Very recently a friend of mine who also recently got hired to drive business development efforts at a local company that owns a certain site (I am clearly trying to be very ambigous here!) asked me to help her come up with a strategy for social media. The company is launching a new ‘online experience’ for their users. Sort of coming out from the dark ages (Web 1.0) to the Web 2.0 era. Now this was a pretty interesting request since I am not really a social media consultant. All the same I also got to learn a bit about social media consulting while on the job. So here I have decided to put a bit about what I learnt.
First off, before going into the ‘7 steps’ and ’10 points to consider’, my philosophy on social media is simple – actually it is exactly that – keep it simple! In other words, do what makes sense; sense for your brand, sense for your audience, sense for your consumer, sense for your company, sense for… just plain sense, in fact – common sense. As a matter of fact, I think if you got this right the rest – what social platforms to use, design of the blog, should we tweet… become fairly simple decisions to make.
In fact, social networks and platforms are really just a means to an end for your product or brand. They are not the end game. It’s kinda funny actually. What’s the end game. Well, the end game is what you want to achieve out of leveraging social media for your product/brand/company. Interestingly, this could be the very same goals you had with more traditional marketing strategies – brand loyalty, sales, brand awareness – shocking? I don’t think so. The strength of Social Media lies in the enhanced capability of the medium. It’s like, old school marketing media are dial up connections, social media is like a fiber connection!
This implies several things: First, the actual social networks/platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc) are really a latter consideration when coming up with your strategy. You don’t want to go into thinking about social media by thinking, “Hmm, everyone’s tweeting so we should tweet!”
Secondly, it means the primary things to think about are much closer home, what is your product, what do you want your brand to say, what experience do you want your clients to have when they engage with you? Then after answering these questions you can go ahead and select the best means/media to achieve these ends. Like I said, it’s common sense. (In fact I think there are a lot of things we make soooo complex, and make it look like you need a Phd to do, but it’s really just common sense)
One last thing I would like to mention before moving on to some interesting material that’s online on this subject is to do with design. Yes, design. Design is important. See, once you decide you’re going to use Twitter, it’s not simply just a matter of creating a twitter account and getting some bloke in the office to start tweeting! The thing about design (in this context) is not really (necessarily) the actual design i.e. what you will get a designer to do (although that matters too) (sounds confusing?) – the thing here is consistency! Consistency across everything – your Facebook page, your Twitter page, you website, your blog… See I think what you are giving your audience is an experience, they are literally engaging with you – only that they are doing so online, in a bit of an ‘impersonal’ way, which is also really an interesting thought because good use of social media gives your target audience as close to a ‘personal’ experience as possible; hence why it’s called ‘social’ and not ‘mechanical’!
This is also just plain common sense. Your message is about your brand, right? It is about the same brand, right? It is the same no matter what, right? No matter what social networking site/platform you use, right? Hmmm… then logically, you want the audience of that same brand, even if on different online ‘locations’ to get the same message across the board, right? Well, wasn’t that simple? Consistency in design will help you achieve this to some extent. Other things like consistency of tone (remember social is about talking with your audience, not at your audience) will also greatly help.
So how do you design to achieve consistency? Again, simple things – your twitter background, your avatars, the colors you use, your blog theme – simply put any design element that you have control over. Of course, you have more control over your own property – website, blog – versus say your Facebook page and Twitter page which you have varying degrees of control over (I find Twitter affords you a lot of flexibility). I’ll give a very simple example – My company, African Pixel: website, blog. Facebook page, Twitter page. I think we achieved some good level of consistency in design there.
Now, let’s look at some good pointers from some social media authorities:
I love this presentation by Jason Beer (and the corresponding blog post):
I am particularly struck by the idea that: Old school marketing is like Archery (Use targeting, and interruption to convince), New Marketing is like Ping Pong (Use human engagement and dialog to drive preference and loyalty)!
Here’s a summary of his 7 Steps to Creating a Social Media Strategy:
- What’s your Pitch?
- What’s your Point?
- What’s your relationship with your Audience?
- How does your Audience use Social Media? (See below…)
- What’s your One Thing?
- How will you be Human?
- How will you Measure Success?
On point number 4 – How does your audience use social media – here’s a great article, ‘Understanding Users of Social Networks‘
CrowdSpring has a great piece on actual things you can do as part of your strategy by leveraging blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The cool thing about this piece is that they have conveniently suggested some short term and long term strategies so you clearly see what you can do immediately and what you can do over time. Another cool thing about this article is the fact that they have included tons of useful links and pointers to practical help on how to do things like setting up a Facebook page.
Finally, I think it’s also important to note that Social Media can be a two edged sword. You also want to be careful with how you employ it. The thing with social media that makes is as such is that unlike the old school where you could basically sit behind an iron curtain and dictate to your audience while sitting in safety; social media is well, exactly that – social! And social implies vulnerability, by going social you automatically make yourself vulnerable (again, common sense, just like choosing to be friends with someone you become vulnerable). You give your audience (and arguably even more than the exact demography you wanted to talk to since literally the whole population on say Twitter, or the whole online world can view your stuff) a level of control that’s unprecedented. You allow the masses to have control, you give them a voice. And the masses can be your biggest ally or your worst enemy (just read some history). When the masses rise, it becomes tough to control them. No, one will soon forget the upsurge at SXSW last year, and much less so, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg and Sarah Lacy. So caution is warranted. But in general, if you weigh your options and find you gain more from giving this power to the masses than you lose, then go ahead and bring down the iron curtain.
The cool thing about Social Media is that it is really inexpensive! You don’t even need to organize a 5 day retreat to the Bahamas for your Board of Directors to come up with a Social Media strategy!
[Feel free to contact me to help you come up with your social media strategy – I think I have officially earned the title ‘Social Media Consultant’]