“Quick! We need to be on this new social media channel.”
“I want to create a blog and start our own podcast!”
“Let’s do a video series.”
It’s easy to feel the pressure to be on all social media channels all the time and do fun, fancy things like infographics, videos and GIFs. But those are just tactics. Before outlining the tactics, you need to have an overall social media strategy and objectives. A well-thought-out social media strategy can make the difference between the success and failure of a campaign or overall social media effort. Furthermore, having a social media strategy in place can help you prevent making costly mistakes that can harm your reputation or take a bite out of your bottom line.
Here are seven preventable mishaps a social media strategy will help you avoid.
1) Not aligning with your overall marketing strategy
Social media is one piece of your company’s marketing mix. Your efforts most likely also include advertising, media relations and trade shows, to name just a few. Just like your advertising, media relations and trade show strategies, your social media strategy should align with your overall marketing strategy and objectives. Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish will help you determine how you can accomplish it.
2) Blowing your budget
By not creating a social media strategy, you are opening the door to overspending on things like content development, moderation and measurement. A strategy will help determine the type of content you are creating and the investment required. For example, the brands our agency works with typically publish between three and 15 pieces of content each week including blog posts, videos, social media posts, infographics, etc.
The budget should cover time and resources to plan and create the desired content, publish it to your channels and moderate audience engagement, and measure and report efforts on a monthly or quarterly basis. If you plan on promoting your content, the budget should also include advertising hard costs, and time to create and manage the campaigns.
3) Missing your target audience
Defining your target audience is a critical component of your social media strategy. Many brands have multiple audiences due to diverse product offerings or numerous audience segments using the same product. Just as your target audiences don’t have the same needs, your content also can’t be one size fits all. Knowing which audience you are targeting for which message is key to reaching them.
When developing your social strategy and content, ask yourself these questions:
– “Who is the intended audience?”
– “Which channel is the audience on?”
– “How does the audience like to receive information?” (e.g., video, blog, photo)
While there’s likely overlap, your strategy will see the most success if you direct your content to the right audiences. Leveraging audience personas can help you cater content to the specific needs of each group.
4) Jumping on the bandwagon too soon
When a new social media channel picks up steam, it’s natural for you to wonder if your brand should join up. Having a social strategy outlining audiences, objectives and budget will help guide this decision. Another important piece is implementing an incubation process to monitor and evaluate whether or not the channel is a good fit. The incubation process looks like this:
– Information gathering
o Is my audience on this channel?
o Are they talking about my brand?
o Can we contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way?
o Will this help us reach overall business and marketing objectives?
o Do we have the time and financial resources to create engaging content for the channel and moderate engagement?
– Pilot testing
o If you answered yes to the above questions, you may decide to launch a pilot test in which you set up an account as a trial.
o Create criteria to evaluate whether the pilot test was a success.
o After the trial period, review metrics and criteria to decide if you will stay active on the channel or close the account.
o Stay active on the channel.
5) Scrambling during a crisis
Creating a social strategy should also entail a crisis plan. Crises can be large or small —from someone on a social channel claiming to be injured by your product to a layoff at one of your manufacturing facilities. Taking the time to outline a crisis plan up front will allow for quick, organized reaction if and when the real thing occurs.
6) Saying something off-brand — or even worse, offensive
This partially falls under No. 5, but we felt it was worth calling out separately. Sometimes brands are too quick to respond to a trending topic, and the message is not well thought out. Your social strategy should outline the tone and voice to be used on all social media channels, as well as the company values. Do you want to be perceived as fun and upbeat? Or sophisticated and friendly? This may sound like a no-brainer, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.
7) Providing terrible customer service
If something is wrong with a product or service, customers are quick to voice it on social media. Your social strategy should include a protocol for customer questions and comments on each social channel to ensure a timely response. Everyone involved should know the process and expectations. The social media community manager needs to know when to contact a subject matter expert (SME), and the SME should know they could be contacted at any time to provide a quick response.
In summary, social media tactics are important, but putting social media strategy first ensures that you’re working toward your overall business, PR and marketing goals, while actively taking measures to prevent potentially detrimental mistakes.