The Social Media wave is hitting every business in every corner of the world. This wave is gaining enormous momentum for the simple reasons that it is highly effective and delivers value for money when executed correctly. Those that got on the wave early are reaping real commercial benefits allowing them to sprint in front of their competitors.
However the road to Social Media success is not yet an obvious one for many businesses. There are many tools such as Facebook, SocialGO, Twitter and YouTube that leave businesses wondering how to pull all these components together into a coherent strategy and how Social Media fits within the greater marketing mix.
This White Paper sets out to provide you with a clear and easy to execute road map to help your business achieve commercial success with Social Media!
The genesis of Social Media came from the early social networks phenomenas such as Friendster and Myspace, as well as the advent of Blogging. But it wasn't until the arrival of Facebook and Twitter that business on an enormous scale started to work out how it could use these online tools to engage customers in social conversational way. Business discovered that forming one-to-one conversational relationships with customers based upon special interest, passions or causes was emerging as a powerful way to do business.
Blogging was probably the first real foray of business into social media. Businesses via formal and informal blogs engaged customers in a more informal conversation style on matters previously though taboo or private. This also included public engagement of unhappy customer through honest and humble conversation.
In 2009 business arrived on mass at Facebook creating simple web pages on the platform in order to attract "Followers". After the initial business surge to Facebook, many were confronted by numerous privacy and data ownership concerns forcing them to look further afield for alternate tools. Twitter quickly gathered enormous traction and business began engaging customers via the 140 character tweets.
Following the Facebook privacy scares and understanding the limited nature of the relationships that can be formed on Facebook and Twitter, business have more recently started developing their own dedicated social networks around a community of customers with a common interest, passion or cause. Thus facilitating much deeper customers relationship to get richer customer insights, while developing brand evangelists and business activists.
With the emergence of multiple social media tools, business are now pulling together the leading online tools such as Facebook, Twitter, SocialGO and Youtube to create a focused and consolidated Social Media strategy.
Your social media strategy is simply a new strand to your marketing mix. It does not set out to replace the more traditional components such as advertising, PR or sponsorships. Instead it simply provides you with an additional opportunity.interest keywords that are then searchable by other attendees.
The Social Media tool kit is expanding all the time, however there are four primary components. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs & Social Networks.
Blogs are the traditional component of the social media mix which are widely used and understand today.
Adoption of blogs is high amongst business and they provide for a low to medium level of engagement largely through "commenting". They often do not provide for any user data capture which limits their value.
Facebook and Twitter have seen enormous adoption over the past few years and probably make up the mass of most businesses' social media strategy. While they can expose a business to enormous volumes of potential customers, they typically offer low levels of customer engagement as they offer limited tools for business to interact with customers, as well as being only one of often hundreds of 'liked pages'.
The more recent addition to the social media tool kit are niche social networks that are set up and owned by a business or group and are built around a special interest, passion or cause. These provide a deep level of engagement through a rich set of features, allowing businesses to interact with their most engaged customers.
With the emergence of multiple social media tools it is critical to understand the role that each plays, so that they can be combined to deliver the required commercial return. Here are two key actions to achieve in a social media context:
a. Gain Followers
b. Develop Evangelists
In mass generic social networks like Facebook and Twitter, a business can grow a large following using classic techniques like competitions and raffles. This increases virality of the page, especially when sharing the information means that the Follower has a higher chance of winning.
This means that these tools and social networks can be viewed as high volume / low level engagement catchment areas. Very often, brand and product pages on Facebook, for example, see thousands of likes, but little interaction due to the "Like and Forget" syndrome.
It is from these mass follower accounts that a business can then harvest customers who are very engaged and who will be come your evangelists and activists to champion your brand or products.
Note - there are businesses who may already have a dedicated following and may not need to harvest them from Facebook, Twitter or a Blog. For example you might have a product like a Harley Davidson motorbike that already has a passionate user base or a sporting team that has its dedicated supporters.
Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Blog and Youtube allows business to develop large volumes of low level relationships with existing and potential customers, known as "Followers". While the level of engagement and conversation is relatively low using these tools, they serve as the ideal first step in building a social media strategy.
Once you have harvested your Followers from Facebook, Twitter, Blog or existing communities, you are then looking to distill and funnel as many of them into a niche social network around a relevant special interest, passion or cause.
From the dedicated social network the business is able to establish much deeper relationships with the customers which not only provides greater consumer insights, but also turns them into brand and company evangelists whom spread the good word.
It is also an opportunity for the business to facilitate the added value of customer to customer interaction in order to galvanise and enduring community around the special interest, passion or cause.
If customers form binding relationships between each other, they are more likely to return to the niche network giving extended commercial opportunities for the business.
Once you have developed evangelists from the rich conversations a niche social network provides, then through word of mouth your evangelists put out the good word to their followers and friends.
Establishing a social media strategy need not be labour intensive. Setting up a Blog is very straight forward with a supplier like Word Press. They can be easily branded and configured with virtually no computer skills. Running a blog is equally straight forward provided that someone has the time and inclination to write meaningful articles on a regular basis and engage customers should they comment on the blog.
Equally creating a Twitter account takes minutes, while building a following will take time provided that you actively promote you Twitter account and are targeted in who you follow (as they often reciprocate). Plus you must have something interesting to say which is worthy of following.
A Facebook page in a basic form also takes little effort to establish and again the effort largely lies in making potential customers aware of your Facebook page so they are encouraged to join and engaging in any conversations with followers.
Creating a dedicated special interest social network has been made very simple with suppliers like SocialGO, who will provide a fully hosted, feature rich social network maker starting from just $7.99. They also provide expert design services from just $250 to create a social network for you that is in line with your existing brand. Additionally, there is full customer support, including phone support, available.
Many social media tools have emerged to measure the ROI effectiveness of a strategy. These sentiment analysis tools allow you to monitor what is being said about a brand, product or company and form a view of their worth.
They will scour the Internet searching for references about your company, then aggregate the references and sometimes analyse them for you. While often expensive, they can be very useful tools when you start to get to the advanced stages using Social Media.
Using Google News Feed you can scrape in online references to your business, or if you are using a niche social network, from a supplier like SocialGO Network Maker, you can simply browse what is being written in the forum, blogs and walls.
It really can be as simple as spending 15 minutes a day to skim what is being said in order to form an opinion. It is always best not to over-complicate it to begin with!