In 1977 Samuel Moore “Sam” Walton (founder of Walmart) stated “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Social networking has changed business. No longer can you view Social media as a silo of the marketing department, as now your customers are empowered and expect to be the centre of your world.

If those expectations are not met, their voice is loud, clear and far reaching. Companies need to see Social media as a part of their business, where the conversation never stops and brand loyalty is earned.

Social Content ImageGetting it right, with the “world-of-mouth”, where the ever connected customer is always on the move and voicing their opinion can only be achieved through creation of a Social Media Strategy which feeds into your overall business objectives.

What is a Social Media strategy?

“Failing to plan, is planning to fail”. You need a clearly defined strategic plan that feeds into your overall objectives of your business. This builds a clear strategy that aligns your Social Media efforts according to your overall business goals.

Taking into account; who your customers are, where they are, what your brand stands for, what your customers are expecting and evolving your business into a transparent and conversational brand requires planning and measurement to ensure a ROI for your various stakeholders.

Your Social Media Strategy is “A key document in managing content development and promotion activities centred on a business objective and designed to reach a target audience through a relevant channel in order to achieve a desired action, where clear milestones and KPI’s are set and where these key metrics can be properly measured.” BlueMagnet.

Why do brands and businesses need to have a Social Media strategy?

Social media has reached maturity and now has a real and measurable impact your bottom line.

The “power of one”, where a person has the ability to close your doors in a matter of days. Just look at the case study of United airlines, where Dave Carrol (on a budget of $150) released his YouTube video and within 4 days, the airlines stock price fell by 10%. This cost the shareholders around $180 million dollars.

Having a Social Media Strategy aligns your business and sets out your rules of engagement, with clear objectives, deliverables and is measurable. This means that now individuals in business need to be held accountable in their connected world.

Social Media Strategy, where do I start?

95% of successful brands have a Social Media strategy. It is important to walk before you run. Taking the time to build a solid and clear strategy for your brand is imperative. If you do not have a strategy in place, you are in trouble.

Remember that your Social Media Strategy is a living breathing thing and that it will continually grow and develop as your business grows and develops. It takes time and you must put in the ground work. This is an iterative process and planning ahead ensures you will beat the competition.

You need to get into the mind-set that your marketing is no longer about B2C and B2B. Think H2H, human to human.

Here are 4 non-negotiables to ensure your survival in the world of social media:

  1. esearch and have a benchmark to start from This includes learning who your audience is, where they are and where you need to be.
  2. Audit to find the opportunities and gaps Have a look at your assets i.t.o. content, engagement and your competitors.
  3. uild a clear plan and define your strategy to align to your business and stakeholder objectives For each platform list; your audience, tone, objective, activities, frequency, KPI’s and tools.
  4. Measure, Measure, Measure again and then optimise Set yourself definite KPI’s and hold yourself to them e.g. I want 10,000 reach which leads to 500 enquiries converting into 10 sales per month.

The most important rule of engagement is listening. Always listen and research 1st. Think of it as going to a party, you don’t just arrive and try to take over (they will never invite you again). You mingle, listen, find common ground, and when you have something that is relevant and meaningful to contribute, that is when you speak up.

Not only do you need to consider your business objectives and customers, you also need to consider your social signals (recommendations and social interactions) being tracked by Search Engines to measure your online influence, authority, credibility and reputation.

Think outside the box

Always bear the 3 C’s in mind. Culture, Community and conversation. For the last couple of years marketers have been punting the “Content is King”. This is wrong.

Context is King and content his queen. When drawing up your strategy you need to create your content calendar, feed this into your editorial roadmap (which is managed by one accountable person) and then look at your “content promotion”.

Make sure every item; post, comment, blog, image etc. is there for a reason. Make everything contextually relevant and conversational. If you don’t have anything to say, rather say nothing.

BlueMagnet 7 step winning formula for Social Media Strategy

  1. Create your master editorial plan and include your business considerations This will inform your content mix with keywords, #’s, themes, business objectives.
  2. Define the purpose of your Social Media and content and align with your goals Build your brand through awareness, thought leadership, education, inspiration, customer service.
  3. Identify presentation methods; videos, infographics, UG (user generated) content Decide on the most effective mix, schedule and continually test and evaluate.
  4. Make note of and align with important dates List all events, marketing campaigns (above and below the line) and product launches etc.
  5. Set timelines and deadlines Post at the best times of day and hold teams accountable to deliver.
  6. List KPI’s for every activity and individual in the team Get sales, marketing, PR, HR and R&D departments involved. Everyone in the business should own it.
  7. Analyse, measure and optimise Record key metrics to see which topics, titles, and authors generate the most attention and drive traffic. If it works do more. Your Social Media Strategy should be owned by the entire business from the top down, with one accountable person to ensure that each department is involved throughout the implementation. This business decision needs to take into account; do we have a dedicated Social Media team, is there shared responsibility and what tools do we use to manage, measure and maintain our business objectives through social media?

Make it a team effort

Having a Social Media Strategy will put you in the driver’s seat, help you meet your business objectives and grow your presence to send great social signals. Look at Social Media as an enabler for your business. Think lead generation, get the sales team involved.

Think customer service and product, get the call centre involved as well as the R&D team. Think communication, reputation management, brand awareness even HR. Social touches every aspect. Also remember to invest in your Social Media Strategy. Social Media is not free.

It costs you time, resources, skills and actual budget for advertising. Invest in your brand, build a strategy and earn engagement and ROI when you do it right.