By Monique Stennis, MBA
Digital Marketing Specialist
Inter Valley Health Plan
AABLI alumna, Class #6
Believe it or not, social media is here to stay. More than ever, today’s business environment is saturated with communication messages. As recently as five years ago, the prevailing marketing messages came from brands. Whether they were communicated through broadcast, print or online media, most messages came from the organization. Today, social networking is the top online activity, with the average American spending 37 minutes per day online. In addition, around 46 percent of web users look to social media when making a purchase.
For these reasons, business leaders cannot afford to underestimate the value of robust social media strategies to engage with their stakeholders. Just as drafting a business plan is critical to establish goals and objectives, developing a social media strategy is an important blueprint to: increase brand awareness, engage your target market, and diffuse a communication crisis (to name a few).
Whether you are a small business, a large organization, a not-for-profit or a one person show you want to communicate with consumers directly, you must create a social media strategy to effectively reach them. While social media is under the marketing umbrella, you will find that an effective strategy will take into account all operational areas within the organization.
Questions Your Leadership Team Should Consider.
- What does the organization want to achieve with social media? Some examples may include: Drive higher revenue and sales, increase brand awareness, engage with consumers, improve customer satisfaction, present the organization as a thought leader in your industry, or recruit talent.
- What do you want consumers, shareholders and the general public to know about the organization? How much transparency is too much? Considering your corporate culture, these open-ended questions will provide a great deal of dialogue within your team. For example, the marketing VP may encourage employees to share on Facebook the pictures from a company-wide awards program they show that the culture of the organization is happy and celebratory. But the head of human resources is concerned about posting employee photos on social media because a number of employees do not want to be featured online. There is really no right or wrong answer, but situations like these should be addressed within the leadership team.
- What does the organization want reflected in a social media policy? This internal policy should be created to protect the organization. While the human resources department may head this initiative, it is important that the leadership team agree on how the policy will address the following: privacy, confidentiality, interests of the company, current and potential products/services, employees, partners/vendors, members and competitors. When creating a policy here are additional “must haves”: a) Define social media use. b) Spell out the organization’s position on the use of social media. c) Establish clear guidelines for employees around both on-duty and off-duty use. d) Include a clause about respect for your company’s stakeholders (e.g. board members, members, vendors, and employees). e) Address the use of ethnic or other slurs, personal insults, obscenity, and language that may be considered inflammatory or defamatory. You may find many examples of social media policies at http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies/
Once the social media policy is rolled out to all employees, it is a good idea to visit and/or revise it on an annual basis.
- What social media platforms should your business consider using? Social media platforms are not a one-size fits all approach. Nor should they simply communicate anything and everything for the sake of communicating. A number of social media sites could be suitable for your organization. When searching for the right one(s), it is important to make sure the site provides greater access to your target market and supports your business objectives.
- Facebook is the most popular social media site. It is particularly appealing for small to mid-sized businesses looking to advertise in targeted local markets within a small budget. In addition, Facebook is an excellent site for engaging with both existing and prospective customers.
- Google+ is great for creating and updating your listing on Google Maps for getting customer reviews to show up on search results.
- Yelp is a terrific tool for helping you actively manage your organizations reputation, while optimizing your presence on Yahoo! and other websites that feature Yelp reviews.
- Twitter is a microblogging site good for answering questions and customer feedback. For example, Dr. Oz does a great job motivating his followers to tweet health related questions which he answers both on Twitter on his show. Many chain restaurants use Twitter as a way to improve customer satisfaction.
- YouTube is the second largest search engine following Google. It’s also the most popular video-based social media site. This site is especially helpful in targeting users with video content and integrating videos on your website.
- LinkedIn is the most popular professional social media and networking site. LinkedIn is terrific for lead generation and displaying company-related information and statistics.
- Who is going to manage your social media program? Once the foundation is created and social media platforms are identified, the next consideration is whether you will dedicate a full-time staff member to social media, extend an existing position with the duties of social media management or outsource this function. Regardless of who manages social media, be mindful that consistency and responsiveness are two important factors in your social media marketing strategy. Since social media is 24/7 it is important that you consistently engage them using the 80/20 rule. This means that 80 percent of your published content includes information that satisfies your consumers’ wants and needs. If you are a legal firm, for example, your 80 percent may include blogs, links to articles and short videos on the areas of law in which your organization specializes. About 20 percent of the content you post on social media may include newsworthy information and updates about your organization. Your audience will check in regularly to consume your content and information. Imagine if the television show, “Wheel of Fortune,” came on every other week instead of every night of the week as required by the needs of the market. Viewers would lose interest in the program. This same analogy is pertinent to social media. Being responsive is just as important as being consistent. Consumers expect that if your organization is on social media, it is engaging with them and is responsive to their needs.
While the landscape of social media marketing is new, the conversations in the marketplace are not. People who have exposure to your brand are sharing their experiences. If you do not believe me, the next time you go to a hair salon or barber shop, listen to what people are talking about. If they had to wait in line for a long period of time, they are sharing this information. If your brand is known to have superb value, it is being talked about. In the social media universe, however, a person can take a photo and communicate interaction with your brand almost instantly. This can be done so quickly that you discover you either have a communication crisis or a reason to celebrate because the experience with your brand has gone viral.
When you are pondering important business strategies, social media strategy should be one of the first items on your “must-do” list.
Stats and User Information:
- Facebook has the highest percentage of senior citizen users at almost 50%
- 90% of Yelp users say reviews impact their decisions
- Nearly 40% of Twitter’s users are 18-29 years old
- More than 40% of YouTube videos are watched from a mobile phone
- More than 5.5 million business owners and executives in the U.S. have a LinkedIn profiles
- 15% of smart phone users say they use Google Plus for local information
For more stats and user information go to http://get-susan.com/services/10-best-social-media-sites-for-small-business-owners/
Stats Related to Small Businesses and Brands:
- 8 out of 10 small businesses use social media to drive growth
- 3 in 5 small businesses say they’ve gained new customers by using social media
For more stats go to http://www.go-gulf.ae/blog/businesses-social-media/
Top Five Reasons People Follow Brands on Social Media:
- Promotions and discounts
- For latest product information
- Customer service
- Entertaining content
- Ability to offer feedback
For more stats go to http://www.go-gulf.ae/blog/businesses-social-media/
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.