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The Rise of the Social Economy, Part 3: How to begin a social media strategy [in six steps]

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In this three-part series, Mark Cameron takes a close look at the social media landscape, describes some of the ‘platforms’, examines how these are changing the market place and outlines a strategic framework for deploying social media as a branding, marketing, PR and intelligence tool.

Starting a social media strategy

In the second part of this series, I concluded by pointing out how the social economy can help businesses identify new markets there for the taking. Those who don’t embrace the new economy will remain at a serious disadvantage.

With this background, we are now equipped to discuss how to form a social media strategy. Before we start, though, a couple of principles need to be highlighted:

First, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to strategy.

Secondly, it’s worth taking time to get a strategy right.

Many companies have been adopting an approach to social media based on an assumption that it is ‘free’. They have set up accounts and hoped it will work. It won’t. Hope is not a strategy, and social media takes time to get right – so it can’t be free.

So let’s walk through the basic steps:

1. Define your goal

A brand needs to first define its goal. Social media can be used for customer service, customer acquisition, brand awareness or public relations. But trying to do everything will produce unfocused results. Understanding what stage your company is at and setting goals to propel communications to your desired stakeholders is the first step.

2. Listen to gain context

Once you have defined your goal you need to measure what is already happening. Before meaningful KPIs can be set it helps to know the measurement tools that are available and the quality of the data they generate. These tools can be categorised into three groups.

Site analytics

One of the most important tools you will need to utilise are website analytics tools — tools that measure the activity on your website. Google analytics is an extremely good free option but there are many others depending on what it is you are actually trying to achieve. Make sure you do your research, get advice and know what option is right for you.

Social media monitoring

There are a number of ways to monitor what is happening in the social media space –- who is talking to whom, who is influential and why the conversations are happening. There are free tools available but some of these lack precision as the technology is not constantly upgraded or not enough effort is put into collecting the data.

A well developed tool is worth the investment. Good monitoring tools can give you extremely detailed information – what people are saying about your brand, who is saying it, details of the demographics of your social media following and even what people are saying about your competition. The right data allows you to snare the ‘low-hanging fruit’.

Data mining tools

To dig deeper into data it may be necessary to employ more advanced tools. You may need ‘text mining’ to get an overview of what words or themes seem to be surrounding your brand online or ‘geo-locating’ comments to identify potential new markets.

Good choices require knowledge of what type of data is available, and how to best get your hands on it.

3. Choose your communication platforms

Platforms then need to be chosen. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are a few of the big ones but there are many more.

Each is focused on a different demographic.

There is also the possibility of creating your own platform to fulfil a need that may only exist for your market.

4. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Once you know your goal, have chosen the tools you will use to measure it and the platforms through which you will focus your communications, you are ready to set your KPIs.

There are many ways of doing this.

One of the most effective is aiming to ‘increase positive sentiment’ – basically getting more people saying good things about your product or service — creating advocates who will spread the word for you.

5. Define a voice

Finally you need to create a ‘voice’, that is, a tone for how you will communicate.

Will you be informative, humourous or serious? What language will your market respond to?

Making the correct choice and implementing well is important. Get this right and your market will follow.

6. Get good advice

Ultimately, a good social media strategy needs good advice.

So, make sure you talk to people who know this space well.

Read up (using sites like Anthill) and start buying coffees for those ‘maven’ friends who seem to do this well.

Looking to the future

Social media is here to stay.

These methods of communicating have become embedded in our technologies and culture.

Companies will soon be interacting with a generation that will find it impossible to imagine a time where the individual didn’t have a voice and an ability to exert influence.

This gives those companies a significant opportunity to be involved in conversations about their brands and to learn and respond to the views and preferences of their customers.

We are moving into the age of the ‘people-organised web’ – information organised by people, for people and recommended by people in your network.

We have moved beyond the ‘industrialised’ view of the world, where markets are represented by impersonal statistics.

Markets are made up of individuals and they demand to be treated as such.

This is the beginning of the next great step in the evolution of human civilisation. It’s happening. It’s time to get on board and be part of that evolution.

Mark Cameron is the creative director and a partner at Working Three. He has been developing digital strategy for a range of clients for the last eight years. Read more of his articles on the Working Three blog.

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