Developing a great social media channel strategy

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Which social channel to use in your strategy?When working with a brand to help define its social media strategy, a crucial area to get right is how it should engage with its online audience.

I’d define a social media channel strategy as a process that outlines what social media channels the business should use, and the purpose for each channel based on predefined business objectives.

What should your social channel strategy include?

From my experience, the top five things that make a great social media channel strategy are:

  1. All social channels contribute to the business strategy and objectives
  2. The strategy considers the available resources to effectively manage these channels
  3. It confirms that there is sufficient audience demand for each channel to make it a success
  4. There’s a clear, coherent content plan for each channel
  5. Every channel has a clear primary marketing objective

Why is it so important?

Getting the social media channel strategy right for a brand is crucial as it will help them support their key marketing objectives. As there are so many potential channels and ways in which they can be used, an in depth analysis of what we want to talk about and why is also key, so that the most effective channels can be chosen.

It also offers an opportunity to have a two way dialogue with your audience, which provides insight, stronger relationships and brand advocacy. At the same time, brands can be faced with real risk if a channel strategy is not implemented correctly or with a properly thought out direction. If a PR event occurs (either positive or negative), social media will often magnify this sentiment accordingly in a very short space of time, so it’s also important to get in place a social media policy that sets guidelines around a reaction and response strategy and a crisis escalation plan.
If you’re a brand and want to expand your social media activity, make sure you have a clear, coherent channel strategy – it might just be the missing piece in your marketing jigsaw that will help you achieve real results.
Image credit: HarcoRutgers on Flickr

The science of social media ROI

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Last week I presented at a webinar as part of a series looking at the science of social, focusing on social media ROI and demystifying the confusion that surround it. The problem with social media ROI is that it is so easy to measure so many things that we become overwhelmed by measures. We think that everything is important and that everything is a measure of ROI. It isn’t. And it isn’t. Followers and Likes do not make ROI; moreover they stop us from thinking about the bigger business benefit of social.

We need to measure different things for different reasons, not just for ROI. There are three broad areas of measurement that we should be looking at in social:

  1. What’s the business benefit? How does any activity contribute towards our business objectives and how do we measure this? Often overlooked in the plethora of social media specific measures, the single most important ROI piece is to think about the business, how social contributes to it and then how we might measure this link.
  2. How successful are my channels and campaigns? More of a quality measure but an important one for anybody who is in charge of social media. With a clear business objective that we have to deliver against, what do I need to measure to make sure that we have the quality of engagement and interactions to get there.
  3. How suitable is my engagement and content? Finally we get to the range of social media measures that are out there - Likes, Followers, views and the like - these are incredibly useful for the people working in social media and managing your channels and engagements. If they write a blog post that gets 10 times as many views as a previous one, these are the people who should be questioning and querying what has caused this change.

The first, and most important, measure is the business one. Why are we doing this? What business objective is social contributing towards? We should ignore, for the moment, the different things we can measure and focus on what social should be contributing to our organisation. Only when we are clear on that will we be able to establish clear ROI measures. And only when we have these should we think of any of the other measures that we can look at and report on.

The presentation I gave at the webinar included this and some case studies of work we have done at FreshNetworks showing business benefit.

The Science of Social
View more presentations from Our Social Times

The next Science of Social webinar is on Wednesday 20 June and looks at How to Identify and Reward Advocates. You can sign-up here.

Three simple ways B2B marketers can get value from LinkedIn

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When thinking about social media and how to use it for your brand, our initial reaction is often to think about the channels we can use and the conversations we can have. But using social media does not necessarily mean having a channel or joining a conversation. There can often be as much value (and sometimes even more) from listening to what others are saying. For B2B brands LinkedIn is a great example of where social media can be used as much to listen and learn as to talk and engage.

From ambassadors, to market information and even competitor research, here are three ways that LinkedIn can be a useful source for any B2B marketer.

1. Finding ambassadors for your brand

Within LinkedIn Groups and in the Questions and Answers section of the site you will find, if you look carefully, brand champions, ambassadors. People talking about your brand and recommending your product. The Questions section in particular is full of people asking for advice and information - about products and solutions. A quick search for some of your product names will uncover people who recommend you to others. A quick search for names of competitor products will uncover those who don’t recommend you but could.

Identifying these people is a first and useful step. Think next about what you can do with them and how you can build them into real Ambassadors for your brand.

2. Understanding how people talk about market issues

One useful insight for any marketer is to understand how people talk about the issues they face. Whilst they can be mixed in quality, some LinkedIn groups provide vibrant communities of people sharing links and talking about issues. Joining groups about your market and for your customers lets you see the kind of conversations they start, the language they use and how they talk to each other in a professional environment.

3. Learning about what you competitors are doing

Social media is a great way of sharing what you are doing but it is always important to think carefully about who you are sharing with. LinkedIn allows you to control who sees your connections and who you are connecting with but many people leave this as public information. This can be useful - learning who your competitors have been meeting and connecting with on LinkedIn may provide you with insight into who they are talking to and potentially even into who in the market is looking to buy similar products to the ones you have.

Of course, it’s important to think about your own privacy settings on LinkedIn as well!

Preparing for significant regulation changes in social media

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My first session on the IAB Social Media Council had us debating the upcoming regulation changes which will see the ASA’s remit extended to cover marketing on websites from 1st March 2011.

So what? Well the Advertising Standards Authority is “the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media” but until now this did not include websites (and for websites also read social networks, blogs etc). This new regulation means that marketing communications on companies’ own websites and in other third party space under their control, such as Facebook and Twitter, will have to adhere to the “non-broadcast advertising rules” as set out in the CAP Code.

The aim is to drive companies to ensure marketing messages on their websites are legal, decent, honest and truthful. This should go without saying but think of how celebs are used in social media marketing – when they are speaking about a product are they doing so because they are paid? What about the blog you read extolling a product – was that review paid for? Currently this is unclear but the ASA aims to remove that uncertainty.

How? Well, the ASA does not set rules, just guidance so it is currently unclear exactly what will fall foul of the regulations.

On the Council we are looking to lead the way with self regulation and I am interested in your views of how this should be done?

  • Should sponsored tweets feature a hashtag such as #ad or #spon
  • What if a paid brand advocate happens to tweet about the brand, is this ‘paid’
  • What constitutes being paid? Is a blogger who is given product to review ‘paid’?

At FreshNetworks we have always advocated responsible social media practice and support the ASA’s work to clear up this grey area.

I will be updating you as new information comes out and would love your thoughts on this as they will help drive the self regulation response.

Why you shouldn’t join every conversation about your brand online

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Keep calm and carry on
Image by scottroberts via Flickr

When brands start social media monitoring, the ability to get real-time alerts whenever your brand is mentioned can be enlightening. Your inbox is suddenly filled, almost in real time, with every mention of your brand. The good, the band, and the ugly. The temptation can be to respond to all of these. To counteract every negative comment. To respond to and then spread every positive experience. To answer and resolve every question. This is only natural for people who care about the brands they work for. But the best approach is often not to respond. In fact, in many if not most instances, a brand should not respond to people talking about it online.

The real benefit of social media monitoring for brands is that it allows you to be aware of and listen in to conversations that you might not have known were going on otherwise. People who express their frustration with your product but would never have told you, advocates telling others just how great you are, or people sharing useful feedback and product development ideas. It’s great to see all of these things and the temptation is to respond. But more often than not, the best thing a brand can do is to not respond.

Doing nothing is often the most difficult thing to do. But it is often the right thing to do. If you overheard two people ranting about your brand on a train you would be unlikely to interrupt. If you heard people talking in a cafe about great customer service they’d received from your team you would probably listen, feel proud and let them tell each other how great you are. There is no need to interrupt in these cases. A rant is probably just a rant and there is little you can do to change this. And people being positive are probably doing lots of good for you on their own without you needing to add anything. Whilst things are different in social media - notably that the comments can be seen by a much larger audience and that they are archived and searchable. But often the same rules apply.

If you have nothing to add, don’t say anything, and if you will only inflame a situation then stay out of it

Overall, brands should be careful about engaging online and have a clear process of when to respond, and when not to respond. There are two very clear cases where a brand should always step in:

  1. Where an actual customer service complaint is being expressed - you should step in to respond to this, pointing people in the direction of where they can get support or dealing with this complaint through your existing channels.
  2. Where incorrect things are being said about your brand, products or organisation - you should correct the incorrect messaging that is being spread and answer any questions

In all other instances you should be more circumspect about getting involved. You should have a simple process for reacting and responding online and use this to help guide you. But overall you should do nothing more than you do something. Monitor, report on and learn from everything people say about you online. But don’t feel the need to get involved in every conversation.