10 Best Practices for a Successful Social Media Strategy - Part I
Happy holiday shopping season! For any eRetailer, this is perhaps the most exciting time of the year. After all, 63% of consumers have planned to do a majority of their holiday shopping online. As you gear up for 2013, this is an excellent time to review if you are maximizing all of your possible customer touch points.
Naturally customers come to your website to engage with you, but what about other ways they want to connect? In previous Connected Customer blog posts we’ve discussed the value of mobile engagement. Now it’s time to talk about social media in this two-part series.
I was recently stunned by a statement in an article on Mashable.com: New research finds that 72% of businesses that use social media do not have a clear set of goals or a clear strategy for their social media platforms. Are you one of the 72%? If you’re just getting started with a social media strategy, or revisiting a strategy that just isn’t paying off, here are some best practices for getting started.
1) Pick One Social Channel And Do It Well
If you don’t already have a social strategy in place, it can be daunting to figure out where to start. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Blogging, Slideshare, Tumblr... there are hundreds of social media engagement platforms. I suggest that you do some research and determine the one social media channel that will best suit your business goals, and the level of engagement you are looking to achieve. By doing some research you can start to get a feel for which demographic of customers are using each platform, and how they’re using them. You can always grow your presence further in additional channels, but picking one and getting it right is a great way to get started without being overwhelmed or straining precious resources.
2) Being Social = Engagement
It pains me when I see companies that have a beautiful brand presence on a social channel, but do little to interact and engage with social fans and followers. I was on a major brand’s Facebook page recently and asked a question about one of their products. After several days I was disappointed to receive no response from a brand representative. Then I noticed dozens of other consumers similarly waiting for answers that were simply never going to come. Guess what? I bought that product somewhere else from a brand that had a social engagement strategy in place, and answered my questions where I wanted to ask them. The first page mentioned was beautifully designed with an abundance of colorful marketing campaigns, but no one was actually manning the virtual counter to provide service to potential buyers through social conversation. When people ask questions on your facebook page, it’s rude to ignore them. If you don’t have the resources to engage in social conversations with the fans you’re cultivating online, you’re not ready to put a social strategy in place.
3) Are You Listening?
We take social listening seriously at LivePerson and think you should too. There are a number of free and paid monitoring tools available, including our ecosystem partner Tracx that has the added benefit of integrating with our platform. Getting a good social monitoring tool in place is critical for a social strategy... and no, sadly, Google Alerts just aren’t enough. What should you be listening to? Naturally the first monitor to set up should look for keyword mentions associated to your brand name(s). But, you will find tremendous value if you extend your listening further by monitoring keywords common in your industry, competitor names, product keywords and other relative terms. Knowing what’s being said about your brand and your industry online is powerful stuff and can help you understand your customers and their needs better, which means you can sell to them more effectively. At LivePerson, we have dozens of keyword monitors running that track the pulse of what’s happening in social spaces that impact and influence our business and the future of our products.
4) Establish an Internal Social Media Policy
Whether or not your industry requires you to have an internal policy governing employee participation in social channels, it is important to have an internal social media policy in place. I have seen social media policies that are just a few paragraphs and others that are pages long-- different businesses will have different requirements. Independent of any regulations your business may have to adhere to, it’s a good idea to spell out not just what employees should refrain from doing, but, more importantly, spell out how employees are encouraged to participate. Some of the best social advocates for your business are your employees and they should feel empowered to participate in the social conversation, with a clear understanding of where the boundaries lie. I have seen some policies that are so strict and prohibitive that it's no wonder employees might refrain from helping spread the company's social messaging. While this may be the 'safe' way to go, it's also a major hinderance in expanding your brand presence across channels and networks.
5) Eliminate the Noise
Some companies rush to the social conversation without a plan, which can frequently lead to accounts that are created then quickly abandoned after priorities fluctuate or internal ownership for social accounts changes hands. If you have dormant social accounts, take whatever steps necessary to eliminate them completely. An excess of inactive accounts can create confusion to customers who may be trying to find your real brand presence. Also it’s important to question how many corporate accounts your company needs to be effective online. Do you need separate accounts to communicate marketing messaging, support messaging, and to target various geographic audiences? In most cases, the answer would be no, however again it depends on your audience and your business goals. I recommend streamlining your social presence into as few accounts as absolutely necessary to keep communication lines consistent and easy for your audience to find.
After the holidays are over, I’ll come back with the second part of my social strategy suggestions. In the meantime, I’d like to take an opportunity to wish all our blog readers a warm and peaceful holiday season. If you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to comment below or connect with me on Twitter! See you in 2013!
Updated January 10, 2013: Continue on to Part II in this series on Social Media Best Practices!