Do you remember how scared you were when you first learned how to swim? Do you remember how exactly your body attempted to move and react to a changing surrounding? First you were probably panicking, and then you were trying to move just as if you were touching the ground. Finally you gave up and learned to do it quite the other way round. You developed a new muscle memory and realized that swimming and walking have very little in common but both activities can be equally fun.
Practically any social media strategy has a resembling life circle. Firstly you don't have a clue what's this all Twitter/Facebook/Google+ is about and want to run away to cold-calling, constant spam emails and sales pitches like my-name-is-Jeff-and-we-guarantee-you-number-one-position-in-Google-in-two-weeks-or-your-money-back. Then you're trying to do Social Media just as if it were any other old traditional type of Marketing, but the problem is that it's not old, it's not traditional and it's not straight-forward. Eventually you learn how to do, what I personally call, the right thing and become more or less decent in Social Media, but that's not what I am going to talk about.
The transition from each phase is painful, scary and soaked with sweat. The goal of this article is trying to understand what we are or were all doing wrong on the second base (I mean SMM, not love affairs).
When it comes to Social Media, normally the most typical strategy for a new company would be the following:
- There isn't an SMM manager within your organization as there's no budget allocated to such purposes;
- Someone from marketing or PR is likely to be responsible for Social Media;
- Posts are scheduled/posted with a sparse frequency varying from 1 post per day up to 2-3 posts per week, weekends are normally excluded from the schedule and sometimes there may be significant posting intervals;
- The one responsible for SMM within your organization normally schedules all the posts or shares all the posts manually;
- Mostly you share your corporate news: press releases, product announcements, discounts, etc. Industry related news are rare;
- Social Media strategy covers only a limited number of social networks (typically it's Facebook, Twitter and Google+);
- No decent message is normally aligned with you Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn post or sometimes you simply share the link without any comments;
- There is no a person behind your brand, no brand leader on the web who could make personal connections and turn them into brand advocates afterwards;
- You share the same content with the same comments on all social networks without understanding the specifics of the audience that inhabits every network;
I believe the majority would insist on calling the above described SM strategy a disaster and on crowning it with an #epicfail hashtag. Nevertheless, this strategy does make a lot of sense and here is why:
✓ Even though there's no special person whose job time is totally devoted to Social Media, no one will deny that you can significantly economize on labor resources and cut down the expenses associated with their employment;
✓ Marketing/PR people can be a good substitution of a Social Media manager for a start mainly because they are sales-oriented while SMMs do not normally “sell without trying to sell” and generally hate the process of selling. Moreover marketing and PR are normally aware of all internal marketing plans/strategies and incentives which enables them to see in the long-run and plan accordingly;
✓ Low frequency of posts and their similarity (if not total identity) on all social networks is optimal for a new business with limited time and employees resources. It's obvious that your Marketing and PR departments cannot afford spending too much time on Social Media as they have a lot of other important things on the plate.
✓ Limited number of social networks covered can also be a benefit as you can concentrate your efforts only on the channels that are more likely to convert. Quality has been always better than quantity.
Even though this Social Media Marketing strategy is pretty good aligned with your time, money and employment resources, it doesn't mean that it's ideal:
✗ Normally people who are new to Social Media avoid using any SMM tools or vice versa use them constantly forgetting to sing loud with their unique voice and opinion. These two options are equally wrong. Using SMM tools can significantly help your staff reduce the time spent on Social Media and devote the rest of it to real-time conversation on the web;
✗ Marketing and PR people are very good at marketing and PR respectively. But they are not always the right people when it comes to Social Media. Community manager is the frontier between your organization and your clients. If you don't have this frontier you risk ending up in controversial buzz and dirt of the web someday. What's worse you will have significant problems in understanding your audience;
✗ Sharing only your content steals an opportunity of comparing the social media success of your content to the one produced by other companies. Thus, it's harder for you to detect trends swarming in your community and produce relevant content that can get greater exposure;
✗ Traditionally new brands target their audience on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The statistics has drastically changed recently: huge loads of traffic now come from Pinterest and YouTube. If you're not there you're missing out on a huge number of prospects. Even if you plan to be there later, we'd advice to register now as later your brand name can be easily occupied by some occasional person or business;
Do the above mentioned weaknesses prove that your strategy will fail without any doubt? Not really, there's a plethora of external opportunities for your brand:
✓ Initial fans that your brand attracts on social networks can be divided into 2 categories: early buyers of your product/service together with wind shoppers and passers-by that found you by chance and will not convert soon. The 1st group is here with you because of various info you share about whatever it is that you are doing and they are your primary objective. The 2nd group can wait for a while as you need to build a strong and loyal community first. Product/service related posts are ideal for targeting the 1st group and turning them into your super power.
✓ One of the undeniable pluses of being on Social Media is having a quick access to customer complaints and being able to respond in a timely fashion. This way brands turn their fans into the best sales people they (and fortunately you) will ever have;
✓ Did we mention traffic? Certainly some of you may think that it's too obvious to be mentioned, but if you do everything right you will receive targeted and sales-ready traffic because these people were carefully nurtured in Social Media and read tons of stuff about your product/service.
✓ Investment. If you're everywhere people will notice you sooner or later. If the only place you're sharing your content is your site and you're not leveraging cost-effective capabilities of social networks then you fail. Investors do not give money to a brand that's promising but unknown (unless your idea is one of its kind), they want to make buzz on their investments too and capitalize.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It's not physics – it's just common sense. Every opportunity is related to a threat to your brand:
✗ Your competitors are probably doing just the same and following the same strategy. Do you really want to be “just another start-up”?
✗ Any brand is impersonal by default. Statistics is not consoling: people tend to interact less with brand profiles because they do not see a real person behind it. Excellent community managers understand that promoting brand social profiles is insufficient; you have to invest time in your personal profiles too. Otherwise you are not talking to a great amount of smart open people who can potentially become your brand advocates. Even if you do insist on staying impersonal, you need to know exactly how people are likely to talk to your brand and use this knowledge for your own good;
✗ Social Media needs consistency. If your brand keeps silent longer than usually people stop trusting you. If there is no special schedule (let's say 2 posts every 2 days) then you'd better develop one. People like when they know what to expect and you have to prove that they can rely on your brand. Trust is everything;
✗ Whether you admit it or not, but your content is subjective to a certain degree. Sharing other people's/company's content helps you cover a subject matter from different angles for your fans. If you don't follow this strategy you may look narrow-minded and single-focused. One of the greatest disasters for any business is to prove online that you are incompetent in something you're trying to sell;
✗ People form their opinion of everything you share online by what you say and depending on how you describe it. People are crazy busy, they primarily want someone to tell them what to read rather than to search for a decent read themselves. But if your post descriptions turn out to be misleading or missing at all people will never-ever care to click on whatever you are sharing right now;
This typical SMM strategy can pay off well at the initial stage of your business operations. Still it's not a secret that you can do more and better at almost the same costs and for the same time. Some minor improvements and adjustments can significantly bolster your results:
- Hire a Community Manager. It's a long-time investment with an exponentially growing ROI.
- Seriously consider guest blogging, it's excellent for brand awareness and increased audience outreach.
- Share content of other brands on your social networks and you'll get more shares in return.
- Share different content on every social network you target when it's possible. You don't want to look spammy, boring and creatively disabled, do you? And don't say you can't find any articles worth sharing, because it's not true;
- Carefully choose an SMM tool that will help you organize your efforts and track brand mentions on the internet.
- If you are a business owner seriously think about investing a significant amount of time in your personal social media reputation development. It's beneficial in terms of attracting the second and the third rounds of investment and also good for further publications.
Certainly there are many more things that you could add or enhance to attract more traffic, but your resources are limited and sometimes inconsistent. Remember: the greatest aim of any start-up in the market is to survive and to generate revenue. Your aim must be: survive, bring value to your users, and generate revenue. No other succession of objectives will be more profitable and safe in the long run. Just don't get scared and never give up.
What is your Social Media strategy? What was it like when you were a young start-up?
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