Having worked with a range of clients across the public, private, and non-profits sectors, we've gained some helpful insights for organizations uncertain about their online and social media strategies.
Whether you're an established chamber of commerce in a large city with a lean, hardworking team, or a boot-strapping start-up wearing too many hats to mention, you should have a good handle on your online and social media platforms. They can provide significant value for your enterprise and team, and can also carry the potential for risk if not tended intelligently.
Here are 5 steps you can take now to bolster your strategy and strengthen your positioning.
1. Strategy is key. Before social media can be of any value toward achieving your goals, you need to understand who you are, why you are, where you're going, and how your audience, market, board members, investors, and community gains value from engaging with you. We strongly suggest you start with (or revisit) a strategic plan and integrated communications plan. Strategyzer has a simple, open-source template you can use for free to understanding strategy and planning.
If you need help or want to tap into investor insights and better intelligence systems, we provide tailored strategic planning for businesses, industry and civic groups, and startups. Good strategy is the backbone for a solid communications plan, and really helps discern the messaging that matters. Some of the questions you'll address when building a great strategy will inform your messaging, communications tactics, and positioning:
- How are you distinguished from competitors?
- What inspires (or repels) investors, customers, and partners?
- Why do you exist? What is your mission and purpose?
- What are your goals for growth, retention (of customers, members, employees), market exit?
- What evidence is th ere of your credibility, value, and expertise?
2. A is for authenticity. Don't be fooled. Social media is just another platform through which people, communities, and brands can connect to each other, share ideas, and build a sense of belonging.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and found the discussion to be off-topic, shallow, or simply irrelevant? How quickly did you want to escape? Did you get frustrated at feeling your time was being wasted? Us, too.
It may seem so easy to take the easy way out, and hire a "quick and easy" social media contractor who will promise to add thousands of Twitter followers. Stop. Think. Quality matters much more than quantity, and zombie followers won't ever produce leads, prospects, or any real sense of social community.
Your posts should be relevant to your brand and your audience, so make sure you have a clear sense of what your messaging is and what your audience needs. Use your brand playbook, but relate it to the conversation, engage your community, and be responsive.
3. Consistency matters. This is a standard imperative for any communications strategy or platform. It's also a key consideration of product and service integrity.
As we've noted above, your online and social media platforms are more than just "nice-to-haves" or tools you can throw out there and passively manage. To be effective and make good on your investment of time and resources - and to avoid welcoming damage to your brand - start with a clear standard of your brand message. This should be a sort of playbook you and your team can use to build communications (online and elsewhere) and messaging content, as well as to respond to inquiries, compliments, complaints, and for orienting newcomers to your brand. If you've got a solid strategic plan and sense of your mission, vision, values, and goals, then a crisp and consistent communications playbook is your next step and your best tool for helping ensure your brand (and your services, products, and value proposition) are always represented as they should be, regardless of the platform.
4. Don't just babysit. We've seen a tendency across the board that troubles us:
"Let's set up social media accounts because everybody has them nowadays, and put a volunteer/intern/new junior team member on them."
It can be tempting, especially in lean organizations or boot-strapping startups, to consider social media and online content as a "nice-to-have" and necessary function, but one that doesn't demand strategic intent or careful consideration. "Let's just babysit the Twitter account," we may think. "We'll post here and there and just make sure we have a presence."
Social media and online content can be a tremendous source of traffic-building for your web site, online storefront, and member or customer base. Any time you post, comment, tweet, or publish, you're also representing your brand. For economic development organizations and civic institutions, you're representing your community and industry.
Would you ask a fresh new hire who hadn't been fully oriented to brief a new client or customer on the nuances of your services or products? Or inform a potential investor about the value of membership in your organization?
5. Intelligence is your friend. Social media has evolved as an industry unto itself, and several tested and reliable tools are available to help us understand what is needed, how well we're performing in posts and publications, how we compare to competitors, and to gauge and design tactics based on our goals.
We can be our own biggest barrier to understanding, especially if we fail to allow data and intelligence to inform our online and social media platforms and processes for communicating. Make sure you are building into your planning process the appropriate time and steps to ask questions of your team, contractors, customers, stakeholders, and self.
- What's working?
- How do we know?
- Have we met our goals?
- Are we being consistent across social media and online platforms?
- Are we doing a incorporating the leads and growth from our online community in to our operational strategy, sales tactics, and investor strategy?
Understand the importance of asking good questions, being diligent about finding data and answers, and incorporating findings into ongoing improvements and next steps? Great! Here are some ideas on tools to explore to get started:
Twitter Analytics - provides a great set of free metrics that can help you gauge how well specific campaigns are performing over a 28-day period, growth of mentions and followers, and identify your top online champions
SumoMe - provides a great suite of online metrics you can incorporate into your site, and use to track where your referrals are coming from, what content is resonating with visitors, and to take steps to capture visitors and welcome them in to your community through signups
Foller.me - a free analytics platform that allows you to explore a range of factors related to your own or competitors' Twitter accounts, including behavior and performance analysis, follower-to-following ratio, popular hashtags and urls, timing of posts, and assessment of top topics
Ready to learn more about how great communications strategy can help you rock your goals? Reach out to the Five Point team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.