Many businesses have yet to embrace social media. Why? For all its benefits — an inexpensive way to get the message out (and to more people), improved branding and customer engagement, speed of feedback/results, etc. — it is very time-consuming. Unless you have a lot of hours to devote to it, or a designated employee, it can swallow you up without achieving any results.
Here are five steps to help you get going with a social media strategy:
1. Set Goals and Define Your Target Audience
You need a real understanding of what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach. The best strategy will come from clearly setting your goals. These might include:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Managing your reputation
- Improving your search rankings
- Getting more relevant site visitors
- Increasing sales
2. Listen to What People are Talking About
Find out who is saying what about your brand and where they are saying it. Here are some free tools that give visibility to conversations about your company or brand:
- Google Alerts monitors millions of news sites and blogs. It’s easy to set up alerts for keywords that are important to your brand. You can choose to receive batched or streaming reports.
- Alltop is an online news aggregator. It scans blogs, forums, and news sites to collect the headlines of the latest stories on a topic.
- TweetDeck and Seesmic are desktop applications that combine search with Facebook and Twitter monitoring. They are highly configurable, making it easy to track conversations and brand mentions.
- BackType is a real-time, conversational search engine. It scans the Web to find out what people are saying about topics and Web sites that interest you.
- Monitter enables marketers to listen to the Twitter conversations taking place about their brand in real time. Enter the keywords you want to search, and all tweets with those keywords are at your fingertips.
3. Make Contact and Engage
You need to demonstrate your company’s commitment to developing online relationships. Go where your customers are — build a community on Twitter, create a Facebook page, comment on blogs, upload images to Flickr, create videos for YouTube — all to further the discussion and create positive WOM.
4. Use Offline Events to Support Your Online Community
Nothing beats face-to-face communication. You can build stronger relationships with your online community via trade shows and other offline events. Organize a Tweetup, offer a special session with your CEO, give exclusive access to new product launches, all to cement the bonds you’ve built with social media.
5. Measure Your Success
To begin measuring social media success, you need to answer some more questions:
- Did we learn anything new about our customers?
- Did our customers learn anything about us?
- Were we able to engage our customers in new conversations?
- Do our employees now have an effective way to monitor external feedback and reputation management?
Trendpedia is a blog search engine that enables tracking and graphing of topics and term comparison. It can help benchmark your company vs. your competitors by running the same search and parameters before and after the beginning of your engagement campaign.
Companies that embrace social media are reaping its rewards. By creating a dialogue with key stakeholders, they are able to get a better sense of how they are perceived by their target audiences, and their customers are empowered to talk with them, not at them. If implemented thoughtfully and correctly, this engagement can be instrumental in achieving your goals.
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