety of blog analytics tools are available, but with Google pumping more and more features into its Analytics package every day, it’s hard to go wrong with the industry leader. On the Twitter side of things, I personally like TwitterCounter, as in addition to your own counts, it’s compete.com-esque style graph lines allow you to see how you stack up against the competition. LinkedIn is lacking in the analytics department, but as the goal is to increase group size, it’s a fairly standard courting and counting procedure.

Remember, all of the above are purely metrics. It’s up to you and your organization to determine benchmarks. Starting small with defined benchmarks is a great way to measure success, provided that you’re using the metrics to drive further success. If you’re not getting the blog traction you’d like, try changing up the content a bit to see how your users respond. If your Twitter following isn’t quite what you’d like to see, try engaging other thought leaders directly, and offering your opinion. Either way, continue testing, continue measuring, and continue benchmarking.

Who’s on first?

The fourth and final fundamental should be your resource management. Meaning, you’ve established your goals, you’ve targeted your audience in their neighborhood, and you’re ready to measure success and failure, now it’s time to put it into action. Whether you’re a one person show, or a multinational conglomeration, it’s ultimately people driving the conversations, and as human beings, no one can be all things to all people in a 24-hour period.

When formulating your social media plan, there are two primary factors to keep in mind: Time and people. It’s one thing to write up a blog article, it’s another to have it well researched and presented in a manner that makes your organization shine. And this takes time. Likewise, if you’re doing your job successfully, once that article is out there, there’s bound to be comments, questions, requests, etc., all of which deserve a thoughtful response. When considering social media time, key factors to keep in mind include:

Research

  • Exploring new topics to cover, and analyze how they may react with your target community.
  • Links to share that provide value to your growing community
  • Industry influencers to follow and actively engage
  • New industry and social media tools to implement
  • Where’s the party? Users are fickle, and if you see them buzzing about a new outlet, it’s time to go where the action is.

Response

  • Responding to comments, questions, requests across your social media channels
  • Keeping tabs on what others are saying not only about your specific brand, but about the industry as a whole

Writing

  • Composing blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. posts. Some can come off the cuff, but others would do well with a bit of planning.
  • Interacting in user groups. Similar to response, but this time, taking lead and engaging consumers in though provoking discussions, addressing of specific pains, etc.

When it comes to the human factor, this is something that is unique to every organization. Some companies place their social media interaction within the marketing department, perhaps with one dedicated person. If so, keep in mind that this person only has so many hours in the day, and may occasionally need to sleep. On the other side of the coin, some organizations use tools like CoTweet, or HootSuite to keep their interactions rolling ‘round the clock by dividing responsibilities between globally distributed teams. If the later isn’t an option for your business, consider using some automation tools. While automating social media isn’t always optimal, it’s a great way to ensure that those on the other side of the globe are regularly reminded of your presence, and why they chose to engage with your brand in the first place.

So whether you’re joining the thousands of companies or individuals that can simply no longer ignore a business focused social media presence, or looking to better structure your current social media plan, by reviewing and implementing the 4 fundamentals above, you’re off to a great start. Or, perhaps better put by the great Winston Churchill, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

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