Building Internal Social Networks within the Organization
Organizations have found it very profitable to participate and build Social Networks not only with the outside community but within the organization including all the employees. By encouraging, listening and participating in discussions with the employee community, the Organization is able to promote a non formal platform that encourages the employees to speak up about their views, problems. Important feedback on what the employees think of a particular product, policy or the Company can be gathered easily on such social networks. These networks help the Organizations to search for and recruit good talent as well as nurture smart talent too. Internal Social Networks help the Organization feel the pulse of the employees, build and promote an open culture and enhance the feeling of togetherness too. On the marketing front, it helps the Organization announce its future plans for product development, invite productive and creative feedback and assessment as well as build internal loyalty too.
How to Benefit from Participating in Professional & Business Social Networks
Apart from using Personal Social Networks as well as the Internal Social Networks, one can benefit largely from using professional Social Networks too. Sites like LinkedIn, Face Book and Jigsaw etc, prove to be a huge mine of data and information on various contacts, specific interest groups, communities of experts etc. Marketers have realized the potential that exists in these business social networks and the community of professionals and have developed successful strategy to engage them for productive purposes. Most of the leading brands and companies have developed strategies of introducing discussions around a new product that they are planning to develop and release and thus build a community of people interested in the said product. By cultivating a online community, they are able to create a buzz around the product and such publicity helps in its actual product launch. In many cases, the Organizations are able to engage with the community of experts on productive discussions regarding the product and thus obtain useful feedback, suggestions and solutions that help with product development. Market research and market feedback can be generated with the help of online communities.
Social Networks, both individual networks as well as professional networks provide the best opportunities for the Organizations to be in continuous touch with its audience and more importantly engage with them on an interactive basis. How far and how much you can get out of these platforms depends upon the how much you can engage consistently and persistently as well as invest time and effort in engaging your customers.
Social Media Marketing is the latest game in marketing. Whether you have a product or a service to market, you have no option but to be present in various social media channels for this is where your existing and prospective customers are. More importantly your customers are talking and sharing their ideas, experiences and information that includes reference to your products and services too.
Multi Media technology has fuelled the growth of Social Media channels including blogs, micro blogs, audio & video sharing and Podcasts etc. When it comes to advertising on the Social Media Channels, you will find the pop ups and banners etc to be the same as the traditional media advertising which is interruptive. However from a marketing angle you need not look at Social Media channels only for advertising. There is a lot more that you can do on a larger scale by connecting with your customers, building your image, online reputation as well as benefitting from the interactions that you elicit from the audience regarding your product and services.
Leveraging on Collective Intelligence of the Community
In fact most of the technology businesses have found it extremely useful to blog and connect with the audience, wherein they are able to talk about their product innovations, technology platforms and gain useful insights and assistance from the community in developing as well as getting directions for building the products for the future. Technology is changing very fast and lifecycle of products too is very short. In such situation, being able to feel the pulse of the actual users, interacting with and giving the audience a feel of the product, banking on collective intelligence of the community in solving product or technology related problems can prove highly beneficial for business. No technocrat can ignore the fact that you are able to bank on not just limited brains of your team but of the best talent available in the community. Many times online discussions have paved way to solving major problems faced during product development.
It helps then, to recognize the fact that the concept of marketing and advertising using social media channels is different. You can have several goals while drawing up your strategy for using Social Media channels. Advertising and connecting with your prospective customers is definitely one of the primary motives behind the entire exercise. In addition to doing so, you can also use the channels for very many other goals which may include qualitative as well as quantitative goals too. From using the channels for internal purpose to connect with employees and support vendors, to informing the interested community regarding proposed product development as well as talking about the future course of growth for the Company and eliciting responses from the community on what they think, the Social Media channel can be used as a mirror that reflects your business, your reputation and your customer’s behavior, understanding, needs, opinions and feedback etc.
Use Multiple Channels with different Marketing Objectives
Depending upon your strategy and focus, you would need to choose appropriate channel that suits the purpose. Understanding the different platforms is essential to be able to decide on the mix and match of channels that you choose to be present in and participate. Apart from Social Networks including Business and professional Networks and White Label communities, you will find it necessary to be present in the sphere of blogs and other multi-media channels including video sharing and podcasts too. Each of the channels suite a different purpose and give you a chance to connect with the customers on an interactive mode.
Realizing the fact that you are tapping into and interacting with your customers who are the audience on these channels makes you realize the vast amount of opportunities that open up to you to further your business interest. Compare this to just buying advertisement space on the channels where the audience has a choice to bypass and ignore your advertisement, you will realize that the Social Media channels are a gold mine and you couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to be able to reach out and interact with your customers.
How to create a social media strategy
Step 1. Set social media marketing goals that align to business objectives
Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
The first step to creating a social media marketing strategy is to establish your objectives and goals. Without goals, you have no way to measure your success or your social media return on investment (ROI).
Each of your goals should be:
This is the SMART framework, and it’s an important way of making sure your goals actually lead to real business results, rather than just lofty ideals.
Track meaningful metrics
Keep in mind that while vanity metrics like retweets and likes are fun and easy to track, it’s hard to prove their real value for your business. Instead, focus instead on targets such as leads generated, web referrals, and conversion rate.
For inspiration, check out our posts on the social media metrics, social ads metrics, and social video metrics that matter to your business.
You may want to track different goals for different channels, or even different uses of each channel. For example, Benefit Cosmetics focuses on achieving brand awareness through its paid social campaigns, but measures acquisition and engagement for organic social posts.
Make sure to align your social media goals with your overall marketing strategy. This will make it easier for you to show the value of your work and get executive buy-in and investment.
Start developing your social media marketing plan by writing down at least three social media goals.
Step 2. Learn everything you can about your audience
Create audience personas
Knowing who your audience is and what they want to see on social is key to creating content that they will like, comment on, and share. It’s also critical for planning how to develop your social media fans into customers for your business.
Try creating audience personas. These allow you to think of your potential fans, followers, and customers as real people with real wants and needs. And that will allow you to think more clearly about what to offer them.
Gather real-world data
Don’t make assumptions. For instance, you might instinctively think that Facebook is a better network for reaching Baby Boomers than Millennials, but the numbers show that Millennials still outnumber Boomers on the platform.
Step 3. Research the competition
Odds are, your competitors are already using social media—and that means you can learn from what they’re already doing.
Conduct a competitive analysis
A competitive analysis allows you to understand who the competition is and what they’re doing well (and not so well). You’ll get a good sense of what’s expected in your industry, which will help you set some social media targets of your own.
This analysis will also help you spot opportunities. For example, maybe one of your competitors is dominant on Facebook, but has put little effort into Twitter or Instagram. You might want to focus on the networks where your audience is underserved, rather than trying to win fans away from a dominant player.
Engage in social listening
Social listening is another way to keep an eye on the competition. Here’s how to use Hootsuite streams for social listening and monitoring competitors:
Step 4. Conduct a social media audit
Evaluate your current efforts
If you’re already using social media tools, you need to take a step back and look at what you’ve already done and accomplished. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s working, and what’s not?
- Who is connecting with you on social?
- Which social media sites does your target market use?
- How does your social media presence compare to that of your competitors?
Step 5. Set up accounts and improve existing profiles
Determine which networks to use (and how to use them)
As you decide which social channels to use, you will also need to define your strategy for each network.
For example, Benefit Cosmetics’ social media manager, Angela Purcaro, told eMarketer: “For our makeup tutorials … we’re all about Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Twitter, on the other hand, is designated for customer service.”
Set up (and optimize) your accounts
Once you’ve decided which networks to focus on, it’s time to create your profiles—or improve existing profiles so they align with your strategic plan.
In general, make sure you fill out all profile fields, use keywords people will use to search for your business, and use images that are correctly sized for each network.
Step 6. Find inspiration
While it’s important that your brand be distinctive and unique, you can still draw inspiration from other businesses that are great on social.
Social network success stories
All of the social networks feature success stories that highlight how brands are using their tools effectively. You can usually find these on the business section of the social network’s website.
Step 7. Create a social media content calendar
Sharing great content is essential, of course, but it’s equally important to have a plan in place for when you’ll share content to get the maximum impact. Your social media content calendar also needs to account for the time you’ll spend interacting with the audience (although you need to allow for some spontaneous engagement as well).
Create a posting schedule
Your social media content calendar lists the dates and times at which you will publish types of content on each channel. It’s the perfect place to plan all of your social media activities—from images and link sharing to blog posts and videos. It includes both your day-to-day posting and content for social media campaigns. Your calendar ensures your posts are spaced out appropriately and published at the optimal times.
Plot your content mix
Make sure your calendar reflects the mission statement you’ve assigned to each social profile, so that everything you post is working to support your business goals. For example, you might decide that:
- 50 percent of content will drive traffic back to your blog
- 25 percent of content will be curated from other sources
- 20 percent of content will support enterprise goals (selling, lead generation, etc.)
- 5 percent of content will be about HR and company culture
Placing these different post types in your content calendar will help ensure you maintain the ratio you’ve planned. If you’re starting from scratch and you’re simply not sure what types of content to post, try the 80-20 rule:
- 80 percent of your posts should inform, educate, or entertain your audience
- 20 percent can directly promote your brand.
You could also try the social media rule of thirds:
- One-third of your social content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit.
- One-third of your social content shares ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses.
- One-third of your social content involves personal interactions with your audience.
Once you have your calendar set, use scheduling tools or bulk scheduling to prepare your messaging in advance rather than updating constantly throughout the day. This allows you to craft the language and format of your posts rather than writing them on the fly whenever you have time.
Step 8. Test, evaluate, and adjust your strategy
Your social media strategy is a hugely important document for your business, and you can’t assume you’ll get it exactly right on the first try. As you start to implement your plan and track your results, you may find that some strategies don’t work as well as you’d anticipated, while others are working even better than expected.
Track your data
In addition to the analytics within each social network (see Step 2), you can use UTM parameters to track social visitors as they move through your website, so you can see exactly which social posts drive the most traffic to your website.
Re-evaluate, test, and do it all again
Once this data starts coming in, use it to re-evaluate your strategy regularly. You can also use this information to test different posts, campaigns, and strategies against one another. Constant testing allows you to understand what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine your strategy in real time.
Surveys can also be a great way to find out how well your strategy is working. Ask your social media followers, email list, and website visitors whether you’re meeting their needs and expectations on social media, and what they’d like to see more of. Then make sure to deliver on what they tell you.
In the social sphere, things change fast. New networks emerge, while others go through significant demographic shifts. Your business will go through periods of change as well. All of this means that your social media strategy should be a living document that you look at regularly and adjust as needed. Refer to it often to keep you on track, but don’t be afraid to make changes so that it better reflects new goals, tools, or plans.