For many CEOs, it’s still a little mysterious how social media can benefit their business. But best practices do exist that can greatly improve brand awareness and profits. Social media can be a powerful marketing tool — if it’s used the right way. It opens doors for companies to create personal relationships with their current and potential customers online. And with the proliferation of mobile devices, more people are using the Internet to search and buy new products and services.
Your social media marketing plan should align with your company’s marketing goals. If your focus is to increase brand awareness and expose your company to a larger audience of potential customers, you should use targeted online advertising (such as Google AdWords, LinkedIn or Facebook advertisements), online-centered promotions and interactive tools such as YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare.
If you want to increase return on investment, focus on customer service and conversions. A conversion is a desired action that can mean potential new business for you. It can be an actual sale, a lead capture or even an email newsletter sign-up.
To capitalize on this marketing tool, start small and stay focused. Find a few social media sites where your potential customers interact the most and create a company page. Organize a small social media marketing team in your company and establish a brand-focused voice and participation guidelines.
With social media, you and/or whoever is representing your company are the face and personality of your brand. Remember to be friendly. Helpful expert advice is preferred to a sales pitch. Top off your social media marketing by monitoring conversations about your brand. There are free and paid services that can help you do this, but it’s very important for metrics and reputation management.
Imagine if you missed the opportunity to respond to a brand advocate promoting your company. Or what if you missed the chance to put out the fire of a negative comment?
At its core, social media is about participating in a dialogue and adding contributions to a community. Make sure your audience appreciates your company’s contributions.
Here are eight critical steps to developing a social media platform for your company.
Step 1: Observe. Before jumping in headfirst, take time to listen to the conversation already occurring to identify the best way you can add value to the dialogue.
Step 2: Define your metrics. What are you looking to achieve? Increased sales? Brand awareness? Traffic to your website? Credibility as a resource?
Step 3: Define your strategy. Develop a strategy that integrates well with your overall marketing strategy. Choose one or two social media outlets that make the most sense based on your goals and defined metrics.
Step 4: Develop your identity. It is imperative you have control of your identity in the online marketplace. Establish your company username and consistently use it in every social media outlet. Make sure your online persona mirrors the personality of your company.
Step 5: Create the rules for engagement. Remember this rule of thumb: For every 10 to 15 messages where you help someone else, you get to include one message that promotes your company.
Step 6: Monitor your success. Update your metrics monthly. Give the campaign at least two to three months to stabilize. Free measurement tools include Google Analytics, Google Blog Search, Twitter search, TweetDeck by Twitter, etc.
Step 7: Measure and tweak. Analyze each strategy to determine where you hit or missed the mark.
Step 8: Promote your
campaign. Add all widgets and URLs to employee business cards, email signatures, company website, press releases and advertising. Build relationships with others in your niche.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 21-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, firstname.lastname@example.org or @brandpro, or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.