Social Media Strategy - Part 1


What are the key principles of Social Media? And how do we put together a strong Social Media Strategy based on those principles?

To do that, first of all, we need to know what we mean when we talk about Social Media . The term Social Media is sometimes used without really understanding what it implies, how it works and how it has changed the society. Describing it in a few words, we can affirm that Social Media is the logical extension of what we have been doing for centuries, the legitimate evolution of things. Technology and medium have changed, but the same did not happen to people who do not connect, learn, express, share and interact the way they should. There are still too many organisations that do not understand that Social Media is essential to grow against competitors and generate revenue. Social media is today's way to communicate with people.


Technology took years to reach 50 million users in the UK only. Here are some fascinating numbers:

  • Radio – 38 years
  • TV – 13 years
  • Internet – 4 years
  • iPod – 3 years


The time we spend on Facebook equals 15.8% of the total time we spend surfing the Internet, and its active users are 1.55 billions of which 1.38 billion are mobile users and this number increases of 23% every year. It is almost shocking to think that if Facebook were a country, it would be the world's largest. Twitter has 307 million active users; Snapchat is the fastest growing social in the US, and 23% of teens consider Instagram their favourite one. Whatsapp counts 900 million users with 30 billion messages sent every day.

40% of people prefer to chat rather than talk face to face. 93% of shoppers buying decisions are influenced by what they see and what is advertised on social media. 72% of Internet users are active on socials on a daily basis. If they have a bad customer experience, they expect somebody to promptly reply with an hour to their complaint. Can you imagine how this could influence other customers' opinion?

All this to say that we cannot take apart digital strategy from social media and from mobile marketing strategy as nowadays they are one and the same. In the last 20 years technology has moved from analogue to digital, from laptops and desktops to mobiles which means, in other words, that we carry technology and the Web around with us all the time.

It is evident how all this has affected our life and the way we communicate, and being an organisation there is no other choice than getting involved with Social Media.


Key Principles of Social Media Strategy

Understanding these key principles can help to get a bigger and better social media presence.

In the social media world there are essentially 3 players:

  1. us and what we want to achieve;
  2. the audience that we are trying to reach (and we need to understand what they want from social media);
  3. social networks.




To be successful we need to keep the other two happy, and the middle intersection of the three is where we want to be with our Social Media Marketing.

The reason why organisations go onto social media is very easy and straightforward: they want to make money by selling their product. However, most organisations are just trying to push their messages rather than listening to their audience. They see social media as a mare and cheap form of advertising, not having great resources to build their own platform. The audience though does not use social media to be bombarded by marketing messages.


What do they use it for?

  • Status
  • Certainty
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Fairness


Why Social Networks want people to use them? What do they want to achieve?

Social Networks want to build a user base that regularly comes back to them; they do not want to bore their audience, and off course, they want to make a profit. When organisations use social media, they are playing by their rules. If an organisation keeps the audience happy, then the social network will help them show the organisation's content. In other words, if the organisation helps the social network to make money, the social network will do the same to them. All social media are asking for is engaging content that will bring people back to their pages. If a company cannot produce fetching content, social media give them the chance of advertising with them as Google, for example, has done for a long time.



Social Media Strategy

How can we put together a social media strategy that works? What goes into a plan?

Nowadays we have much more data and feedback compared to the past. The main difference is that today the numbers can be used to improve. Before planning, an organisation should have clarity of objectives having a transparent brand and business strategy. This has to correlate to the traditional marketing and the newer e-mail marketing.


Small businesses perhaps do not necessarily need to put a whole business strategy together, they can simply do their marketing on social media like Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter. However, it is important even for these people to understand how social media work.

One of the most excellent and efficient planning tool available is the SOSTAC structure, perfect for this type of planning.


  • Situation Analysis = work out where you are;
  • Objectives = what you are trying to achieve;
  • Strategy = why and how you are going to do social media marketing;
  • Tactics = tools, the channels you are going to use;
  • Actions = the workflows, the day to day action;
  • Control = metrics and numbers, the numbers you want to achieve.



This planning tool allows covering all the aspect and areas to produce a social media strategy that will work. It is very flexible and versatile and therefore suitable to every organisation.

Let's see how the SOSTAC strategy works step by step.



Situation Analysis

First of all, when organisations put a social media strategy plan together, they have to think about where they are and how well or bad they are performing. Some reflection is required to improve, to change and go forward.



Situation Analysis will produce SWOT Analysis, a piece of observation as follows:




Next is to create a benchmark to see how the organisation is doing. The best way of doing that is by picking a date and conduct the analysis every so often looking back at the starting date and comparing the performance against the benchmark. Then a report is created reporting the progress. Deep analysis is therefore requested by checking numbers and by picking some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which need to be monitored. Every organisation will have a different benchmark.


A very relevant analysis is the Social Media Audit which counts the social media accounts an organisation has and how the audience is performing on them. These accounts need to be assessed to see if they are giving a good performance. The success or failure of the content needs to be checked to see how well is doing as well as online mentions. Next, the organisation capability, looking internally at the organisation to see if there are enough people and if these people have enough time to work on social media. The Web traffic also needs to be monitored and to do that Google Analytics is a very powerful tool to use. It allows seeing how people are driven from a social network to the organisation's website. It will also show you if they stay on the page or quickly leave. Finally, it is imperative to check if the organisation is generating sales and the response expected.

Let's not forget to look at the marketplace and how the industry is working. The PESTEL Analysis that follows, is used to see if there is anything that affects the way an organisation does on social media. This will vary from an organisation to another. The whole idea is to give a snapshot to see where the companies are and benchmark their performance.



Stakeholders

Who within the organisation is involved with social media?

Even in the case that there is only one person involved in social media, he has to talk to other people, especially colleagues who could give some content to put online. For bigger organisations, for example, there might be a legal department which needs to be consulted before publishing or the human resources that would like to promote some initiative online and so on.

There are always other people involved, even externally. It is very important to understand what these people think about social media, if they support them or if they are against. Sometimes the culture of the organisation is a problem as the old generation gets nervous about working on social media. As a company does its Situation Analysis, they have to think if they are ready to be set up to be a social organisation or not.


A social and digital organisation should be:

  • Customer centric = the care about the customers;
  • Transparent = they have a transparency and are very honest with each other;
  • Collaborative = people work together;
  • Data Driven = they rely on data and numbers to make decisions;
  • Empowered = people are empowered to do their job and to take actions;
  • Agile = they quickly respond, they try and test and are prepared to fail;
  • Innovative = they are prepared to experiment and try new things out.


An organisation should at least have three of these characteristics in place to be able to successfully work on social media. Important and compulsory figures are those people able to understand data, analytics and numbers, and last but not least, a good amount of time is requested. Who works on social media should have time to dedicate to socials. If the working hours are not enough, some extra time should be provided. A clever solution is to outsource the job to have the job properly done.


Some companies might need to incentivise and encourage its employees and that can be done by simply showing many of the excellent characteristics of working with socials. Here are some examples:

  • Social media are a good way to be always in contact with customers;
  • They allow a quicker communication;
  • Staff can learn some new skills and new training could be done;
  • The job would have a larger variety adding value to the existing position;
  • Sometimes some people already have those skills requested and would be delighted to use them.


If the team still does not understand the importance of social media, it could be amusing to call it a project. People are often motivated to work on a new project: it has a start and an end point which does not scare. After trying working on socials, organisations usually stick to it, and from a project, social media become an integrated part of the job.


The Competition

Looking outside one of the key points in Situation Analysis is the competition with other organisations in the same industry, product or brand. Organisations also compete for people's attention.

The analysis is done by reviewing the competitors' performance, checking their websites and pages:

  • Audience size;
  • How they present themselves;
  • Who their fans and followers are;
  • What the organisation's strategic advantage is.

Is there anything they can do better than others?

To find that out, there are a lot of different software like Rival IQ which allows a company to keep track of their performance as well as their competitors'.


Audience Research 1

Another significant part of situation analysis is understanding the audience. Who are we trying to reach and what do we need to know about them to improve our social media? Social media is a great tool to do listening, especially customer-centric listening.

  • What are they interested in?
  • What do they say about us? About our company? About our industry?
  • Are people happy or unhappy?
  • Which demographic data is relevant?
  • How influential are they?
  • How deep do we want to go with our analysis?
  • What period and time are we talking about?
  • Which platforms are important?
  • Which platforms should we focus on?


We should try to do some social listening by picking a social network and starting researching, putting in topics, phrases, keywords and see if the comments are positive or negative. Google also has a lot of information about blogs and forums, and they can be fetched by using the boolean operators which are an excellent way to structure search phrases to obtain better quality results. Here are some examples:


Site:www.[solcial network].com”[brand/product/term]”

site:www.intagram”bmw”

site:www.[social network].com “[brand/product/term]”-inurl:[brand}

Google Advanced Search is a fascinating tool available online, allowing a more accurate research. Social listening tools like Hootsuite.com, Twittercounter.com, Socialmention.com will perform the same task with a higher speed. Combining those with Facebook or Twitter, Advanced Search and Google, we will have a clearer understanding of what people think and say about us and our brand. The result of this kind of search is called Share of Conversation Calculation

This calculation should be kept as a benchmark and repeated for a few months



This is necessary to understand what audience the organisation is trying to reach.

To complete the job, we should also do a Desk Research using maybe a Government body which usually collects information about potential audiences. Through them, organisations can be checked online. An excellent way to put all these information together is to create Personas, a mock profile of the people the team is trying to reach, allowing them to create a sort of empathy with their audience. Thanks to personas, organisations will create content for the type of customers they want to have. The right kind of personas should be shaped on the most important clients, those the company would like to have and keep happy.

Another important element is the Life Time Value of customers. If an organisation understands how much a customer can give to them in his lifetime, then they will see the spend they will do on social media in a different way. If a customer stays with an organisation for a very long time, then the initial sale, which could be expensive for the company, will be returned by the customer and multiplied within the years the customer stays with the company.




Objectives

The next step in the SOSTAC scheme is Objectives. They come after Situation Analysis and they might change as ideas might change.

  • Why do we want to use social media?
  • What do we want to achieve?
  • What is worth having?
  • How should we track and measure our progress?


Clarity of objectives is a crucial part to be able to prove that social media is worth our return of investment:

  • Choose a goal;
  • Track the goal;
  • Assign a (monetary) value;
  • See how many people come to the website, how many returns, how many turn to enquiries and eventually to sales.


Some metrics that need to be measured are:



And a good way to put all this together is called Mission – Goals – Tactics


We need to start with the mission and what we want to do with our business. Then we turn to goals and see what we want to achieve picking one or two media tools which relate to our mission and connect them to the social media networks. Start with their metrics and numbers and then connect them to the social media metrics. Most organisations though, start with the wrong metrics. Pick 2 KPIs for each goal and focus on them.


Strategy

Strategy is a massive area of marketing, but for what concerns SOSTAC, strategy is a tailored set of activities which, when combined, create a potential solution to a problem. In the SOSTAC scheme, it is one of those parts we can go back to if things do not work the way they should as it is not fixed. Strategy is the end goal, the overarching way we are going to use to achieve our aim.

Let's take brand awareness as our strategic goal. Here are all the strategic steps (tactic) that will take us to the ultimate goal. It is the “How” things are going to be done. Social media strategy is therefore related to marketing strategy which is related to business strategy, all support each other.

Where is the organisation going in the next few years? What is their vision? Where are they heading? Strategy creates something distinct and exclusive that other companies cannot copy. It also tells what an organisation should and shouldn't do. Moreover, it fits in with creating a niche, that particular space the organisation will fill. It is extremely difficult to do that online because as soon as an organisation finds a gap, the competitors will try to copy them.


Why is strategy so hard? Strategy is about making choices and decisions, and most companies find it very difficult to make decisions, this is why leadership is needed.

Strategy is a journey that continually evolves and changes as it is not fixed.

Good strategies can be:

  • Based on internal & external reality (understanding the organisations and its audience);
  • Clear objectives (strategies work only if it is clear what we want to achieve);
  • Visionary (should excite people about social media);
  • Realistic and achievable;
  • Measured, tracked and reviewed.


Tactics

Also known as tools, they include PPC (Pay Per Click), e-mails, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)and socials. Here follow some examples:


They all have open access, and the content is user generated content (UGC). They usually have reviews and rating, forums and comment sections, etc...

How many social should a company do? Many use up to ten different social networks. However, most of them cannot manage them all. Also, many post the same material on more or all the social they use, which is not the right tactic to follow. If a company uses more than one social and their followers find the same material on all of them, they will eventually get bored or worse, annoyed. Every post should be constructed for a particular public and posted on the right social. Every organisation should choose only a few blogs and regularly work on them, keeping them up to date and posting engaging content rather than having many that look all the same and have poor content.

There are so many tools out there that sometimes marketers feel almost overwhelmed by the enormous amount of choice they have. Organisations should, therefore, choose the most optimal social tools for them, the one that will make the biggest difference in what they are trying to achieve.


One approach to cut through that overwhelm is the SAY – SHOW – SHARE strategy:

  • Say (blog & Twitter ) pick one you have voice on;
  • Show (photos & videos) pick one where you have visual presence;
  • Share (social networking) join a social network.


Try to focus on doing well only on a few social networks and post great content. Once the audience likes the content, they will share it elsewhere. People will share without the company having to be there.


Your Content Strategy

To get better on social media, the material posted online has to be excellent.

Content strategy is the message the company has to get across in such a way that the audience will be interested in. To do that, companies and audience have to meet in the middle.


Organisations have to blend their marketing message and their material so that the result is a more engaging content.

  • What do they want to say?
  • What message are they trying to get across?
  • What do they want people to know?


If organisations are not clear, then their audience will not understand their message.

How are they going to EDUCATE – ENTERTAIN and INFORM their audience?

Companies working in the business to business world may sell a product that is not very interesting therefore they have to entertain people rather than just telling them what their product is about. The content should answer the customers' questions, and when it does, customers will engage with the content that helped them. In consequence, producing great content helps businesses to grow. With content marketing, companies build an asset for themselves that pays them back over time.

Sometimes It is possible to come across a couple of challenges. The first one is the so-called Curse of Knowledge i.e. once we know a piece of information it is quite difficult to comprehend what is like not to know that particular information as it becomes glaring and self-evident to us.

The second one is Group Thinking i.e. people that work together think the same, talk the same and see things from the same point of view. The problem is that they all agree and when creating content they might end up producing something that is superb for them but not for their audience.