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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Winning Your Social Media Efforts – A Strategic Approach

Social Media is one of the fastest growing marketing mediums for companies.  Hundreds of millions of people are using them to communicate, and companies are harnessing the power of various sites.  The key to success with using social media is planning.  Without a plan your efforts may or may not have any value to your brand or your revenue potential. 

Initially, ensure you answer the following three questions.

1.     What are your objectives of using social media? You need to know what you want to achieve from your social media efforts and have measurable objectives to track effort.  Are you using the medium to:

·         create awareness for your brand
·         generate leads for potential sales
·         drive traffic to website
·         informational - communicate key messages (overall company or a specific site to promote an effort)
·         recruiting
·         promote civic responsibility

Note: As you plan, you should remember that the main goal of social media is to develop a good relationship that can lead to increased revenues.  Sales will come after you have established a relationship. 

2.     Who is your target audience? Understand your target audience and the social media outlet that will yield the greatest ROI for your efforts (Facebook may be better for younger executives, recruiting purposes or for retail based companies, where LinkedIn may be more suitable for making connections for professional service organizations).

3.     Do you have time to dedicate to social media?  If you do not have a person who can dedicate some time to ensure consistency in updating your social media sites, you lose the credibility of your efforts which impacts revenue potential.

Once you have your strategy and plan in place, here are some tips to help you succeed with your efforts:

  • Sites should have meaning and a reason to visit – Your Hook.  You need to provide meaningful content for people to continue to visit your social media site.  To build rapport, share content that is related to your brand, the industry you are in, and other things you think your fans and followers would like to see. Keep them coming back for more by providing content that they can gain from.  To add an extra punch to your efforts, offer free items to demonstrate your differentiation and ability to help them (e-books, free products/samples, white papers, coupons, etc.).  
  • Have a call to action. What is the essence of a marketing campaign without having a call to action of some sort? I suggest you use your social marketing campaigns to generate leads before trying to sell anything –these can be “signup below,” “call us now,” or “Click to view examples of…” (which directs them to your website). 
  • Track your social media effectiveness. Have a dedicated person handle your company’s social media efforts. He/She can ensure consistency of posts and analyze the status of social media efforts.  Facebook has some good analytical tools.  Or, you can use sites such as HootSuite, TweetAdder and SocialOomph to manage your accounts. TweetAdder is very user-friendly (and it’s free).  SocialOomph is very powerful as well (don’t get overwhelmed with the enormous number of capabilities and feel obliged to use them all).
  • If you are Blogging, timing can be EVERYTHING.  Social media statistics report that Mondays and Thursdays in the early morning (between 6-8 am) is the best time to post new blog content   In terms of link building and search engine optimization, this is one of those super-important bits of Best Practice information to keep in mind.  However, you need to blog when it makes most sense for your information (be timely). To read more on blogging tips, visit Technorati.
  • Niche vs. Big Picture.  Following the success of major social media sites, there was a big increase in the number of niche-specific social media sites that began popping up. While these sites tend to have smaller audiences than the major social media sites, they present excellent opportunities to get your content in front of a targeted audience. You’ll receive fewer visitors from a front page appearance on a niche social media site compared to a front page visit on a major social media site, but a higher percentage of those visitors will fall into your target market. 
  • Ensure you have a social media policy for your company.  Social media is now a mainstream form of communication. So, just like in the old days when companies had to figure out how to deal with email, now they have to figure out how to deal with Facebook and all other new media venues.  Employees need to understand that they are brand representatives.  If they associate themselves with your company on their social networking sites, their actions have a direct impact on the reputation of your company.  I recommend you get with an Labor and Employment attorney (I can recommend a few if you need one), to help you craft an appropriate policy for your company.  To see examples of what other firms have created, visit  Social Media Today 
Be persistent with your efforts.  It may take you a bit to fine tune your efforts.  In the end, social media can be an important marketing tool for your company.  Here’s to your success with social media marketing.

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