It’s fluff. When most companies think about social media they think of going “viral”, building a large following, and having a built-in audience that will forever bend at your whim. We categorize social media as “cheap marketing” or even worse “free marketing”. I would hope that we’ve moved past that, but it’s still what I’m seeing being sold to executive teams. There are big problems with approaching social media this way, but the biggest is that it is a surefire way to fail.
Social Media is Expensive
Dirty Secret #1 – Social media is an expensive first date that requires commitment to get to first base.
Let’s face it. There is a lot that goes into having a successful social media presence. There are costs for the people who will run it, costs for developing “Holy Smokes” content, promotional costs, software costs and a whole slew of others. Social media is anything but free. It’s the quintessential chicken and egg scenario. Social media needs a solid investment to be successful, but management teams want ROI before they will invest. So what do you do? You can run some small tests to try and prove out social media to increase the budget, but the big question comes down to commitment. Is your management team really committed to figuring out how to leverage social media? Or are they just nodding their heads in agreement so you will shut up and start talking about something they care about?
Social Media Requires 12 Months of Stalking
Dirty Secret #2 – Great social media strategy is based on research from 12 months of stalking your audience.
The first question is where does YOUR audience participate in social media? While everyone is busy talking about Twitter and Facebook, you may find that your audience is made up of prolific users of forums. Think that sounds ridiculous? That’s just one of many jaw dropping insights we found in the Social Media Explorer Conversation Report, “What Consumers are Saying About Banking.” Honestly, we find more often than not, the majority of conversations for most industries are on forums and blogs. This is an important piece of data that is missing from a lot of social media strategies. And to be fair, it’s important to take a step back from your brand and look for conversations that are relevant to the industry and to your buyers. I think a lot of companies take a look at an analysis of brand mentions and start making decisions. Brand mentions are a very small piece of the pie in the overall industry conversation, which is where real opportunities start to unfold. Additionally, make sure you are reviewing AT LEAST 12 months of data to ensure you remove variables like seasonality. This also just helps to make sure you have enough data to make informed decisions. The last thing you want is to create a social media strategy around 3 months of data and find that those 3 months were an anomaly because the spike was related to something like a big news story that sparked a conversation. The good news is you don’t have to wait 12 months to get started. Tools like Netbase can easily provide 12 months of data with a few clicks of a mouse, which is why Social Media Explorer | SME Digital uses their software to do the research for every client strategy.
Social Media Needs a Playbook
Dirty Secret #3 – Get your playbook out. Social media that delivers requires a strategy.
For many companies the first thing they do is jump in and “dabble” in social media to try it out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with testing things out as long as there is an understanding that it probably won’t deliver much. Why? If you want to leverage social media to accomplish something (i.e. return on investment) it requires a little bit of work to understand what that will take. It’s not about posting a few tweets and seeing if someone responds. It’s about understanding how a tweet can create a desired outcome. I believe the first and most important investment you can make is to develop a solid social media strategy that is based on market research with your audience. You need to analyze what you want social media to accomplish, which social media channels you will use to accomplish it, what content you will need to support it, how you will measure it and what the tactical plan is to achieve results.
Strategy development is the most important investment your company can make. It takes time and focus, but it will be well worth the investment when you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish and how you will get there.
Social Media Needs Advertising
Dirty Secret #4 – Social media advertising is the pickup line that works every time.
And here’s the big doozy. To build audience and make sure your most important content is getting in front of the widest group of targeted buyers possible, it requires advertising. This comes through sponsored posts, sponsored tweets, LinkedIn ads, Outbrain ads and more. It’s foolish to think you are going to launch a Facebook page and people are going to just find you. We aren’t out there actively looking for brands to follow. Our stream is already full of brands. So you have to make sure you get the content in front of them. It needs to be good content. The ads need to be well-crafted. But at the end of the day many of the big “social media success stories” we read about had some element of paid advertising behind them. Are there outliers who got lucky? Absolutely. Do you want to bet your career on luck? I hope not. And guess what. That means you need an advertising budget and plan as part of your social media strategy.
At the end of the day social media isn’t rocket science. It’s about getting the right content, in front of the right audience, at the right time. The challenge comes in predicting when that trifecta will occur. Figuring that out is an investment worth its weight in gold.
Do you have any dirty secrets of social media? Do you have any other great dating analogies for social media? Take a second and leave a comment. Let’s have some fun and uncover the hidden nuggets of what makes social media successful.