Small business owners and marketing consultants are well aware that they should be paying serious attention to social media as a way to reach customers. But few realize how to really leverage this channel and many screw it up royally.
Some erroneously assume social media is yet another channel to use to push out marketing messages – and many do just that, with nary a strategic thought in sight. But we all know, dear readers, (I always wanted to say that) (it sounds really dorky, though) that this just isn’t the way to go. No way, no how.
It’s all about determining goals and developing a strategy to effectively reach them.
If you and your small business or marketing consulting agency are looking to implement a social media plan, here are few ‘best practices’ that you might want to check out as you set your goals for the coming year, develop a strategy and work to get your social media initiatives off the ground.
From a strategic marketing and/or planning standpoint, there’s a lot to consider and a ton of information out there to wade through. Some of our favorite resources are the smart folks at TopRank and Mashable. Both are terrific and a good place to go for information and how-to guides. Some resources we especially like are TopRank’s Best/Worst Practices Social Media Marketing and Mashable’s Social Media Business Strategy.
Then, once you’ve set goals, and developed a strategic marketing plan, it’s time to focus on the details. The irksome little details that will eat you for lunch if you don’t take them into consideration. But those same details will help convince your clients (or your boss) that you were justified in advocating integrating social media into their marketing efforts. And it’ll keep you in cupcakes.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Educate your client. Set benchmarks when you begin a campaign or social media engagement for a client. Be clear about the goals you’ve collectively set and how you will reach them. And don’t forget how important listening in the social media space is. During the process and as you move forward with your initiatives, be smart and utilize social media monitoring tools and pay close attention to your analytics. For us, the best kind of monitoring tools are those that weed out noise and let us get relevant information without wading through Google Analytics for hours on end. We like Spiral16 – and they’re a client – but we would love their tool even if they weren’t. For analytics, we use Google Analytics (they’re free and really awesome) and also like Get Clicky. We like to use two separate sets of analytics and compare them often. We love numbers. Numbers help us prove the efficacy of what we’re doing. We love numbers (so much it warrants saying it twice). Deal with it.
2. Generate reports. Let your clients know what consumers are saying and where they’re saying it. Show your clients what best practices engagement looks like. If you’re not sure, point them to Starbucks’ Twitter Page or to Cabot Cheese’s Facebook Page. Prove your value. Show them where your benchmarks are at the beginning of your engagement and how they’re progressing. We like tools like HootSuite, TweetReach, Klout, Bitly, Peer Index and Twitalyzer. Don’t expect your clients (or your bosses) to know what you’re doing, show them, regularly.
3. Crisis and Coms Plan. Make sure you have a coms plan and identify a process and a response for consumer comments and complaints. This is critical. Jeffrey Cohen at Social Media B2B provides good tips in this post that will help you develop your own. One of the worst things companies of any size can do is to not quickly and efficiently respond to consumer complaints. Customers reach out because they need help. Social media can often be the quickest, most effective channel to provide customer service and doing it quickly and well can save you many headaches. But you’ve gotta have a plan. And a crisis plan, for when the you-know-what hits the fan. And it will.
4. Act Like Time Is Of the Essence. Because it is. Social media is real time. And an aggravated customer (or an irritated and articulate blogger like Allison Nazarian) can make a lot of waves. Answer customers immediately – you’ll be glad you did. And whether you’re an agency or a small business owner, it’s important to realize that customers need help 24/7. Make sure you have a plan in place to provide that kind of service. If you don’t, you’ll wish you had.
5. Always Be Thinking About Adding Value. We preach a lot about how important it is to find ways to do more for your clients. If you’re handling social media marketing and engagement for your clients, look for ways you can be innovative. If the primary goal of your engagement for social media marketing is content distribution and customer service, do that, but always be on the lookout for ways you can deliver more value.
More value, by the way, often translates in to higher fees and longer engagements because you’re knocking it out of the park and clients realize they can’t live without you. We recently wrote about IBM and the great job they’re doing adding value to their clients’ businesses via social media training. This is a smart way of adding value – learn from it. Be innovative. Don’t just do what you’re asked, look for what you can do to do more. Always.
There’s more. There always is. But this is a good start. Go do it, then let us know when you need help. Or if you discover some tricks of your own that we outta know about.
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