I’ve been wanting to write something on Social Media since the last couple of weeks, but I couldn’t find a specific, really challenging, ‘that-something’ which made my mind and heart go “Yeah, this is it!” topic to write about. When Nicky de Koning and I met at one of my Yoga & Meditation sessions at TU Delft we spoke about a number of things until she casually mentioned her interest in Social Media. Next thing I know, she’s the founder of Soulymedia, a company that helps with social media marketing. Given our mutual interest in this area, we decided to meet over coffee and talk a little more. After a fantastic discussion at a little cafe in the beautiful city of Delft (despite some incredible changing weather), I thought why not write a little piece on Social Media Strategy.
It’s surprising how many people look at social media as just Facebook or Twitter. I am unaware of a “formal” definition of Social Media. I usually refer to Gartner but this one from Gartner seems fairly lengthy. I do not completely agree to a certain part of it, but that doesn’t really matter does it 😉 I like the definition from Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein. They define social media as a group of Internet-based applications/platforms [that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0], which allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.
Social media is more than just Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et.al. They’re not stand alone entities either, particularly from a business standpoint. Having had the opportunity to interact personally with a few (and lurk plenty :D) ‘Social Media Experts’, engage in discussions with several fellow entrepreneurs and listen to people on this topic, I find this term of “Social Media Strategy” is very loosely thrown around. It’s still vague and unclear. I admit, I like chaos 🙂 It leaves doors open for all types of opinions and uncertainty and creativity and opportunities; but if you find your way around all of this to success – it brings immense satisfaction. “Bliss comes out of chaos and the ability to enjoy chaos is enlightenment” says His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar.
What is Social Media Strategy? I would say it is – Your plan of accomplishing your business goals via social media (I write this post in the context of business and hence business goals).
So, what determines your social media strategy? It depends on a number of factors. I don’t know if there are any ‘magical’ 3 steps or ‘simple 5 steps’ for success 🙂 In this post I will list a couple of things that might help you with making your social media strategy! The reason I do this is because I think people should be empowered. My intention is to make you start your own quest, your own adventure. At the end of this post when you reach out to people to ask for help with a Social Media Strategy, you will know what to ask for and maybe have a better insight on who actually intends to help you and who’s wanting to make a quick buck at your expense!
Back to basics –
You have a message which you want people to hear. Once they get it, you hope it has a positive impact on you to complete the circle. This is the core we start with – 3 principles – You, People & the Circle. Social Media is not linear. Those who only keep the message as frame of reference might not have a very robust strategy. Adapting and Listening (there’s always room for Improvement) from the outside world back into your view will help making a very solid strategy. This is the inside-out – outside-in thinking we need to consider.
Your strategy should be inside-out – Clearly understanding your target audience, while the dashboard you make should assist you get an outside-in view – To help you get your metrics, tools and strategy aligned.
Strategy is a mix of long-term strategy and short-term strategy. Dashboard is a mix of metrics and tools on the platform being used to support the strategy.
Strategy we use to plan and engage, Dashboard is to measure and manage.
Strategy will look at organization structure, policy on social media, type of content being broadcasted while Dashboard looks at how the Big-6 (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest) and the rest of channels fit to the strategy and are used appropriately.
The Strategy –
You are trying to reach out to people using tools and platforms. Tools & platforms are the means, not the goal. Let’s ask few questions to start making the strategy.
- Who are you trying to reach out to?
- What do they find interesting?
- When do you want to reach out to them?
- Why will they care about what you are saying?
- How are you going to reach out to them?
These however are only questions for the people you are reaching out to. Looking a little closer you will see, before answering these questions, you will need to first answer some more pressing questions internal to your organization.
The very first one are your ‘Goals and Objectives’ – What are the goals and objectives of my organization? What are my expectations of the social media strategy I am going to create? When do I plan to execute this strategy and when do I want to reach my objectives? Why will social media help me achieve my goals? How will I know the effect of using social media?
The next part is the ‘Owner’ – Who is going to own/take responsibility of this social media campaign inside my organization? What part of the business actually needs social media? Why does this department need social media? How will we know the work being done and impact on the department Vs. the organization? How will we improve skill set in social media?
Then we move to “Platform used’ – What platform/application are we going to use? When and how will you engage with customer? Why is this platform/application the best fit? How will we use the platform/technology with measuring success of social media?
Few can underestimate the ‘Key Performance Indicators’. Who will decide the KPI’s? What are the KPI’s? How will you measure these KPI’s? Why are these KPI’s realistic?
Last but not the least to make it to this list is ‘Need’ – Why does my company “need” social media?
The Dashboard –
This is the complimentary piece of the overall strategy. You are populating the dashboard not after taking decisions but during the decision-making. This is particularly useful because with every “why” question, you are getting the “how” question answered. The topic of Return-On-Investment on Social Media is debated with certain intensity 😉 Can the conventional [(Benefit – Investment)/Investment] be calculated here?
The question comes with “benefit” itself. How will you measure this benefit? This will be something you consider when taking into consideration your KPI’s as well. Are you going to use social media for innovation? Are you going to use it for branding? Are you going to use it for sales? Are you going to use it in customer service response? Or is it something else. Depending on the very reason for your use of social media you can decide certain metrics which will allow you to measure “Benefit”. Will that benefit be qualitative or will it be quantitative – that is up to you! The point is, benefit of the use of social media need not be “vague”.
It probably comes across as I am doing everything to steer you from Social Media. I do not intend to do that but I want you being absolutely certain you know what you are getting into. I believe Social Media is a long-term investment. It’s integral to what you are doing. Social media can be that space, where you create your image and help your brand to be ‘a-synonym-to’ your core business capability. When people think of Cloud – one of the first names they think of is Salesforce/Amazon. When they think of ERP they think of SAP/Oracle. When they think of Innovation is it Apple/Google. Today Social Media is giving the opportunity for a firm to be quickly recognized and exploiting that is in your hands. There are over 7 billion people on earth today. Over a billion use social media. Social Media is here to stay! If you don’t need it then don’t do it. Doing it because ‘everyone-else-is-doing-it’ is not right. If you need it, you’ll need to know that patience is a virtue 🙂 While business helps you make money, I believe it’s equally important to give back to the society. I hope NGO’s continue making their presence felt online and garner support to aid them in their endeavor of spreading peace and love around the world!