Let’s take it back to 1997, when the first recognizable social media site was born – Six Degrees (it actually goes way back depending on your definition of social media, but let’s start here). It wasn’t a great success, but it touched on everything we consider social media to be today. It enabled users to create a profile, invite friends, organize groups, and search other users’ profiles…all to be better connected. It was essentially based on a theory that no one is separated by more than 6 degrees of one another.
Since 1997, the concept of social media hasn’t changed much, but the growth in this space within the last 2 decades has proved that it’s here to stay. Who knows what social networking will look like in the next decade, but it’s clear that as long as there is supply and demand (for just about anything), there will be a need to have a digital brand, share information globally, and measure what’s resonating efficiently. Social media went from being rejected to ‘it’s just a fad’ to an inescapable obsession to the most necessary tool in the toolbox for both individuals and businesses…in a matter of few years.
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” – Erik Qualman
Today, most companies understand that they have to invest in social programs, despite the hazy ROI models. Of course, there are still some non-believers (perhaps just waiting for the numbers to work), but they’re probably a lost cause now. If your leaders haven’t committed to social media yet, then it’s safe to say they are doing you and the business a disservice. They are truly setting you up for failure.
But what does ‘investing in social media’ mean? There are 4 components to a successful social media strategy:
The first step in doing anything on social media is having a presence, and figuring out which one to start with can be overwhelming. In the beginning, all you need is just ONE presence on the RIGHT social channel. So identify the right network by asking these questions:
- What networks does the industry have a presence in? (Find out how businesses present themselves, how they engage, and if it’s working)
- What networks are my clients/customers on? (Simply ask them and use social network demographic data)
- Does it make sense for my brand and content? (Think through how you want to deliver your message & knowledge…images, videos, firm-curated articles, personalized private messages?)
Then, pick the best fitting network:
- Personal & Professional: Facebook, Twitter
- Just Business: LinkedIn
- Image-based: Instagram, Pinterest
- Video-based: YouTube, Vine
- Location-based: Yelp, Foursquare
- Audio-based: Podcast, Anchor
- Interest-based: Google+
Once you have a presence, it’s essential to engage your network. Unfortunately, just having a profile still means you’re invisible to the world, but the moment you post your thoughts, you’re on-air worldwide. Imagine the social landscape as a big, never-ending cocktail party, where your presence is equal to attending a free event that everyone was invited to (not so special), but as soon as you share your story and knowledge, you attract a nice group around you. There’s some back and forth, lots of learning about each other, and then, all of a sudden, you stop talking. Your group, naturally, scurries away because you are no longer interesting. On the other hand, picture yourself talking too much and not letting others speak. You’re now irrelevant.
The key to growing and sustaining your network is sharing valuable, authentic thought leadership in a consistent manner. Content can come in all shapes and sizes – a tweet to acknowledge something, a comment to Congratulate, a blog post to express original ideas, a reshare of a CNN editorial, a firm-branded article, or even a private one-on-one message – but if you continuously track what is working within your network and find the right balance, you’ll be the life of the party. Typically, depending on your industry, organizations may limit you to a content library or mandate pre-approval on your self-authored messages. And this is perfectly fine…as long as the library is fully stocked with compelling, fresh content and there is a well-resourced team to review your free form messages real-time.
Here’s where it gets tricky – businesses tend to do a good job with establishing a social presence and offering quality content, but dollars seem to run out right about now. Most organizations don’t invest resources, time, and technology into social analytics…and this is where we can finally measure ROI! Let me be clear, when I say ‘social analytics’, I’m not just thinking about the number of likes, comments, shares, and impressions, I’m thinking big…Big Data…big.
With a well-defined strategy, your organization should develop predictive social analytic models to effectively listen, gather, assess, and respond to social behaviors and engagement. This would help you build a complete view of an individual’s needs and identify business opportunities at the right time. For example, Lynn shares a picture of a beautiful ring on Instagram with #isaidyes, #engaged, and #2018wedding hashtags. This one post can conclude that she’ll be in the market for a wedding dress, wedding bands, photographers, perhaps a wedding planner, maybe even honeymoon destinations, etc. If businesses offering these products or services tracked ‘engagement’ hashtags or phrases, they would easily be able to create targeted campaigns, increasing the chances of winning Lynn as a customer. If you’re a financial advisor, let’s say, it’s the perfect time to present a Facebook ad about ‘determining a couple’s risk-tolerance’. If Lynn or her fiancé are fiscally responsible, she may click the ad to complete the risk assessment, generating enough information for the advisor to reach out and potentially secure a good prospect.
There’s so much that social media can offer, but when it’s interwoven with the way you do business, magic happens. Similar to analytics, organizations rarely get this far. However, when they start integrating social presence, content, and analytics to existing practices, companies turn into true ‘social businesses’. This means that they have stopped looking at social media as just a marketing channel, and have realized that when it’s plugged into the firm’s CRM system, customer service plans, supply chain communication routines, internally-built applications, etc, employees are much more productive and transparent. Along with improving internal processes, the biggest benefit of an integrated social business is the seamless experience you can offer to your clients/customers.
Let’s go back to being a financial advisor – when Lynn clicked on the Facebook ad, she was directed to my website where she can learn more about me and access the risk assessment. Later I get an alert notifying me that Lynn viewed my LinkedIn profile, followed by the results of her risk assessment (so she did complete it!). This prompted the system to ask if I wanted to create an account for Lynn in our CRM (yes, please!). Since she viewed my LinkedIn profile, I also visit her page to get to know her more and then send her a private message. I mention a few common interests, the risk assessment results, and ask if she would like to connect. This message automatically gets saved in her CRM record, along with every other conversation I (or anyone else in the organization) have through email, text, phone, social, and in-person thereafter. Even with this basic kind of integration, the journey for you and your prospective client will surely be personal, memorable, and consistent.
Overall, if your organization’s social media strategy doesn’t consider these 4 factors, the hazy ROI model we previously temporarily ignored will continue to be unclear. In order to fully take advantage of what social media has to offer today and perhaps be ready for the next decade, companies have to become a social business.
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