Let’s begin with an undeniable fact: Social media is a channel, not the channel.
Remember how the advent of online marketing in the 90s presented new data, new accountability and new ways to measure? Social media presents the same opportunity. No matter where your data comes from, it’s all about understanding, over time, how consumers are responding to your brand and the impact on your business.
And yet, social media is undeniably different. Using social channels, consumers are providing immediate feedback and companies are engaging directly with individual customers, advocates, detractors and influencers. You can “friend” companies on their fan pages, hear from the CEO and employees on YouTube, follow them on Twitter, receive text messages with personalized shopping suggestions – all transformative activities that are personalizing, humanizing and having bottom line impact for the brands that are doing it right.
So, how do you get started? Here’s a top ten list of practical suggestions for putting social media to work for you:
1. Identify, hire, assign the right people
You must have employees who believe in, know and understand your brand and your customers. For example, if you’re a bank and your loan officers don’t understand the excitement of new home ownership, or the lure of that new car smell, you’ve got a problem. You need a team of proven communicators who understand your products, your brand, your customers and have good people skills.
For example, Bank of America and Comcast both saw the importance of this in terms of social media engagement and built a team of “super agents” to engage with customers on Twitter.
2. Set the right goals and make them clear to everyone
Don’t do social media just because you feel you have to. Make sure you ask yourself and your team, “What’s the purpose of this social tactic or activity?” Is it to convey brand messages? Respond to customers? Communicate promotions? Gather feedback and insight? Whatever it is, know it and document it, because at the end of the day, someone’s going to ask you what you’ve accomplished.
3. Create a social media playbook
Your employees are your greatest asset. Most of them are already engaging in social media – how can you unleash them online to promote your brand in a way that’s consistent with your policies? Start by developing a playbook that gives them tips, techniques and boundaries.
4. Listen smarter
Sort through the noise and organize your listening. Now we have linguistics software that can see what topics are trending and categorize them for action. Find out what’s being said about your brand, where the conversations are happening, how perceptions differ across channels, who’s creating content about your brand, who’s a threat and who’s an advocate.
5. Know your advocates and threats
They’re out there – and you want to know who they are, where they’re spending their time, who they’re talking to and who’s listening to them. That’s the information social media analytics can get you.
6. Use social data for competitive intelligence
People online are also talking about your competitors, and there’s nothing preventing you from monitoring the conversation and using that information to see how you stack up against the competition.
7. Measure progress on your social channels
Your Facebook fan pages, your Twitter accounts, your YouTube channels, Flickr pages – all of your brand-sponsored social channels – need to be monitored and measured with the same attention you give your company’s website. Fortunately, you have a lot of control over getting data from these sponsored sites.
8. Engage within the unique context of each social channel
Twitter is different from Facebook. Facebook is different from Flickr, and in each channel there are different opportunities to connect with your consumers. The key is to engage within the unique context of each social channel. Twitter drives people to your website; recognize it and use that capability to your benefit. Facebook is more of a cocktail party. People are hanging out, showing photos of their kids – it’s a data miner’s dream. Take advantage of the data mining capabilities and the interaction opportunities.
9. Make sure social data leads to attribution
SAS captures as much data as possible at a daily level of granularity that can now inform what you’re doing with your business and the impact of social media. This is the road to answering the question: “Is social media making us money?”
10. Don’t wait – start now
Get out there. Start small, be prepared to make mistakes, because you will. And when you do, don’t try to hide them. Transparency is key. Be willing to be imperfect, but get out there and start interacting with your customers. Figure out where your customers are talking, get a picture of who they are, and tailor your strategies accordingly.
For more social media best practices, download the white paper: Acting on customer intelligence from social media.