This post was originally published by the author in the Canadian Small Businesswomen Blog
In the third post in this series, I discussed why you need to consider your customers as “users” and how you go about creating a User Persona to help you target your Content Strategy to your ideal users. Over the next 3 weeks of this series, we’ll finish fleshing out the remaining pieces of the content strategy puzzle, and this week we’ll tackle what is possibly the most perplexing and time consuming part of your digital business: your Social Media Strategy.
Do I really HAVE to have a social media strategy?
Social strategy is complex: there are so many social networks, and sometimes it feels like there is a new one every day. How does a business owner know which ones to pay attention to, and which ones to ignore? Engaging in Social Media can be extremely time consuming with little visible return on investment: It can be difficult to clearly see how a social media strategy can help your business.
But social media can also be a virtual goldmine of new customers. It can be a way that you can develop a relationship of trust with your customers, engage in customer service activities, and even recruit new employees. Social media is here to stay and it is an essential part of every business owner’s sales, marketing, and business development toolkit. A smart, targeted social strategy can deliver brand awareness, new customers, and even conversions, but it is important to understand why you’re doing it and what exactly you should do, and this is unique to each and every business.
Conversion has changed – forever.
Think about how your customers convert nowadays. It used to be that customers would become aware of your brand or product through a limited number of expensive and highly controlled channels: perhaps through a television, radio, or newspaper ad, or perhaps through word of mouth. Their decision to buy was made primarily at point of purchase, that is, when they saw your product on the shelf in the store: the “first moment of truth”, as it was called in the traditional marketing model.
Google has recently described a new model that very accurately captures the new way consumers become aware of, and make decisions to purchase, products and services today, and they call it the Zero Moment of Truth. The Zero Moment of Truth is all about digital discovery: the extensive searching, recommendation reading, and consulting with Facebook friends that we now engage in before making a purchasing decision. For products and services big and small, we rarely convert until we have had at least 7 and sometimes as many as 17 digital “impressions” or touch points with a brand.
This Zero Moment of Truth is perhaps the most compelling reason that each and every brand, every business selling every product or service, needs to ensure that when the consumer is engaging in this foraging behaviour, that they are there, building trust and clocking impressions that may lead to conversion. These impressions come from your business website and your social media activities, especially what people are saying with you and about you in social. Media.
There may be a small segment of the population that doesn’t use social media, but this is a rapidly shrinking segment. The fastest growing segment of social users is adults 45-54, and more and more seniors come online every day. In many ways, Social Media IS the Internet, and the Internet IS Social Media. It’s difficult today to grow your business without a strategy that covers how, for whom, and how often you will engage your customers in the two-way conversation that Social media has to offer as a marketing tool.
So Many Platforms, So Little Time.
Scheduling tools like Hootsuite make it easy to track and control the frequency of your social media communications, and they make it easy to post the same content simultaneously to multiple social platforms. But while it may be tempting to try and broadcast your messages to multiple platforms at once, it is rarely a good idea. In his book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”, Gary Vaynerchuck makes a strong argument that business owners should heed: not all social platforms are created equal. The kind of storytelling that works really well on Facebook for a particular user will not work on Twitter, or Linked, In, or Pinterest, or….
Knowing which platforms to prioritise is perhaps the most difficult part of your social strategy but also the most critical. You stand to lose a lot of precious time if you prioritise a platform that really doesn’t work for your business, and you can even erode or undermine your brand if you post something clearly inappropriate for that platform: so how does a savvy business owner choose?
There are three factors to consider:
1) What are the various social platforms “good at”?
2) Which of the social platforms do your users tend towards?
2) What is the nature of your business conversion funnel?
1) A Brief Primer on Social Media
There is much crossover between the various major social media platforms: all of them are, of course, social, meaning they are about engaging in a dialogue with others. But because each one operates in a slightly different way with different rules of engagement, they require different kinds of Storytelling.
• Has over 230 million monthly active users
• Twitter followers are 60% more likely to recommend you than a Facebook Liker
• The average age of a Twitter user is much higher than Facebook, at 39 years
• 70% of Twitter users expect to hear back from a brand, and 53% want that response within the hour
• Twitter is good for establishing thought leadership, expertise, for sharing news, and for customer service and customer relationship management
• Facebook is the largest social platform in the world: if it were a country it would the third most populated, after only China and India
• Facebook does have an influence on purchasing behaviour, even if not a direct one. Your Facebook fans are more likely to convert than non-fans.
• Facebook is great for visibility in social search
• Facebook is getting into the retail game with Facebook shops if you are selling a product
• The new killer app on Facebook is the short video
• Has moved from being primarily a video search engine to a powerful social platform where many brands have been born and built. Khan academy, for example, and Justin Bieber.
• Web videos are a great way to reach out to new and current customers and generate inbound links to your website
• Because it is owned by Google, embedding YouTube videos on your website gives those pages a double-boost in Search Engine Optimisation
• Great for local businesses, reviews, and Google search “juice”
• Ties your business address into a Google Map and ties into other Google services
• The largest professional network, you must have a personal page on LinkedIn; it is far more common to connect with business contacts on LinkedIn than to keep a Rolodex or stack of business cards or emails.
• Linked in generates 200% more leads than the other social networks
• The fastest growing as of December 2012
• Pinterest is very visual, about ‘things’, items they find interesting, but it works even for small businesses that aren’t visually stimulating.
• Pinterest is good for referral traffic because the source of the pin is a link to your site, especially images you might be posting in your blogs. Even if you don’t maintain a page or presence on Pinterest, installing a “pin it” button on your website pages is a good idea
2) Where Are Your Users Hanging Out?
The short answer is, everywhere. But you have to narrow that down a little to come up with a feasible strategy. It’s important to note here that there are multiple social platforms not listed above, many of them attracting niche audiences where you might find a treasure trove of users interested in exactly what you have to offer. This article outlines 60 niche social networks and it is worth doing a bit of digging to see if any of them resonate with your business goals. Another tool that you can use is socialmention.com; social mention searches blogs and social networks for topics or brand mentions and can be a good way of finding out where conversations are taking place that align with the kinds of conversations you want to be having with your customers. And social crawlytics at socialcrawlytics.com can be very insightful, generating a report that will tell you which pages of your website have been shared in social media, where they have been shared, and even by who.
3) What is the Nature of Your Conversion Funnel?
Typically, the more expensive the product or service, the more touch points the consumer will require before purchasing. What are you selling, and how many touch point’s do you think your customers need before they buy?
Is your product or service more suited to an active discovery process or a passive discovery process? For example, if I need an emergency plumbing repair I tend to engage in some very active discovery to find one. I search Google and will probably call the first few service providers I see. Social Media is better at passive discovery, at marketing products, services, and ideas that consumers don’t need right away or in an emergency.
Do you have a lot of competitors, so will need more touch points or more visibility in the market, or very few competitors? Are you in the B2B or B2C market?
How much customer service does your product or service require? And how much brand awareness do you already have in the market?
Document the answers to these questions on this worksheet; by indicating on the sliders in the worksheet where your business lands on these various conversion factors will give you some pointers towards which platforms you might want to prioritise as well as the frequency of posting you might want to consider. Note that the worksheet is more art than science and is intended only as a starting point: they only way to really get good at social media is by doing it, so start small, perhaps with your LinkedIn page, and build slowly using the worksheet as a guide.
The biggest question the Content Strategist has to answer is “Do I need a website AND a Social Strategy”? The answer is yes, for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the findability of your content in Search. In the next post in this series, we’ll cover Search Engine Optimisation and Influencer Marketing, the two biggest ways you can make your website work for your business.