Associations need a structured road map to create and manage
successful social media programs. Here are the essential components that a
strong social media strategy should include.
To survive in today’s business world, organizations must
have a social media presence —unfortunately, strategy is lagging (way) behind.
In fact, a 2013 survey
showed that creating a social media strategy is still a major concern of 83
percent of marketers.
"Without a social media strategy, how do you know what
you’re trying to achieve, what you should be doing, how well you’re doing, what
you should be measuring, and what the ROI of your social media program is?”
asks social media strategy consultant Neal Schaffer. Schaffer says
organizations need a social media strategy because it:
- Standardizes messaging, determines how resources are used.
- Defines which tactics you will and won’t pursue.
- Serves as a road map.
- Carries on its purpose through personnel changes.
Here, Schaffer shares the essential components of a
comprehensive social media strategy:
Branding: Be consistent across all channels. Most associations
already have brand guidelines (including naming, color scheme, and imagery),
and these should be applied to your social media properties as well. After all,
branding is all about consistency, right? The challenge, though, is that most
branding guidelines don’t include any guidance for the most important part of
your brand in social media conversations: your voice.
"Although your brand guidelines might make mention of tone
and vocabulary for use in Web copy, social media will challenge those
guidelines when you need to have a conversation with an average person,”
Schaffer points out. "In most instances it’s okay to be less formal on social
media channels — just make sure that your updates, statuses, comments, etc.
speak with a unified voice. In the planning process, be sure to ask who
represents the voice of your organization in your social media branding
Content: Engage in conversation. Although cynics might dub
it a mindless vacuum, social media is really about the convergence of
communication and information. Content provides the medium to help you engage
in conversation — and creating content that is truly resourceful and shareable
can have many long-term benefits to your association’s social media presence.
"Content isn’t just about blog posts, photos, and videos,”
reminds Schaffer. "Presentations, infographics, memes, and even discussions
(such as in a LinkedIn Group) are content that should be considered for your
social media strategy.”
Curation: Share meaningful content. If you’re just talking
about yourself in social media, no one wants to listen (much like regular
conversation). It’s only when you begin to curate content that is of interest
to your followers and promote it, together with your own content that your
social media accounts begin to breathe new life.
This will often come down to content that you might already
be sharing with your current and prospective member in magazines, newsletters,
or webinars. It might mean sharing more photos and videos of who is using your
product, stories about your brand that have never been publicly discussed, or
resourceful information to nudge people into realizing they need to be a member,
Channels: Join the right networks for your organization.
There are currently more than 50 social networks with more than 10 million
members. You can’t — and shouldn’t — have a presence on every one of them.
Deciding which social networks to engage in, and creating internal best
practices and tactical plans for each of these networks, will form a sizable
part of your social media strategy.
Frequency: Post strategically, not constantly. No two social
networks are alike, and with limited resources, you’ll need to decide how much
time you are going to spend on each platform, as well as what you’ll be doing
there. (This will help you to maximize your ROI for time and resources spent.)
It’s also important to tweak your frequency strategy for each social network
from time to time to maximize the effectiveness of your posting.
"Frequent posting doesn’t necessarily make your social media
more effective,” says Schaffer. "For instance, research
shows that when a brand posts on Facebook twice a day, those posts
receive only 57 percent of the likes and 78 percent of the comments per post
that a single post receives.”
Engagement: Be worthy of being followed. While most associations
do well at proactively engaging with their own content — posting both new
content and conversations, as well as the sharing of content and information
from others — proactively engaging with new social media users and reactively
engaging with those who comment or respond to your updates is equally
Schaffer suggests looking at your association’s social media
profiles from the perspective of an outside observer and asking yourself, "Is
our engagement with fans worthy of being followed? Would I follow us?”
Listening: Interact meaningfully. "Your company needs to
have a listening and responding strategy in place,” Schaffer says. "Every
engagement with a social media user is a golden opportunity because it can give
you real-time feedback on what your customers are thinking, liking, needing,
buying, etc. You can also utilize big social data to help understand potential
future trends for your products and services.”
Campaign: Regularly introduce new ways to engage customers. Social
media campaigns should not be confused with traditional campaigns that are used
in marketing to promote new products or discounts. Again, in the social media
world, you’re not speaking to or at customers; you’re speaking with them. That
being the case, social media campaigns should leverage the social aspect of
social media, combined with its viral functionality, to create events that
trigger engagement from followers in a new and exciting way.
"Think of it less as a promotional marketing campaign and
more of an experiment to better understand — and more effectively engage with —
your social media followers,” Schaffer recommends. "Surveys, quizzes, polls,
product giveaways, and crowdsourcing (of photos, videos, and other content) are
all good examples of campaign types.”
Brand Ambassadors: Recruit fans to spread the word. Brand
ambassadors are current loyal members and fans who help spread the word about
your organization through their own social networks. Harnessing and rewarding
ambassadors is a very effective way to help spread the value of your brand
throughout social media because 92 percent
of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other
forms of marketing.
"This list primarily looks at the elements of creating a
robust social media strategy from a marketing perspective, but some of these
components can be easily expanded to help other internal departments achieve
their social media objectives,” Schaffer concludes. One final piece of advice: "When
formulating a strategy, be sure to look at the implications it will have on all
of your internal stakeholders and include them in the planning,”he says.
Regardless of your association’s social media goals, make
sure that you address these concepts individually in a written document so that
everyone in your organization — now and in the future — understands what they
are and how they are meant to work together. The clearer you are, the more
productive your organization’s social media presence will be.
Neal Schaffer is a global speaker on social media who also teaches as part of
Rutgers University’s Mini-MBA™ in Social Media Marketing Program. Schaffer, and
author of "Maximize Your
Social: A One-Stop Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy for Marketing and