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Be more strategic about your social media

According to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Report, 67% of marketers planned to increase their use of social media channels including blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. As more brands integrate social media into their marketing and communications plans, a social media strategy has never been more vital.
Be more strategic about your social media
1. Get your team on board
Before you even begin work on a social media strategy, ensure your management team believes - and understands - the purpose of social media. Its not enough to get into the social space 'cos your competitors are. And to use the space to increase sales, will only lead to disappointment. Social media is about building relationships and engaging with your target market. Also, let your team know that social media is not an exact science, and any successful initiative will involve trial and error.

2. Decide who will manage your social media channels
Determine who will be your social media champions. Will you task your digital agency? Or your PR agency? At Gullan&Gullan we offer the full 360ยบ communication service and have discovered that social media fits best within a digital savvy PR team with a community manager taking care of the day-to-day running of the communities and their content, under the strategic guidance of the creative director and PR Account Manager...all while following the social media strategy.

3. Listen to the online conversation
With just a few - either paid for or free - monitoring tools you can listen to what people are saying about your brand and once you find your audiences, you can get to know them better by "listening" and understanding what they're interested in, and how to reach them. By listening to the online conversations you can find out,
  • Who is talking about you - find your "tribe"
  • What they're saying about you, your competitors, and your industry in general
  • Where the conversations are taking place
  • What your competitors are doing in the social space
  • What content resonates with your audience
  • Who the key influencers are to connect with
  • Where the opportunities and threats are.

    4. Seek out opportunities
    Once you have this information, you can start to seek out opportunities and compile a social media strategy. You'll know where to start, and what social sites you should be concentrating on. And importantly, you will compile your social media strategy while taking into considerations your available resources, such as,
  • Time allocation
  • People allocation
  • Content generation required.

    5. Set SMART goals
    The insights you get from the listening phase and the opportunities you identify will allow you to set measurable goals. But remember that goal setting must include your overall business and brand goals. From there you can determine how social media can assist with meeting your business goals. Then formulate your objectives remembering the well-known "SMART" acronym - keep it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

    6. Don't underestimate the power of online influencers
    In the past, media influencers used to be reputable members of the media, people of esteem, or celebrities. Today, in the social space, influencers can include all the traditional influencers, as well as friends, family, bloggers - what we call "citizen influencers". Influencers are individuals that your community trust and listen to. They're the ones who send a flood of traffic to your blog, website or Facebook page. The best part is, their friends, family and followers take action.

    7. Develop a content strategy
    A survey conducted by Forrester - all the way back in 2001 - revealed that people return to websites for the content. This still holds true today and is especially relevant in the social space. The quality of your content determines how engaged people will be. And the best part is--people read, save, tag and share quality content. Of course the converse is also true, they gloss over and ignore mediocre content and may even make negative comments about poor content. So how do you know what kind of content to create? Listen, observe and experiment, then build on content that elicits a response.

    8. Develop an action plan
    Your research and content will tell you where to start. However, social media has matured and most companies have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. However, there may be other social sites you need to include for your business, such as blogs. Bear in mind that each platform requires its own strategy and you need to know where to allocate resources.

    Also, you'll need a team with technical skills to set-up your preferred channels to remain true to your brand identity. Then you need to ensure that all the plug-ins and tools have been implemented to get the best out of your channels. This is where our digital team at Gullan&Gullan come to the fore and will assist with including social media tools such as,
  • RSS feeds
  • Social sharing buttons
  • Blog platforms and plug-ins
  • Integration of podcasts, images, video and their respective sharing networks
  • Ensuring all content is optimized for search, with feeds and commenting
  • Setting up of widgets, apps, iFrames and other digital design.

    9. Create and publish content
    Once you have a content strategy based on solid research, bright ideas will naturally flow about what to create and how to deliver this content. Remember, your social channels should all feed into each other and be integrated. Facebook should link to Twitter, to your brand microsite or website and to your blog, all with the support of online article syndication to get traffic to these channels.

    10. Engage and facilitate conversations
    It's not enough just to push out top-down content. Social media is not just another marketing channel you can use to reach your target audience. Content should be created with a view to inspiring, and participating in, conversations about your brand.
    Remember it's a two-way flow of conversation. People are no longer willing to be passive bystanders. They want to take an active part in the conversation.

    This is not just a frivolous brand awareness exercise, as customer engagement can assist with customer acquisition and retention. It's a modern form of word of mouth. Also a survey conducted by Forrester reveals that 94% of Internet users active in social media expect a brand to have a social media presence, where they can actively engage with them.

    11. Measure your success
    Measuring the outcomes of your social media initiatives allows you manage it better. It's that simple. Again, your measurement criteria have to be based on business objectives, and those objectives have to be set as measurable goals and then you need the right measurement tools. Here is a contracted - and general - list of KPIs used to measure engagement, remembering that each channel will have a unique set of KPIs,
  • Followers
  • Likes
  • Number of people talking about your brand
  • Total reach
  • Bookmarks
  • Comments
  • Social sharing
  • Tagging
  • Retweets
  • Brand mentions
  • Time spent on pages
  • Traffic to site
  • Bounce rate

    12. Review and revise
    Once you have your data, review your results to get a more holistic appreciation of your target audiences' actions, recognizing that value comes not just from transactions, but also from actions people take to influence others. From your data you can,
  • Identify your winning actions and content and enhance these
  • Identify your unhelpful actions and eliminate these
  • Identify your non-optimum strategies and adjust these
  • Adapt to market changes
  • Ensure you are taking effective steps towards achieving your goals.

  • 18 May 2012 11:53


    About the author

    Desirée Gullan is the Creative Director of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd.