Need a recipe for an effective social media strategy?
Unless you’re a world-famous celebrity chef, most of us don’t wing it when it comes to cooking a meal for important guests. We may improvise a little here and there—especially if we’re confident in our kitchen skills. But, we usually don’t head into the kitchen at the last second, pull random items from the fridge and combine them on the spot. We go in armed with a few recipes and a plan so we’re sure guests will walk away happy and full, rather than cringing and queasy.
So…what does cooking for guests have to do with your business’s social media strategy? Believe it or not, a lot more than posting photos of your latest gastronomic adventure on Instagram.
Because when you think about it, you have important guests every day: your current and prospective customers. While they may not be expecting a meal from you, they are expecting to find you in the places they like to frequent. And these days, that means social media.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube…there are so many different online platforms that businesses, usually without intending to, end up throwing things together the way the inexperienced and recipe-less cook might—at the last-minute and willy-nilly. Add in the pressure to be constantly churning out fresh content and a pinch of low self-confidence, and you have a recipe for social media paralysis. As a result, some businesses toss in the dishtowel on social media altogether.
But don’t worry; if you’ve scaled back your social media due to overload—or have decided not to get involved at all, we’ve got five compelling reasons for taking the time to cook up a social media strategy:
Reason #1: It’s Easier Than You Think
There’s no denying you’ll need to spend some time up front defining your audience, investigating social networks and setting up your social media strategy. Once that’s done, though, you’ll be free to concentrate on what matters: communicating with customers and prospects.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be on every social platform. No, really, you don’t.
Choose the platforms where you know your customers will be. Don’t worry about the rest until you know your customers have migrated there. Why waste your time on Snapchat, which is popular with teens and young adults, when your customers are mostly in their 30s and 40s and prefer to use LinkedIn’s professional-level B2B connections? If you’re using just two social channels, but you’re reaching your target audience regularly and effectively, you’re in better shape than a competitor who’s using six channels but only posts in a hit-or-miss fashion.
Of course, that begs the question of how you can discover who hangs out where. There are a number of helpful online resources that can give you a good general overview of who frequents what. Sprout Social has a great article on the demographics of several important social networks. And Spredfast, a social media marketing software company, has a fascinating Social Audience Guide that imparts good-to-know tidbits like Facebook is the network where Millennials and Gen X-ers are most likely to share content—today’s version of “word of mouth.”
In short, no one knows your customers and prospects better than you. Use that knowledge to your advantage and meet them where they are. This will result in more targeted outreach to them—and less work for you.
Reason #2: You’ll Save Time
You don’t need to crank out content every day for an effective social media strategy. That’s not only a recipe for burnout on your end, but a sure way to overwhelm your customers and prospects with too much information. Once you’ve narrowed down which social channels you’ll be using, you can designate certain days for specific content.
Let’s say you’ve decided you’ll use a blog, Twitter and Facebook. Again, you know your business better than anyone so the days would vary according to your unique needs. As an example, you could make Monday blog day, Tuesday Twitter day and Friday Facebook ad or post day. Which means all the content you’ll need is one blog article, one 280-character tweet, and an ad or post—which usually requires less than a paragraph of copy—per week.
As you’re working on the schedule, recall patterns you’ve noticed. Do you usually plan for special sales to start on Mondays? A plan that includes a quick tweet first thing on Monday morning might get some customers in the door. Do you get hot industry news late on Thursdays? Friday might be the perfect day for a Facebook post with links. And a blog article can bridge the gap between.
Once you’ve set a social media schedule, you’ll be able to front-load content by drafting it in advance. A couple of days of writing—or an arrangement with a reliable content provider—could set you up for weeks and even months of content in the hopper.
Reason #3: Social Media Influences Purchasing Decisions
With a carefully considered social media strategy, your customers can actually do a fair bit of the work for you. At a high level, the goals of social media are to:
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate new leads
- Drive sales
- Enhance your public relations
- Build a community of people who like and use your product or service—and will tell others about you
That last goal echoes back to Reason #1, where we mention that social media can be considered today’s version of word of mouth. In the days before social media, a tight-knit and localized circle of family, friends, and community were the beneficiaries of word-of-mouth advertising. However, today that circle can be located anywhere in the world that has access to the internet.
Even if we don’t personally know those who comment on a post, we still notice when they like or dislike something, and why. Especially if we’re in the market for a specialized product that few other people are aware of, a social media presence can be like gold.
Of course, keep in mind the flip side: when people are unhappy with your company or your product. According to customer service software company Zendesk, participants in a customer service experience survey reported that they used social media to talk about their customer service experiences. Out of 1,046 respondents, 30% mentioned their good experiences, and 45% shared stories of negative customer service experiences. And we all know how quickly things can go viral. Which leads us to a very important reason to have a smart social media strategy…
Reason #4: You Have the Ability to Give More Responsive Customer Service
Customers and their needs change over time. Social media is an easy and personalized way to remain flexible and responsive to their needs, since you’re communicating in real time. It’s a great way for customers to ask a question and get a quick answer. Social media also gives you a way to see if a number of customers are, say, asking for enhancements to existing products and services or are interested in new products.
Social media can also be a great way to make an unhappy customer a fan for life. With a social media strategy that includes regular monitoring of your social platforms, if a customer posts a complaint or a negative review, you’ll know about it as soon as it happens. From there you can get in touch with the unhappy customer by phone or email, give them your complete attention, and work with them to resolve the situation to their satisfaction.
To close the loop, you can then leave a response to the original post as an update to other reviewers on the resolution. It’s an important step, since as these statistics from business solutions review platform G2 Crowd show, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Reason #5: Your Competitors are Doing It
This may be the most important reason of all to implement a solid social media strategy. Simply put, it’s nearly impossible to find a company or other organization that isn’t using social media. That means the odds are good that your competitors have figured it out. If you haven’t been able to get your arms around a social media strategy yet, they’re probably doing it better than you. And you’re handing them business that could easily be yours.
This is the time to scope out the competition online—no disguises or fake names needed. Just take some time and look at their timelines and online reviews. Do their social media channels appear to be keeping their customers engaged? Are the posts and reviews largely positive? Or, does there appear to be some dissatisfaction among the customer ranks? Is there something you know you could do better than that competitor? Then why not do it?
Social intelligence company Brandwatch has a thought-provoking and informative article on signs your competitors are using social listening better than you. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re curious about what you could be up against.
Without a clear and defined social media strategy, you’ll simply be wasting your time and resources. To use our cooking analogy, more progressive competitors will be happily welcoming guests (aka customers and prospects), measuring performance and seeing delicious results—while you’re throwing everything edible in your kitchen into a single pot, setting it to boil and hoping that the results don’t make you sick.
But don’t despair—a little thought and planning, combined with a judicious application of your industry and customer knowledge, can cook up a tasty social media strategy that lets your customers and prospects know they can expect a great experience from you every time.
If you’d like some help developing an effective social media strategy for your business or organization, chat with Spry Ideas’ social diva, Ashley Anger, at 734-531-7402.