Social media in its truest form is word-of-mouth communication — people influencing others within their social sphere and sharing experiences about companies and brands. The biggest change is that my personal social sphere is now thousands, maybe millions (rather than hundreds), of people whom I can influence through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
If you are my age (I’ll let you guess) you might remember the shampoo television commercial that delivered the message, “You’ll tell two friends and she’ll tell two friends and so on and so on and so on.” Today, social media is that same idea on steroids. If that commercial ran today, it would say, “You’ll tell 2,000 friends and she’ll tell 2,000 friends and so on …” With that kind of impact, social media is a communication stream CEOs cannot ignore. It is a fundamental change in the way people communicate, so like it or not, it is essential that companies learn to use this powerful voice as a business driver and brand reputation builder.
OK, so I have your attention, now what?
Just like other media, it is important to understand the benefits of social media, target your message appropriately for the audience, establish a plan and measure results. Social media is less expensive than most traditional forms of media, but creative execution still matters.
Like traditional media, the target audience varies by channel and some channels appeal more to B2C or B2B audiences. Social media is live interaction, so it changes by the second, the minute, the hour, the day. It takes a dedicated, quick response effort. And because it is as much about brand reputation as it is brand awareness, it should not be passed off to the newest hire. Whoever is minding your social media is the face and voice of your company.
Start with the basics
Whether you run a B2C or a B2B company, the basic requirement to building an effective digital communications strategy begins with an effective website. It should be built so that web crawlers provide the optimum organic search results. A website is like a retail store. It’s out there, but unless it is marketed to bring in traffic, it may never be found.
Companies should implement pay-per-click campaigns on search engines such as Google or Bing.
This type of program requires consistent monitoring and adjusting — so it demands either internal or external support and monitoring analytic reports to constantly tweak your campaigns. Adding display or banner ads into the mix will increase search activity proportionately. So will directory listings and appropriate linking strategies. So will social media.
Most companies find that inserting an e-mail component into their digital strategy is a good lead and sales driver. I highly recommend a video component as well.
Integrating social media into the mix
Not all social media channels fit all types of businesses. Knowing where your influencers “hang out” is the key to building a successful social media strategy. For B2C clients, we often recommend mass-reach venues such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Most businesses can also benefit from LinkedIn and targeting bloggers. There are hundreds of social media channels, so understanding your audience and where they communicate is the key.
For B2B clients, we often recommend blogging, YouTube, SlideShare, LinkedIn and posting content to web-based news aggregate sites, reaching out to bloggers, as well as housing content-rich information within the company’s website.
There is more to it than hanging a shingle
It is not a “build it and they will come” strategy. It is a “what can we do to encourage them to engage with us” strategy. You need to understand the audience, figure out the best way to join in the conversation, deliver your message so that you get noticed and establish your desired outcome before you begin.
Bio on file
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 20-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 25 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.