International trends confirm that time spent with social media continues to grow at a considerable rate with social networking and blogs accounting for approximately twenty five percent of time spent online.
In tandem with this, the use of social media in a business context has been growing for both large companies and SME’s.
So far as the latter is concerned we find that:
• The majority utilise at least one social networking tool.
• Most create a company page on networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook and build communities with which they interact.
• Many post updates and/or articles on social media sites.
• Many blog, with different degrees of success.
There are however SME’s that believe that networking on social media is valuable, but are unsure how to proceed and therefore do little, if anything, in this regard.
What is interesting from a global perspective is that per capita, Australians are at the upper end when it comes to spending time on social networking and blogging. This represents a good opportunity for local organisations, including SME’s, to connect and build positive relationships with their target markets.
There are many benefits stemming from a correctly formulated social networking strategy but the most compelling uses of social networking include:
• Learning about and building trust with your target market by listening to and engaging in open and honest interchanges between stakeholders.
• An opportunity to positively influence brand identity and positioning, even though this ultimately resides within the mind of the consumer.
• Creating revenue opportunities and capturing additional value
Many companies initiate social networking in response to competitive activity and perceive it as being relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of communication, such as advertising.
Whilst cost is a factor the use of social media does not mean that the role of advertising or off line marketing methods should be ignored, as a holistic and synergistic approach should be adopted, and tailored to the requirements of each specific business.
Social media does, however, have advantages over conventional media including immediacy and the fact that many perceive information obtained from peers, (especially influencers) as being more objective and meaningful as opposed to commercial sources. Many companies do however disseminate information and interact on social media, which is a good reason to have a strategy in this regard.
In establishing a social media program the following steps are useful:
• Define your product or service in simple and clear terms including its added value and point of difference, whether real or perceived.
• Research and understand the current situation. Listen to online conversations to establish what people are saying about your brand. ‘Listening’ in this context refers to social media monitoring. Establish what is being discussed about your company, its brands and competitors. Whilst ‘tools’ such as Google Alert (and more sophisticated ones) are relevant, interpretation plays a major role.
• Establish your approximate ‘share of voice’ in terms of the above, relative to competition, as a benchmark.
• •Set your goals and measurement criteria. Who are you targeting? What do you wish to achieve? By when? What are your KPI’s and how will these be measured? Establish costs in terms of spend and time. How will you measure ROI?
• Use appropriate tools and methods to assist you to find bloggers and communities that are relevant, in particular identify influencers with whom you can communicate and interact. If your interaction is successful they can go a long way in influencing their followers in a positive way.
• Provide influencers with unique and valuable content or offers that they can pass onto their followers that makes the influencers look good.
• Develop high quality, appropriate content from what you have learnt from listening thereby adding value.
• Create and deliver the content in the best possible manner on the most appropriate networking platforms e.g. blogs and social media sites most relevant for your target sector and objectives. This should also be consistent with your desired brand image.
• Incorporate your website into your social media strategy from a number of perspectives by creating links between platforms and by making your website interactive. For example Facebook followers could be directed to your website for informative hints, white papers, widgets, etc. Conversely visitors to your website can be encouraged to share content on sites like Facebook or Twitter by clicking on an icon or by having the opportunity to receive RSS feeds. Excellent web content can also be replicated in blogs and/or syndicated.
• Become involved in conversations in an open and honest fashion and add value to the community. Be proactive wherever possible.
• Where criticism is justified respond promptly in a constructive manner.
• Track, monitor and measure outcomes relative to objectives.
• Adjust your strategy, tactics and goals as necessary.
Whilst the steps represent a good overview, they should be viewed as a framework from which to develop.
About the writer
Alan Kaplan PhD has international experience spanning more than twenty five years across academic, media, agency, client and consulting areas. Alan’s profile can be viewed on LinkedIn and he can be contacted on 041875855.
Contact Optivance 360 for a no obligation discussion on how we can assist you with all your branding, marketing and communications in a consulting, non executive management or mentoring capacity, or for any of our other key business services including franchising.
Alan Kaplan © 2012
This article is for general information and the reader should seek specific expert advice before taking any action.