At a time when consumers lead business when it comes to technology adoption and social media, the importance of having a social media strategy to grow business and build brand is no longer in question—it’s table stakes. Consider some statistics: globally, 2.4 billion people are on the Internet.
Canadians are the second highest online users next to Americans. Some 64% of Canadians use social networks.
“Social media channels aren’t going away. They’re only going to get more and more engaging, customized, complex and absolutely necessary,” says Debbie Dimoff, vice president, Consulting at PwC. “If as a private company you haven’t yet explored digital channels, then get in there, start experimenting and learn quickly because it’s the way that consumers, investors and partners expect to engage with you.”
It’s a message private companies need to hear and act on. During PwC’s webinar Embracing social media: The impact of the digital customer on the future of your business, 31% of the business leaders in attendance reported they rarely use social media. Many are overwhelmed by the ever-growing number of channels to choose from and simply don’t know where to start.
Dimoff cuts through the clutter and offers a roadmap to help you navigate the social media landscape.
Determine what you want to achieve through social media. There are five typical objectives: to establish a baseline presence and make yourself visible; to offer thought leadership; to attract a new segment of customers; to promote products/services; and to better serve your customers. Your objective will lead you to the appropriate channel. For example, Twitter has emerged as the spot to handle customer service questions, issues and concerns. Most organizations that are on Twitter for customer service are quick to respond and they’re personal.
Focus on the top social media channels. You don’t have to explore the 3,000 channels out there. Go after those channels where you know there’s a lot of engagement and traffic. Create a company LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presence. If you’re a retailer or you have products you want to promote, establish yourself on Pinterest, which is growing into an important new channel and already boasts 40 million users.
Engage your stakeholders so they keep coming back. There are two ways to do this. One is to be a host and create a forum for your customers to talk to and help each other. This isn’t about pushing products. The second way to build engagement is to create content your target market wants. Think of yourself as a business entertainment firm looking to get your audience so connected to your content that they want to talk back to you.
Understand the digital DNA of your audience in order to create relevant content. For example, millennials and active social networkers typically like to collaborate, so it’s important to give them the opportunity to comment and create content on your social media channels. Other target groups tend to be content consumers. They’ll research, watch product videos, look for instructional help and visit customer forums and blogs to find the right product.
Identify your brand influencers and bring them into your social media strategy. As you monitor the conversations taking place about you on social media, take note of the people regularly talking/tweeting about you and find out how far their reach is. Do they have five followers or 50,000? Direct your conversations to users with a significant scope. Thank them for their support. Invite them to comment on your forums. Offer them the opportunity to receive new products first. They’re free marketers who can exponentially grow your reach.
Manage your social media presence. This takes time and effort. Put someone in charge. Start with one social channel community manager. You may want to hire someone full-time or bring someone on board on a contract basis. When it comes to creating content, build a team who will write for you or develop videos. Consider using agencies or hiring journalists and invite your advisors to create content on some themes that are important to you. It helps them build their brand as well and it’ll strengthen your relationship. Once you have a strategy, make sure your staff/team have guidelines on how they represent you in the marketplace and then build your playbook, which should include how you’re going to deal with the major channels, when you’re going to interact and how often you post new content. And always have the stakeholder in mind when creating content.
“Social media is part of business today,” says Dimoff. “Consider it as part of your customer relations and communications strategy. These channels need to be in your business’ DNA.”
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