Use social media to make you a great marketer
1. One size does not fit all
Social media plans and tactics come from a solid understanding of your organisation, your brand, your audience and your environment. Make educated decisions and be prepared to experiment, then make decisions based on your growing awareness of your environment.
2. Do what big organisations can't
Big organisations have the resources and time to invest in major social media programmes. That's a negative for smaller organisations. However your advantage is that you can build an appropriate level of following if you are prepared to niche and localise your social media activity.
3. Create a brand community
Think of your social media territory as a space into which you participate, rather than control. Your participation creates increasing influence if your brand measures up to the expectations of your prospects and supporters.
4. Be disciplined
Be disciplined about dedicating resources. For example you might start with 30 minutes per day dedicated to social media and 60 minutes on the weekend to your blog.
5. Be persistent
Success will not be overnight. Start with small steps and keep stepping up with little measures for your investment of time and the results you're getting back. Before you begin, commit to worrying about social media tools last, not first. That's because social media is about human relationships foremost and the tools will change, they always do.
6. Experiment and be creative with frequent new ideas
Your plan provides a guiding template but it's not a straight-jacket. Set a programme of tactical ideas and initiatives that test what works and what doesn't. Remember, in a rapidly changing world, something that works one day may not the next.
7. Don't forget your staff and volunteers
Encourage and involve them in all aspects, but give them guidelines. Plan and brainstorm new ideas using staff and have a number of social media voices in your team to create more influence.
8. Decide how to measure success
What will success look like and decide, from the beginning, how you will measure it. Where you may be investing more time than money, measure that. We believe that a Return On Objectives (ROO) is likely to be more appropriate than a Return On Investment (ROI) equation.
9. Use available intelligence on your target audience
Use Google Analytics on all your websites, including blogs and Facebook pages to understand where your visitors are coming from and what they do in your site.
For example, use the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder to understand how your target audience uses social media, as defined by gender, age, and geography. Then use it to plan activity.
Access the Social Technographics Ladder data here.
10. See what's happening in your patch and respond
Want to know what people are saying about your brand or about the benefits you sell? Use search.twitter.com to see what people are saying. A simple idea is to type the word "donate" ahead of the subject, e.g. "donate disability". Use content that answers your audiences needs, not your own.
11. Learn from others
Social media gives you a free ticket to the inside of other organisations – the same as it does for them. Monitor others and learn from their tactics and what might be working for them. Avoid copying your close competition because you will want to retain a strong point of difference, but monitoring will give you insights and help keep you one step ahead. Look at what other organisations do as well, particularly similar organisations operating in different markets.
12. Spread the word to other sites and platforms
You can boost traffic to your site and spread the message further through syndicating your content through your Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, etc, plus into other blog sites. You might wish to stagger the release of content, depending on the platform and you might need to modify content in the same way.
13. Engagement with fans
Will you respond to every fan comment on your Facebook page, and every tweet that mentions you? Or just select ones? The same goes with people who follow you on Twitter – do you automatically follow them back, or have a system to determine who you follow back?
14. Negative comments
Work out how you will deal with negative comments and feedback from fans/followers. Many companies including @TelecomNZ, @Orcon and @Vodafone are good at getting onto negative comments and dealing with their complaints or turning them into positives.
Think about the content
15. Engage with questions and encourage interaction
The best way to start a conversation is to show that you are interested. Don't just ask for comments in your blogs, do it in all areas of social media. Consider doing online surveys and polls, not just for the information, but to show that you are interested in the supporter or prospect. For example, in Facebook frequently pose questions in status updates and be prepared to answer when people come back.
16. Talk about what people want to hear
The only way to make good conversation is to listen, learn and discuss in a way that delivers something engaging and useful to the other person. Take note of all the conversations on your social media sites and use tools such as Twitter, Google Blog Search and IceRocket.com.
17. Make it a rule to be humble and human
A smaller organisation should find this easy. Find ways to be human by not talking down to people and, for example, by actively admitting failure.
18. Use content that answers your audiences needs, not your own
Don't try to sell, just build relationships. Your organisation may be the last thing your audience will want to engage with, unless you've already primed them. Be prepared also to talk about other things that are of likely interest to your targets.
19. Think beyond text
Video and images are more exciting and immediately engaging than mere words. Use them both wherever possible.
20. Give something of benefit, often
Your visitors and supporters are giving their time and attention in exchange for an expectation of value. Therefore, you define yourself in social media by the real value you offer, firstly in the discussion and, secondly, in what you can tangibly offer. This is the reason why free give-aways, value-add offers and promotions work so well online.
21. Keep up-to-date and show consistency
Once you start on the social media journey, you effectively make a promise. You break that promise if you don't keep your Facebook profile current or you stop blogging for 2 months. Start as you mean to proceed, with a commitment to building your business and your social media consistency
22. Post consistently
How often will you post and at what time of day? It is recommended you post up to 6 times a day on Twitter, and around 2 times a day on Facebook. And the middle of the working week is best. Like everything else on the web, Monday through Thursday is likely to be best, with Tuesday and Wednesday being top.
23. Don't forget conversion
In social media, remember that you are focusing on attraction, retention and conversion. The first two do not necessarily lead to conversion. Attraction and retention are wrapped up in the conversations, but make it clear what your organisation is and what it potentially can offer. And don't be afraid to suggest a solution and call-to-action where and when it's appropriate.
Now use all of the above to guide activities and decisions.
Fraser Carson is a thinker, problem solver, innovator and commentator. He has particular experience and interest in marketing, communications and social media. In 2012 he launched Flightdec.com, a radical new concept to build online communities.