Social Media has always been there. Even centuries ago. People have always communicated and exchanged information with each other through different media channels such as letters. It used to take weeks or even months to relay certain information but it did happened – eventually. What has really changed is the immediacy of this exchange of information that was brought by the evolution of technology and the new form of Social Media.
Today the way we define Social Media is where conversation continuously happens, in real time, day and night, 24/7. They never stop.
And this has changed the way brands communicate with the consumers. It has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.
The reason this happened is that Social Media gave consumers the chance to eat their bacon and tell the world about it. A chance to express themselves, share what they think, feel, give their opinion, debate… Social Media gave voice to people and the power to influence as citizens and consumers.
And it’s incredible to see what happens when people are given such power. “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2001.” – Eric E. Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman. In our lifetime 5 billion people will come online (now approx. 2billion). Making consumers increasingly in control whereby our culture today demands participation on an immediate level through technology and different social media channels.
Well what does this increased control mean? This can be seen in the 3 different types of people online.
1. Consumer: In 2010, Forrester observed that almost 70% of people using social media simply consumed content. They did not comment, they did not post, they kept the information they found online to themselves. The old 1 percent rule assumed that only one percent of an online audience created the content with 90 percent are consuming it.
2. Consumer + Creator: 9 percent of people online modify or edit that content. But anecdotal evidence suggests that there’s a paradigm shift going on, with many more creators (and curators) popping up.
3. Consumer + Creator + Curator: The internet is becoming more participatory, thanks to the development of democratizing tools like Blogger, WordPress, Tumbler and Pinterest. While micro blogging and micro media (twitter, youtube etc..) have blurred the lines between creation and curation. There is still a comparatively small number actually ‘creating’, and whilst it is not quite creation, the role that curation plays on information commerce (which we’ll get on to in a moment) is pivotal.
It is important to understand the drive for curation. Quite simply it’s because people are looking for experiences , they are looking for a deeper meaningful connection. It commands a new way the brands and consumers interact. So we want to create highly salient meaningful experiences – AND actualizing it across as many touch points as possible in order to ensure that the experience is enjoyable and memorable and shared with peers. We all know that advocacy drives growth – namely positive word of mouth helps in driving sales – so as creators of consumer experiences we need to drive positive meaningful experience to drive advocacy. Positive / meaningful interactions will drive advocacy, which is important as consumers are not loyal to a promise per se – they are loyal to an experience.
As a brand you want to take active part in creative or being part of this experience. But how? Remember that consumer is in control and just because you decided to join in on the fun does not mean that you will be let. You need to have a clearly defined social media strategy.
But before we start talking about Social Media Strategy there are 4 important things we need to consider:
1. Social Media Strategy should not be confused with your Business Strategy. While the later is about your short term and long-term goals for ex. I want to increase my sales by 20% this season, or I want expand to Dubai by 2015. Social Media Strategy is about one consistent long-term goal. Create (not even maintain) and develop strong relationship with your consumers.
2. Social Media is something you have to do everyday. You have to immerse yourself in it. It has to be become a daily part of your brand.
3. There is no perfect strategy for your brand. Actually no one really has yet nailed social media strategy. What works for one brand might not work for another. Social media is a new thing and it is continuously evolving things.
4. “Last but not least start dedicating a master plan to your brand’s social media presence, you must understand and know that you will have to be patient. Be prepared if you make a few failed attempts, it takes time to develop a solid base, a solid following, and to understand and post content that your followers and fans want to see.”
Now, we can begin tackling the big 5 questions.
How to choose which Social Media Channels to be present at. Remember managing all those Social Media channels requires a lot of time and resources to be done properly and effectively. There are few parameters that you need to consider before making this decision:
1. Usual assumption in networking is that a big network is a good network – which is very similar to the approach to social media – No. of facebook fans rules?! – wrong
2. To deploy each social media platform to best effect, you must first understand that it isn’t one size fits all.
3. It is important to have a presence and once you are able to master your social media schedule, you will be a super social media expert.
For that reason think about:
1. Resources: If you have enough resources, time and money to actually be present on each of these social media channels then great. You will have a wider reach and be able to appeal to different target audiences (which is not bad). However, if you are limited with your budget and time, then choose the network wisely. Choose the one that answers your objective and where your audience is and which you think you can manage more easily.
2. Objective: Every Social Media Channel has its own objective. Go with the one that answers your objective.
1. Increase your SEO
2. Traffic to the site
3. Brand Exposure
4. Customer Engagement
3. Audience: Different Social Media Channels attract different audience. And it’s important for you to understand the difference between these audiences. The demographic that tends to appear on Twitter for example – tech users – is different from that on Facebook, which is sort of for everyman. Instagram is more of a niche market.
Now if you can be present on all of these different Social Media Channels all the better but you have to understand how to segment their messaging to they’re able to talk to different key interests.
If you haven’t defined your brand make sure you do before you jump on a channel. Define who you are. Don’t assume that because you decided to join the conversation people will flock to you. To be able to connect with your potential customers first of all they need to understand your brand and to understand the designer, the heritage, the mission, vision and everything in between.
1. Define your brand: To start off, tell them who you are. Every brand has a story to tell – be it customers who have overcome obstacles, humble beginnings or a glimpse inside the lives of leadership. Tapping into emotions and giving people a reason to share your story is one of the most effective ways to build word of mouth and deepen customers relationship with your brand. Unlike with traditional media, social media offers the ability to tell new stories instantly and with little cost.
2. Be you brand: Sharing your story is only the beginning. You need to stay true to who you are all throughout the relationship. This will show through what you say and how you say it. What visuals, news, videos you share… that will reinforce what your brands stands for.
What you say and how you say it and when you say on Social Media Channels will affect the way you relate to your audience and hence how much you can connect. It’s very hard to sustain a large volume of network connections you want to resonate amongst your key audience without resonance conversations evaporate quickly.
1. Content: What you post or share on Social Media is called Content. A good social media strategy doesn’t just display products or push services. It targets a clear target audience and appeals to their needs, interests, and inspirations. Include posts about products and content that sparks conversation about relevant topics of the day. Be a persona, talk about your interests; don’t be like a desperate salesperson. Remember people are on social media because they want to connect with people that share the same interests.
2. Tell a story: How you share things on social media will affect the level of engagement. Remember people are bombarded with so many messages every day. They open their newsfeed and are bombarded with thousands of messages. Become a storyteller by sharing and inspiring stories. Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we as people communicate. A great story captivates and engages emotionally, leaving people inspired to share.
3. Be Timely: Remember people don’t actually live on social media. When you post and share content on social media be sure that there is someone who is listening. Timing is very important. The level of interaction and engagement that you get is highly dependent on timing. For example people are less active on Saturdays and Sundays. Think about what people are doing at the time you post. Timing can actually break it or make it.
4. Listen: Do more listening than talking. Social media is a two-way street: “Successful social media strategy is more about listening than talking. The right message interjected at the right time at the right person can lead to bigger ROI. Listen what people are saying about your brand, about your industry about a specific event by using the hashtag to search for specific topics.
5. Experiment: Be creative, be clever and be crazy on social media. The battlefield is open to explore and it is better to explore ideas, try new ways to engage with users and to spark fans attention. So start creating a content plan, don’t do the same thing over and over again, monitor and find out what works best, as we all know the digital landscape changes every day and what your followers want to see will change everyday, but never forget to post news about your brand.
1. Party With Your Users: Consistently implementing creative social media campaigns that effectively generate huge social buzz and engagement around their brand. “You can buy attention (advertising). You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales). Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.” –David Meerman Scott, Best-Selling Author & Speaker.
2. Acknowledge: Fuel conversation by responding and engaging. Instigate and respond to conversations. In today’s connected world, when customers take the time to engage in conversation with your brand, they often expect your company to take the time to respond back. As a result, brands can no longer get away with being unresponsive on social channels. Responding to, and engaging with, your social customers signals that your brand is invested in each individual relationship. Acknowledging negative feedback provides an opportunity to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. Engaging with customers to answer a question or send appreciation can instantly turn a good experience into a great one.
At the end of the day you need to assess the effort time and money that you have spent on your social media was worth the return – i.e. measure your Social Media Reputation. Reputation is the result of the relative proximity of three factors to one another – the closer these factors are to one another i.e – the more continuous and integrated – the more likely a brand is to enjoy positive WOM – the further apart they are the more likely one’s reputation is to suffer. This demands a far more active role – understand what people are saying about your brand and engage them in conversation rather than a pure passive role through market research – this enables you to facility the brand experiences people are after.
Last but not least:
“Social Media is about people. Not about your business. Provide and the people will provide for you.” – Matt Goulart, entrepreneur.
We are moving fast towards a smart, interconnected world where new customer behavior will emerge. You need to stay up to day with all these changes to maintain relationships with your consumers.