communications strategy, strategy

Not sure if social media is working? Check your strategy

Sandra Stewart | October 1, 2015

Over 41 percent of respondents to the August CMO Survey said they had not been able to show the impact of social media on their businesses. And these people are marketing leaders at large enterprises (Fortune 1000 and the like) with significant marketing resources—the percentage is almost certainly higher among small to medium-size businesses.

What gives? Certainly it’s challenging to measure some of the benefits we want social media to deliver—increased brand recognition, an enhanced thought leadership reputation, and the like. Still, more than 43 percent of total respondents said they have a good sense of the qualitative impact of their social media efforts, so clearly people are finding ways to measure things that are hard to count. (About counting: only 15 percent said they have been able to show a quantitative impact for social media).

The problem most likely lies in the underlying strategy and its execution. A solid social media strategy will not only integrate with other marketing channels, but also define measurements, milestones and decision points for each platform; dictate priorities; and reflect a realistic view of the resources needed. The following practices are key to developing a strategy that delivers results.

Get serious about goals
Of course you want to establish business goals for your social media program and for each platform. But that’s not as easy as it sounds—useful goals require a reality check and some research. Looking at your social media goals, consider whether what you want from social media is something you can actually achieve with your current staff, budget and brand reach. Is the result achievable with any level of investment—i.e., do your goals match the channel? Do you really know what it would take in terms of staff time, agency support, tools and content resources? Do your social media goals sync up with your overall marketing and business goals?

It’s worth asking these questions periodically, no matter how advanced your social media effort. Changes in your business or market should affect goals, and you want to avoid getting stuck in cruise control.

Map measurements to goals
Marketers often fall back on measuring what’s easiest to count, but that won’t necessarily tell you whether you’re reaching your goals. The problem is particularly acute with social media, where the easiest things to count may be the least relevant (witness the ongoing debate over whether Facebook likes matter). Consider how to build measurement into your content or customer interactions.

Play favorites
Social media platforms have a strong “shiny object” effect, compounded by FOMO—each new breakout platform exerts a pull. And we all have personal favorites. But most companies don’t have the resources or attention span to build an effective presence on every platform. Define objective criteria for ranking them—for example: top referrers to your website, most appropriate for your content, most favored by potential customers—and pick the top ones to focus on.

Define your value
Audience appeal is key when developing your social media content strategy. What are you bringing to the table? For every platform you use, why should people follow you there? What can you provide that’s helpful, fun or informative? This may be the piece most often missing from social media strategies.

Of course, no strategy will work if you can’t follow it, and that brings up a final thought: social media campaigns often involve a broader swath of employees than other marketing initiatives, so getting buy-in on your strategy may be the most important step you can take toward measurable success.



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