Your company should be doing social media. This much you know. One only has to be alive to know something massive is taking place. But what's the best way to begin getting a handle on it all? You're still struggling with SEO and PPC. Well, coming to Search Engine Strategies and sitting in on the Social & the Marketing Mix session, or at least reading about it here, was a good start. Here are the experts that explained how to get things started:
Matt McGowan, Publisher and Head of U.S. Operations, Incisive Media
Adam Sherk, Search and PR Strategist, Define Search Strategies / The New York Times Co.
Veronica Fielding, CEO, Digital Brand Expressions
Beth Harte, Sr. Subject Matter Expert, Digital Marketing, Serengeti Communications
Jeff Jones, Senior Product Manager, gShift Labs
People interact with brands. But social media goes one step further. It allows people to interact with a person who represents a brand. The beauty (and sometimes the difficulty) of social media is that people come at it from all directions. For this reason, a company must present a unified and integrated front, from its Web site and blog to its Facebook and Twitter pages. Branding and communication must be consistent to present a unified message... so customers and potential customers don't get confused. People have precious little time for you, and they will only give you a few seconds to grab them before moving on.
Rather than jumping into the deep end, take some time to understand and plan. Here's how Beth recommended starting out:
- Identify customers and prospects. Psychographics, Sociographics and Ethnographics can all be incorporated into figuring out who they are and what they want.
- Estimate the value of customers.
- Plan communication messages and incentives.
- Estimate Return on Customer Investment. This might require a long-term brand evaluation.
- Evaluate and plan for the future
Veronica extended this notion, setting forth an actual process for launching a social media effort.
Phase 1: Brand Protection
Decide on and claim a brand name to be used across the top social media sites. Jeff recommended KnowEm.com as a tool to make this easy. Even if you never actually use it, this tactic will prevent brand-jacking while you work through strategy and implementation. The key is to be consistent so consumers will always know where to find you.
Phase 2: The External Audit
This is a great way to get a handle on what's happening in the little corner of the social media world you intend to inhabit. Pay attention to what competitors are doing. Following related hashtags on Twitter, setting up some Google Alerts and tracking them on SocialMention are good approaches.
Phase 3: Overarching Plan
It's impossible to achieve objectives without defining them. Take the time to lay out a clear course of action. Adjustments can be made as you learn more, or as the social media landscape changes. Sales shouldn't be the short-term goal, so much as brand engagement. Expectations need to be realistic.
Be sure to consider company policies with regard to the Internet; it's hard to manage your presence on a site you can't visit from your work computer. With clearly defined objectives and milestones in place and costs broken out, you're ready to get management buy-in.
Phase 4: Building Your Outposts
Start with a presence on one to three social media sites. Making a huge splash might only prove embarrassing once you start to discover what you don't know. Use these outposts to learn what works and what doesn't, and then apply learnings going forward. Interaction through social media occurs in the short-term. But developing and executing strategy takes time.
Phase 5: Go Live
Expand your presence. Apply what you've learned. And stick with it. Worse than no presence is an outdated presence.
Now that your social media machine up and running, the best topics and keywords have been determined and KPIs are in place, measurement becomes important. Jeff stressed the SMART approach to establishing goals, whatever those goals might be:
There are many ways to measure success and many helpful tools to track it. For Twitter, Retweetist, TweetMeme, Hootsuite and Twitalyzer are all good options. It's also important to figure out if the right people are subscribing to your profiles. Is your content referenced? Is it shared?
Ideally some of your social media efforts will lead people back to your site. Some informative on-site measurements include:
- Mentions and sharing that led to actual site visits
- Unique visitors by social referral
- In-bound links
Mistakes will be made, because social media is a learning process. That inevitability should be accepted from the outset. But there are five common mistakes that can be avoided, or at least minimized:
- Not providing landing pages for social media traffic. This is a great opportunity to personalize your message for the arriving traffic and draw them in. Don't drop them on your site's homepage and leave them wondering what to do next.
- Not tracking links. Knowing what sources are driving traffic will let you react accordingly.
- Focusing on follower numbers. Your Social Media accounts will attract a lot of useless followers, such as spammers and companies trying to market to you.
- Not putting dollars values on KPI's (conversions, downloads, etc.). Businesses exist to make money. If you can't rationalize social media in dollar terms to upper management, the company won't support your efforts for long.
- Not owning your Web presence. Somebody will eventually. Don't let it be a competitor.
Norm Elrod is a Digital Media Consultant and freelance writer who contributes to Search Engine Watch, SmartBlog on Social Media and AOL. He blogs about his experiences in the job market at Jobless and Less, which has been featured in The New York Times and on NY1. His marketing and editorial experience includes positions with Acronym Media, The NPD Group and Sony Music Entertainment. Norm holds a BA from Franklin & Marshall College and an MBA from Fordham University. He lives with his wife and two cats in Queens.