“Creating a social media strategy is still a major concern for marketers.”
Social Media Examiner recently published their 5th annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, where they surveyed more than 3,000 marketers from around the world on a variety of social media issues. The report is free until May 30 (THAT’S TODAY!) and should be downloaded by everyone as there are very few insightful reports like it that exist on the state of the social media union.
Among the 43 pages of data, which provided many a takeaway, the most interesting data for me was page 6, in which the report details the top 5 social media questions marketers want answered by at least 83% of the marketers surveyed. While social media strategy creation was only one of the top five questions, I hope to show you how all of the questions are inter-related to having, or not having, a social media strategy in place at your company.
#5: How do I create a social strategy?
While the report painted this as a positive indicator that “marketers are now thinking about social media within the larger umbrella of marketing,” I was surprised that many are potentially implementing social media blindly with no clear objective – nor metrics – for how they determine what to do, how well they are doing, and what they can do better, which would be included as part of any social media strategy. Of course, not having a social media strategy also naturally leads to the next question:
#3: How do I measure the return on my social media investment?
No social media strategy means there’s no rules as to what is considered success in your social media program because there was never any clear objective documented. With a robust social media strategy in place, KPIs are determined to assess whether or not objectives are reached, and therefore ROI measurement becomes less of a question and more of a mathematical exercise. We all know that social media is not free, so the actual personnel expenses of those involved in the social media program will need to be part of this equation. In order to help assess their effectiveness in the greater scheme of your ROI calculation, you will need to appropriate time they spend in social media to their activities, which leads to:
#1: What social tactics are most effective?
Repeat after me: There is no cookie-cutter approach to social media. What one brand finds successful on Facebook might bring zero engagement to another. While one company might tweet up a storm to generate leads, another might simply search conversations and contact those it thinks might benefit from their services. With that in mind, the only answer to what social tactics are most effective is to define those tactics that you think will help you reach the objective(s) outlined in your social media strategy, assess the effectiveness of them through your KPIs and metrics that you review on a regular basis, and then optimize accordingly. There is no single golden truth with social tactics because social media is a moving target, as best illustrated by one of my favorite slides from my social media speaking deck below:
Those that create a well-defined social media strategy will understand through execution and implementation which tactics are working on which platforms and which aren’t. It’s all part of a data-driven approach to social media marketing. Which leads to a related 4th question posed by marketers in this report:
#2 What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media?
As I remind businesses with almost every speech and consultation, social media was made for people and not brands. This puts companies at a distinct disadvantage. On the other hand, social media represents the convergence of information and communication. If this is the case, companies obviously need to be engaging in some type of conversation and/or sharing some type of content. If we consider an engaging type of question that we see on Facebook or generating a discussion that we might see in a LinkedIn Group as representative of distinct types of content, in addition to the other many content types that exist such as photos, blog posts, podcasts, videos, etc., we can see that similar to our tactics, we need to clearly map out and measure the different types of as well as nature of content that we are sharing on the different platforms and determine which are more effective over time. You won’t know until you actually implement, but here is another case where the creation, measurement, and continual optimization of your social media strategy will serve as your best guide in figuring out the best ways to engage your specific audience with social media.
Which leads to the fifth and final question, which is critical in the effective implementation of your social media strategy:
#4: What are the best social management tools?
I believe that social media marketers in general are overly fascinated by the myriad of social media tools that exist and the new ones that frequently appear on the scene. Truth be told that with a social media strategy that contains all of the elements mentioned above, you will begin to understand that there is no one single tool that will help you manage every single social media platform in the way that you might want to use them. Furthermore, analytics are still a weak spot for social media dashboards as well as the analytical tools that we see appearing. At the end of the day, effective social media execution is more about the strategy, implementation and measurement and less about the tools. Once you’ve determined what it is you are setting out to do, you will realize that it is less about trying out the latest and greatest social media tool and more about finding the specific tools that help you with your daily tactical and measurement requirements – and sticking with them.
I’ve been doing social media strategy consulting for almost 3 1/2 years, so its exciting to see the market catch up to the reality that every business should have a social media strategy before making significant investments in social media. I’ve already blogged about why many social media strategies really aren’t social media strategies. My upcoming book, Maximize Your Social (Wiley), will be the first book of its kind to help you actually create your own social media strategy based on my experience. Until then, does a social media strategy answer your top social media marketing questions? Would love to hear your thoughts, as well as if you have burning questions that didn’t appear in the above five. Thanks!
For my complete analysis of the report, listen to my podcast below – or better yet subscribe to Social Business Unplugged on iTunes.