Developing your social media strategy

It never ceases to frustrate me when I see an organisation dabbling in social media with little awareness of the damage they are causing to their brand with ill-thought out tweets or inappropriate use of hashtags. Often these organisations have handed responsibility for their digital profile to the graduate trainee usingthe logic if they are young they’ll know what they’re doing. If only it was this simple. Of course, the key mistake they make is that they focus on the tools of the job rather than what they are trying to achieve. The clamour to have a piece of social media is often too much for many organisations to resist. What they don’t realise, however, is that getting this wrong can have a massively detrimental effect on their reputation.

The reality is that social media strategy development can be complex. This isn’t to say it doesn’t offer a solution. The evidence and the data suggests it certainly does. But just what that solution is differs from organisation to organisation and therein lies the problem. Evidently society has changed. The days of gathering local people together on a cold, wet Wednesday evening is getting more and more difficult. Ask yourself, what would it take me to attend such a meeting?

This is where social media comes into its own. It opens up the chance to engage with organisations, shape services and discuss local issues with other like minded people. But it has to have clear objectives. How many organisations do you see on social media sites who just don’t get it? Facebook pages with no responses to questions or Twitter feeds chucking out press releases whether the followers want them or not.

So how do you stop yourself falling into the trap?

First, start by identifying who your audience is and ask why they are following you. What sort of issues are they interested in? Perhaps they want the latest news updates but then again perhaps they simply want to have the opportunity to feed back on the quality of your services. Try to find this out through some research.

When you have identified who your audience is and why they would engage with you through social media, you need to manage your copy. Make it relevant for your audience. This is where many organisations make a mistake. They recruit their audience but then turn them off by spamming them with news releases. Look at the kind of conversations people are having and try and improve them. If people are discussing services or a new product update them on it. If they have a
grievance give them details on how they can make a complaint. You may not be
able to solve their problem but they will thank you just for listening. If managed properly this approach can create the most powerful marketing tool you will ever get – the advocate. These everyday folk, not part of your organisation but willing to champion what you are doing, are extremely powerful as they have credibility. If they are willing to do this ask them to lead conversations. If you are launching a new service or product invite them to review it – they will relish the  opportunity.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is that this relationship is two-way and as such your sites will need to be moderated and managed. Offensive comments will need to be removed and questions will need to be answered. Just as an out of date website infuriates customers a social media site with no-one on the other end is the fast track to failure.

These are just a few tips to enable you to start developing your digital profile. There are always inherent risks with using social media but the benefits far outweigh these risks so long as they are managed. Prohibiting its use simply stores up problems for your organisation in the future given today’s digitally savvy 20-30 year olds are tomorrow’s 40 somethings. They will have different expectations so simply burying your head in the sand will do nothing but drive them away.

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