What do you want to accomplish? What resources you have available to you? What is your experience and understanding digital marketing and social media?
The answers to these questions can help you understand exactly what level of social media help would enable you to reach your business goals in the most efficient and effective way.
For more about what you can expect from social media and how to decide what help you need, read my post on Linkedin, What Kind of Social Media Help Do You Need?
Lots of stories are being posted about the downfall of society with social media to blame.
It is not the platform that is to blame but how we have decided to use them. In my article, How Social Media Became its Own Worse Enemy – and How to Improve It, I discuss what we might be doing wrong, what the fallout could look like, and how we can get real again.
Are you allocating enough money, time, and talent to run a successful social media effort?
Social Media does not need to be costly, but just like everything else, you do need to put the right amount of investment in to get the result you are seeking.
In my article, Calculating the Cost of Social Media I outline what resources need to be considered for various levels of effort.
Social Media is an ever-changing, overwhelming sea of possibilities. For most people, the biggest challenge is figuring out where to get started with social media.
We all have heard the familiar and sound advice to start by listening. Listen to your customers, listen to the community, listen, listen, listen.
Everyone says to listen! Listen to what?
The reality is that there is so much information or noise being generated every second that you could spend an entire career listening and never do anything else.
The trick is to not just listen, but to participate, as well as be able to adapt the voice of authority.
Think back to being a kid on a playground, or go visit a busy playground and observe for awhile. What you will notice first is that it is a noisy place. There are little girls having secret conversations in one corner, groups of boys raiding each other on the equipment, and a group of boys and girls building castles at yet another section of the playground. Each of them are living in their own world and are tuned into their own activities, but the call of an authoritative voice raises their attention and will cause all activities to change directions.
How does this relate to developing your own social media listening program? The social media world is very similar to a child’s playground (in oh so many ways!)
When a child arrives at the playground they will first glance around to see what is going on and who they know. I relate this to casting a wide net to gather a high-level insight of conversations that are happening related to:
- Your Brand
- Your Competitors
- Your Services
- Problems you Solve
Once we understand the landscape and ecosystem of all the activities going on, we will begin to focus in on what we know best and where we feel most comfortable. On the playground this would be equivalent to saying hi to our friends and checking in on what they are doing. In the social media world it is very much the same thing. We will check in on our customers, prospects, and people who know us that we should get to know.
As we play we begin to learn the rules of the playground. Who is in charge of which activities and which children are committed to those activities as well as which children are just exploring various areas. In social media we call the leaders of certain circles influencers. Social media influencers, like the children leading various playground activities, were never appointed as leaders and they have no real authority, but they have a personality that entices others to follow along. As we play with them we strengthen existing relationship bonds as well as make new friends.
In business, this would be equivalent to understanding the context of each conversation, the sentiment within each community and the connections among different social ties. Look for who is the center of influence within your market.
The child who wants to lead his own little tribe will be successful only if he or she has tapped into areas of play that children are most drawn to and story lines that they want to act out. Similar to the business person who needs to create messages that resonate with their customers needs and desires and to attract an audience who are willing and able to respond to various calls to action.
Once you are not only part of the community, your community also becomes part of the ecosystem and you will be tapped into new opportunities as well as potential threats to your playground enterprise. You will be able to respond to these opportunities and threats to the best of your ability.
However, there is always the inevitable call from the voice of authority that changes the game. On the playground it is the voice of the parent saying it is time for your best friend to leave, thus shaking up the connections within your group. Online it is the voice of a social networking site enticing your community members away from your chosen channels with promise of better tools, friendly user interfaces, or more efficient ways to track the enormous amount of information we are all keeping track of. The child must be prepared to rebuild or move on, as does any business investing in social media.
However, to keep up with it all, you have to continuously be listening.
Part of my job is to constantly find and evaluate new tools. Not just so I can write this post for you each week, but so that I can make our work, and the work of the clients we coach, more efficient and effective. This week three little-known social media management tools caught my attention as being quite useful, free or very low-cost, and easy to use.
Manage All Your Social Accounts and Images
MavSocial allows you to connect with the major social networks to monitor and post to them. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and Linkedin. That is what first caught my attention, their list of supported networks includes a few that are not usually supported. With the success of social media being reliant on quality visuals and images, MavSocial has developed a resource to help you manage and organize your library of resources. They also have a stock photo library you can access as well as a built-in photo editing tool.
Find Engaging Content Related to Your Niche
PostPlanner Focuses on helping their users identify and learn what type of content within your industry that gets the most engagement. The tool predicts, through a star rating system, what content will have high engagement.
Keep You Content Structured Properly For Various Purposes
Contentful is tackling the challenge of needed content to fit in a variety of devices. As we all know, all of our digital activity is moving to mobile. Digital marketers have for a long time thought about websites first when planning out that content. Today it is vital to think about mobile first.
Contentful makes your content accessible via APIs or Application Program Interface, which basically tells the content how it should be structured based on where the content will be displayed and what it will be used for.
Want to get our Tools posts in your inbox or keep up with the latest changes in social media?
here are some practices in social media that never change such as you need to create valuable content and be engaging. However, other practices such as when you post and which platforms you use, whether or not you should use photos, video or text and how much text you should use, who to target in your ads, how much your ad spend should be and what your ads should focus on – these are all ever-changing variables that can have a negative impact on how successful your social media efforts can be.
Tactics that worked six months ago may no longer yield positive results. Best practices and the effectiveness of different social channels will continue to change over time. Your marketing strategy needs to respond to these changes. This is why every so often you should take some time to do a social media audit of what is working and what is not and compare your performance to that of your competition. Here are 5 tools that will help you do just that.
Fanpage Karma – If you really only want to explore one tool, I would recommend Fanpage Karma. Based in Berlin the site has various paid versions which you can try with their 14-day trial or you can settle for their free version which still provides quite a bit of insight into your account compared competition’s account on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.
Here is a snapshot of a Facebook comparison.
Likalyzer – Wondering how your Facebook page is performing and where you can make an improvement, you can ask Likalyzer. Not all of the recommendations are up-to-date. For example, it suggests using hashtags which have been revealed to not only not help but may hurt your post. Likalyzer will provide valuable information such as how engaged your fans have been and how responsive to your fans you have been.
Twitonomy – For a quick snapshot of what types of tweets you are sending out and who you are most engaged with, check out Twitonomy.
TweepsMap – If you are focused on engaging with people within a specific location, you can audit your progress with TweepsMap. You can also dive in and see which of your the accounts you are following have been inactive for 6 months or are not following you back and unfollow directly from the site.
FollowWonk – Who are you following? Who is your competition following? You can find out and compare notes with FollowWonk.
This past week I had several opportunities to be part of conversations with people who are making great strides in their social media efforts. However, the main focus of their efforts has been to get their message to their audience. They sense there is something missing, benefits or opportunities they are not tapping into and that is why I was brought to the table.
There is a common theme I am hearing more and more which is that social media belongs in the realm of customer service. There are many case studies out there that show the damage a disgruntled customer can do to a brand through social media. More and more brands are monitoring social media sites to put out fires before they spread and a few are pro-actively reaching their customers to say thank you or offer additional information.
So what is missing?
One of the companies I met with this week was struggling with getting their customer service group to participate in social media. The challenge that they face is one that is common across all companies I have met with; the belief the social media belongs in the marketing or communications department. The problem is that social media contains conversations, and those conversations span across all departments from sales leads to customer service opportunities, to consumer generated ideas for new products and services to technical collaboration to influential discussions about financial projections and so on and so on. How can one department filter and appropriately respond to all of these conversations even in a reactionary way, much less work to be part of these conversations in a proactive way?
The answer is to encourage and guide each department to make involvement in social media part of their daily responsibility. Of course for those who feel they have enough on their plate already that may seem simply overwhelming, not to mention many people still do not see the point.
So how can an organization motivate their teams to join the online conversations? Show them the value.
For a customer service team who goes through the day responding to concerns and issues, answering the same questions over and over again, show them the value of being able to build a community where frequently answer questions are discussed in detail, challenge the community to provide suggestions and ideas that make the conversation multi-directional as opposed to the team always answering customer questions. Finally, invite the customer service team to the executive table to share the insights they have gained from their interaction with the customers.
If active participation in social networks is designed to help your team do a better job and contribute to the overall direction of the company, more people would be willing make it part of their responsibilities and in the end, everyone from the customers to the employees, to the owners of the company, will benefit.
Last week I had to call the post office because some very important pieces of mail are not finding their way to my mailbox. Initially, their response was to connect me to my carrier who assured me he is delivering everything that has my address on it. As you can probably imagine, that did not give me any comfort because I know there is mail that I am not getting. So I convinced him to escalate the issue to someone more senior. I finally was able to speak with someone who explained the entire process that an envelope goes through to get from Atlanta to Alpharetta. Together we brainstormed where the disconnect could be happening. We finally decided on a strategy we can work on together to trace where the problem might be.
I realized that the key to that level of customer service was to get me, the client, involved in the process of making things right. When something goes wrong the customer usually feels a loss of control which is very frustrating. But simply giving control back to the customer alleviates some of that frustration and enables the possibility of finding a mutually beneficial solution.
This is what the technology that powers social media has enabled; the ability for the customer to remain in control, whether a company wants to give it to them or not.
Customers have the ability to compare options, not just through marketing material or sanctioned talking points, but by seeking out peer reviews and subject matter experts. In many ways, this has shifted the marketing strategies and customer service approach of many companies. As opposed to appealing only to needs and benefits, companies now need to educate the consumer and be involved in their evaluation process.
This starts by listening to what customers are saying, not just about your brand, but about their needs. So many times I see social media monitoring efforts that are only focused on brand mentions, which is great if you are only looking to nurture existing customers and manage your brand reputation. But if you are looking to grow your client base and to keep your competitors from stealing your current clients, you need to be monitoring for terms related to services you offer and problems you solve. You need to pro-actively guide the Do-It-Yourselfers.
To do this you need to:
a. Be involved in the online conversations.
b. Make sure your content is easily distributable by community members.
c. Make sure you show up when people are looking for your services.
This same process can and should also be applied internally. In a production meeting this week for a training video we were discussing how all of the data shows that people want to learn at their own pace and they want the training to be interactive. The DIY culture wants to be able to be involved in solving their own problems, and internally that means interacting with their peers, easily finding relevant content and staying involved with changes that impact their jobs. Although social media technologies empower this level of interactivity, it is vital that a company establish a social media roadmap to ensure the success of such an effort. This roadmap would include;
- A vision statement that directs, aligns and inspires actions on the part of the key stakeholders.
- A clear compelling statement of where this is all leading.
- Identification of information silos within the organization that prevents collaboration.
- Vulnerabilities due to unauthorized use of social media. Strategic recommendations for implementing social media technology that meets the organization’s need.
Ultimately, social media technology has empowered the DIY culture and they are not waiting for permission to get involved. They are moving forward with or without permission or involvement. It is important to be aware but also perhaps even more vital to get involved.
I have noticed the word community is being tossed around inappropriately lately. It seems many people are trying to make online community analogous to social media. Perhaps the holiday season is a good time to explain the difference.
You know how you walk down the street in your neighborhood? Hopefully, you live in a neighborhood where you see your neighbors on the front porch or in the front yard. If not, think of a show, like Sesame Street, where people run into their neighbors every time they walk out of their door. That may feel like a community, but it’s not. It is a group of people in similar proximity who have the ability to socialize. That is social media in the real world.
Social media is a set of technical tools that enable people to express themselves, “house” their personalities, and socialize with each other.
Now, raise your hand if you were invited to a holiday party, game night, or to help a friend move over the weekend. If you raised your hand then you were invited to be part of a community; People who get together to enjoy each other’s company, share ideas and help each other out. Online this is most similar to communities that have existed for years, inhabited by the members who share information, ideas, and solutions to problems.
Today there are many other wonderful online communities of people who share information about their hobbies, interests, and struggles. Within these communities, each person knows and supports each other and more often than not there is no real defined leader or sponsor within the group.
Most of the time online communities such as these are spontaneous, people who are searching for connections find each other, but it is possible for a brand to “orchestrate” such a place. To do so a brand might want to think of themselves as an HOA where they meet and listen to the community members, set the rules for the community, and find ways to connect and support each member within the community. This definitely takes time and commitment, beyond just creating content that is generated and pushed through social tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
To reiterate, social media is for people you say hi to as you pass them by, a community is for staying connected to and supporting the people you care about. So the next time someone refers to their online community ask them questions about what they know about the people they supposedly care about.