Do you have a social media strategy for your business? In recent years, we’ve seen a massive increase in businesses who are dipping their toes into the world of social media, and we’ve all heard about the benefits that can be reaped. From increased customer engagement and brand awareness to the holy grail of sales growth, all businesses seem to want a piece of the social media pie. But is it enough to just set up profiles on networks such as Facebook and Twitter and hope for the best? Simply put, no. Businesses who do not give careful consideration to a social media strategy are unlikely to see any benefits from the time they have invested. In many cases, jumping straight in without assessing the different social media strategies can do more harm than good.
But what is a strategy?
Firstly, let’s consider what a strategy actually is. When most people are asked about their social media strategy, they’ll talk about their goals or desired outcomes, and probably the tactics that they’ll use to reach their audience. The list of possibilities here is almost endless, and can include networks, apps, blogs, groups, forums, documents… Get the picture? But ultimately, these tactics aren’t actually the social media strategy. Strategy is a bit of a buzz word in the world of business these days, and it is indeed all too easy to get carried away with all of the bells and whistles that are attached to the world of social media. In the interests of clarity, a social media strategy is all about the terms and conditions of how to engage with the audience. The tactics are of course an important part of this, but let’s take a step back and consider the bigger picture.
Here are the four primary types of social media strategy which organisations can use.
Participate with audience
This strategy focuses on creating a real dialogue with stakeholders. A social media manager (or in the case of larger organisations, a team of managers) focuses on generating conversations with their existing and potential customers. The main purpose of this sort of social media strategy is to build trust and develop positive relationships. Of course, the overall aim of this sort of approach is that once you have such a relationship with your audience, you’ll be in the forefront of their mind and the most obvious choice when they’re looking for a provider of the products are services which you offer. Most customer service accounts on Twitter could be classified under this strategy area.
British retailer Marks and Spencer use participation as part of their social media strategy. They regularly respond to both positive and negative feedback via Twitter and stimulate conversation about everything from new product lines to the weather.
Serve with content
This social media strategy is all about using valuable and interesting content to attract and retain followers. This seems pretty easy on the surface, but organisations should bear in mind that there’s a fine line between servicing and spamming.
A great example of an organisation using this social media strategy to their advantage is Colorcoat, a brand owned by Tata Steel. Colorcoat share pictures of innovative and interesting buildings with their audience of architecture lovers, making their Twitter feed a must-follow for people in that industry. These people are, of course, the exact same people who they hope to sell their products to. Clever, don’t you think?
Some organisations decide that they don’t have enough of their own time available to invest in social media, so take a slightly different approach. They seek to build positive relationships with key influencers and networks, in the hope of seeking blog endorsements and social media mentions from those who are likely to have a bigger clout with their target audiences.
In 2010, Gap offered 100 influential female bloggers a $400 shopping allowance and a personal styling session at their local Gap store. Most of these women tweeted and blogged about their experiences, effectively turning them into brand ambassadors for the fashion retailer. A smart use of a social media strategy, with little time investment from the business.
This social media strategy focuses on empowering fans and followers to create and share their own content. The community create conversations and ideas that can become viral, and ultimately extend far wider than the reach of an individual organisation. Clearly, this social media strategy assumes that a business has loyal followers who are so passionate about the brand that they’re willing to talk about it positively for the whole world to see.
Not even the big boys get it right all of the time though. McDonalds recently launched a social media campaign in which they aimed to empower their followers by asking them to share their experiences of the fast food chain, using the hashtag #McDStories. This turned sour when they received a barrage of responses featuring tales of dodgy burgers, questionable ingredients and disgruntled employees. This is an important reminder that not all of an organisation’s followers will have positive things to say, and social media managers should consider how they will deal with this. However, some might say that the mere mention of McDonalds will make many people head to their nearest outlet for their favourite meal, regardless of the views of others. Is it really the case that any publicity is good publicity?
In reality, it will of course often be the case that a business’s approach to a social media strategy will include at least 2 of the above, if not all. How is your business tackling the challenge of choosing the right social media strategy?