"Get on Twitter" is not a social media strategy

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While some marketers believe a presence on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn is all that matters toward building a social media presence, this White Paper shows the proper first steps toward creating a much more involved and intelligent strategy that helps their social media efforts integrate with the overall brand seamlessly. The paper speaks to audience analysis, consistency, the meaning of ROI in a social media setting and more.

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"Get on Twitter" is not a social media strategy

  1. 1. “Get on twitter” is not a social media strateGy: Planning better brand conversations in a new universe. I start with a confession. I am a Twitteraholic. I’ve been hooked on Twitter for more days than I can remember. I even hate myself for not being able to look away from my TweetDeck of followers and people I’m following because, well, I kind of have to get some other work done. In other words, I’m a fan. But I also realize that there is much more entailed with building a true social media strategy and I think some folks are missing the point if they feel that just being on certain sites like Twitter and Facebook is how a brand automatically grows. Not so. Worse yet, you probably have some people from within or outside consultants saying, “We need social media!” or “We need to be on Twitter!” or “We need to be on Facebook!” or several other methods. But they aren’t explaining why you need to be on those things. Why, because everyone else is doing it? That’s kind of a lousy strategy. And what will you do once you are on some of these sites? Just talk about yourself? That’s not a particularly good way to establish a relationship. So you get social media is important, but you don’t understand all the areas of it that have relevancy to you, how to fully harness its potential in relation to your brand and how to tie it back to the concepts you may be more comfortable with, like customer satisfaction, customer retention, ROI and brand loyalty. Am I anywhere near the challenge you’re facing? If you are challenged by any of the above, you have good company. In a survey released earlier this year by the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and Anderson Analytics, 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes.1 For the time being, let’s not talk of what type of social media you need to use. Considering this or that technique before appreciating what motivates your audience is not the right way to approach brand building, whether you use social media or not. Put another way, it’s like a doctor making a diagnosis before he or she knows the patient’s symptoms. Let’s talk about a better way to build a more customizable social media plan. 1 “Marketing Executives Networking Group Releases Second Annual Top Marketing Trends for 2009,” MENG, January 2009
  2. 2. 1) social media is not all about you. It’s “social” media. Not “selling” media. In other words, there’s a difference between the social media realm vs. advertising. What is the difference? If you aren’t interested in having a conversation with potential customers, existing customers and colleagues and instead want to go with hard sell advertising, well, there’s a place for that. But this isn’t really it. You run an outdoor recreation store and want to make a small microblog post that this weekend you’re running a special on snowshoes? Go for it. But don’t make “selling” the only focus of your existence, regardless of where your social media presence is. This is an opportunity to get an opinion on the issues your audience is facing and to hear it in their own words. 2) think about your target audience and how they use social media (if they do). You do this for other forms of media, don’t you (I hope)? Remember, the term “social media” can refer to a lot of different things, not just Twitter. What has prior research told you about how your audience uses and interacts with one another on the web? Has research suggested that they use many different forms of social media, such as blogging/commenting on blogs, text messaging, photo sharing on Flickr and more? How often do they do this? What time of day do they do this? Which methods do they seem to be gravitating towards and which ones do they shy away from? 3) How do you plan on conversing/sharing info with audiences in these realms? I don’t believe every single comment you convey to the world in the social realm has to be planned out like a speech. Because that’s not really the way human beings talk naturally. We engage with one another. We talk like people, not corporations. But when we do talk, why do we stay interested? Because the other person is giving us something of value. Think about it in this way. Ask yourself: “If I’m going to be on (SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLET HERE), what sort of information do I want to give my audience that will be of value to them in return?” Remember, it’s about 2-way communication. You’re not shouting news from a mountaintop down to a community below with a bullhorn. Things that interest them need to be of interest to you and commented upon by you. Be ready to give and receive. 4) Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand. Of course many, many people are working themselves into a lather over Twitter — and in some cases, rightfully so. It’s a great tool and may very well be right for you. However, before you run into someone else’s office and say, “Get us up on Twitter now,” take a step back. Breathe. Realize that what you want before the type of technology you choose is the fact that you want a direction that makes sense for your target audience (which we’ve done above) and a strong Return on Investment (which we’ll talk about shortly).
  3. 3. 5) consistency, consistency, consistency. Again, even though social media is different than traditional media (socializing vs. being advertised to), the principle of building brand attraction in the name of a consistent presence remains true here as well. You’ve got to keep the commentary on your industry coming, the information stream about your company coming, the responding to your fellow community coming. That means you and/or someone you’ve hired needs to be able to commit a sizable portion per week of communicating things about your company, communicating with the outside world (in the case of Twitter, these are “followers,”; in the case of Facebook, these are “Fans,”; you get the picture). For example, are you going to be on Twitter? Great. Then be a regular part of the community by posting and responding regularly. When their comments or links on Twitter have value, share that with others (called a Retweet). Ask questions of them. Post a link to a blog post on your company’s main site (or other sites) that may be useful to your audience. Or to take another example, are you going to be using mobile communications? Then don’t send out a text one week and then sit on it for three months. That’s a waste of your time and frankly, your audience’s as well. In other words, there’s a daily frequency that needs to be maintained. If you can be doing the tactics you select on a daily basis, you’re building not only a presence but hopefully a rapport as well. Granted, it’s no small commitment to ensure this level of consistency is maintained. Now you know why some companies have created entire positions for a Director of Social Media. You don’t necessarily need that, but you do need a steady stream of give-and-respond. Tip: One of the best ways I’ve seen social media consistency maintained is not by one person at all but by several people in-house. Not only does this make the overall content load easier by spreading the wealth, but getting different people to take turns blogging, texting, etc. on behalf of the company allows you to distribute a greater variety of viewpoints and tones, which can build interest. 6) Pace yourself. Let’s say research uncovers 4 different key areas to reach out to your audience through social media. Does that mean you have to be into those areas tomorrow? No way. It means you’ve smartly discovered some routes to connect with people. But if you’re reading this on a Friday, it may be very unrealistic to be a blogger, podcaster, texter, Twitterer, YouTube uploader, etc. this coming Monday. Even if you’ve hired someone else to do it full-time. So once you’ve identified your best areas for audience connections, pick one or two tactics maximum to begin with. Then start getting your feet wet — and don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself as to what you’ll be saying as much as just getting yourself comfortable with the tactics you’ve initially chosen. Send out a post. Read someone else’s blog. Find something worth commenting on? Then do so. Has someone chosen to “follow” you or become a Fan? Then follow them right back and become a Fan too. Ease into your comfort zone but keep going. As you find a steady rhythm that involves using the initial tactics you’ve chosen, think about the next one you can comfortably add to your plate. Remember, you can’t do everything and be everywhere. And you don’t have to be if you’ve gotten a sense that people are responding to your message in particular areas.
  4. 4. 7) you can have strong roi. depending on how you view the “i.” The metrics of social media are still evolving as we speak but for now the ROI in terms of the investment is simple: You don’t pay anything for most of these tools, so you have a lot to gain. The investment is less one of money and more one of time. As mentioned several times, the consistency of you both creating content and responding to it will require an investment of time. Think of it as a “soft” cost rather than a hard one. The bottom line is this: Aside from the time required, the potential return on your efforts of paying little to nothing for doing so makes social media definitely something worth exploring. Is it possible that social media isn’t for your business? Frankly, I doubt that very much. You have an audience, that audience talks to one another and I doubt that conversing takes place solely offline. And as long as they are being conversed with instead of constantly advertised to in this arena, their eyes and ears can be receptive, their respect level can be higher and their responsiveness can be greater. So the ROI as it pertains to actual cost can be very significant. 8) monitor the chatter. In a recent report by Aberdeen Group of 275 diverse company enterprises, 68% of the companies that enjoy Best-in-Class performance have a process in place for monitoring social media and 58% have dedicated resources devoted to social media marketing.2 So once you know who is going to represent your company in the social universe, you have to set parameters for what they should be looking for regularly as your involvement in the social media arena gets more in-depth. In the beginning, come at it from the angle that you are an expert on the challenge that your product or service can help solve. You could talk about that challenge — not what you sell — all day. So engage the audience with rhetorical questions on that challenge and ask for their feedback on what they’ve experienced. That is, if you don’t find them talking about it already. As your presence becomes more well-established and you position yourself as an expert in that particular niche, take stock of where you stand in the social media universe. Which and how many users are talking about you? Are they speaking favorably of your product or service, or recommending it to someone else? The more your brand is part of the conversation thanks to your participation, the more likely you’re finding a level of acceptance and awareness in that given online community. All the while, at key measurement points in the calendar, take a look at how traffic is flowing back to your website, microsite and other major customer outlets since you began your social marketing. A tool such as GoogleAdwords, for example, can tell you much in this regard. In a sense, monitoring the prospective customer conversation is really no different than traditional advertising in that you have to get a solid read on the issues important to your audience so you can better converse with them in return from your brand’s perspective. Only instead of an ad that serves as your “conversing,” this is the real thing. 2 “The ROI on Social Media Marketing”, Aberdeen Group, February 2009
  5. 5. a final word The enthusiasm over so many new tools in the social media arena is reaching a fever pitch and it’s easy to see why. Yet, I believe it’s generally wrong, even potentially dangerous, of anyone to view any form of social media as THE tactic that can stand on its own for building a brand. There is no “this way or that way.” Instead, view social media as another tool in the brand toolbox that’s almost certainly worth using in conjunction with other tactics. It can be a wonderfully powerful tool. But the only tool? That can be a stretch for many marketers and I don’t advise it. Your audience is in many places and don’t move everywhere in masses. Your marketing budget should react similarly by diversifying. To me, it makes sense for a brand to combine the outbound marketing of other tactics (i.e. direct mail) with the inbound marketing of social media. The conversations within social media will be different. The approach will be different. It’s a form of media you may not be used to operating in. Nonetheless, if you wade into the water carefully with a well-thought social media strategy of who your contributors will be, what your objective will be, which avenues of social media you will explore and how frequent you can build your momentum, I think you’ll find more gratifying rewards versus throwing your brand right into it all without a plan. to talk more about a customized social media strategy in relation to your brand, call 561.862.6004 or email dan@thecreativeunderground.com. or why don’t you continue the conversation by trying social media right now through one of the methods below? http://twitter.com/danonBranding linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dangershenson aim: dangershenson Dan Gershenson is the Creative Director of The Creative Underground, a Brand Development Agency. He has also been featured in Entrepreneur, Create, Florida Trend and many other business publications. He blogs regularly for his own agency and for AdChatCafe (www.adchatcafe.com), an advertising community site that is focused on modern-day advertising in the age of social media and the recession.
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