As Christmas approaches and the annual list of shiny new toys sets fear into the hearts of parents around the country, I’m reminded of the communications industry’s own shiny and slightly scary new toy: social media.
At Perceptive we guide and advise clients on social media strategy on a daily basis and at times it can be like dealing with an excitable child opening presents on Christmas Day. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and overstimulated by the wealth of exciting new channels on the horizon. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat: the list is endless. So where to begin as a business? With the opportunity to connect directly to your customers and suppliers in seconds, cutting through the challenges to the responsiveness of traditional marketing channels, the temptation to tear off the wrapping paper and rush into this exciting new realm can prove too much for some businesses.
Yet when we work with clients on social media, our first message is to go back to the basics of your core business. Like Santa, have a plan – make your list and stick to it or there could be tears before bedtime. Ensure you have a strategy to support any digital activity you engage in just as you would any other business activity. It is vital to understand social media is not a quick fix solution and must be closely aligned with your marketing plan, objectives and audience. Is your goal to improve your reputation? Increase sales? To be seen as an authority on your industry? Then choose the channels that best fit and plan accordingly.
We also advise many businesses to establish a social media protocol and share this with all employees. This ensures everyone knows what is expected of them in the online world and what is acceptable in their role as an employee of the company. And of course what’s not. We’ve all heard horror stories of employees gone rogue online and a robust, coherent social media protocol can prove a reputation saver. Another advantage to establishing a protocol is it can educate and encourage shyer employees to engage online, becoming ambassadors for your business, providing a win/win situation for both employers and staff.
A common mistake is failing to measure the impact of any activity. It’s easy to get carried away in the thrill of the excitement of this new present under the tree, but if you want to make the most of social media, you need to establish your metrics from the start of any project and evaluate ROI – just as you would any other marketing activity. Is your priority awareness? Then look at reach, exposure and amplification. Engagement? Review retweets, comments, replies. Website traffic? Monitor URLs, clicks and conversions. Sales? Consider paid for social media channels.
Another advantage to social media is it can hold a mirror up to your business and industry, giving your company that competitive edge. It’s never been easier to monitor what’s being said about you and your organisation using tools like Hootsuite, which is both free and easy to use, or Sproutsocial. Monitoring tools can also be a good way to keep a handle on what your competitors are up to in the marketplace and to keep up to speed on the latest industry trends.
When we work with clients we find many businesses are tempted to pass responsibility for social media management to the elves of the social media world, the so-called ‘digital natives’. Yes, they may be enthused by the online realm and constantly attached to the latest device. Yet, the key word here is management. Social media management can make or break your business and should be handled by experts in the field. If you lack this resource in house, hire it in. You won’t regret it.
It’s clear social media, when aligned with a successful marketing strategy, offers plenty of opportunities for business success. But like a successful Christmas morning, it’s all in the planning and as long as Santa and his elves stick to these simple tips, we should all be able to enjoy continue to enjoy our shiny new toy to great effect.
Julie McLauchlan is Managing Director at Perceptive Communicators. This article first appeared in a print edition of The Scotsman