“Success in Social Media Marketing is based almost entirely on how well you engage your customers”
Simply put, traditional definitions no longer apply, the concept that business as a subject and customer as object is no longer valid. Relationships must be earned. Companies need to abandon the old-world marketing model of one-to-many, fire-and-forget brand building or product offering exercise. Customers don’t want to hear from you, they want to engage with your. The onus is on businesses to create a sense of shared value with customers.
Engagement, for the purposes of this paper, is defined as social media community members actively and voluntarily engaging with a company via the unique engagement tools found on those channels (i.e., share, tweet, like, comment, reply, etc.) and companies using analytic feedback about those interactions to improve performance. It is a two-way exchange based on mutual respect and shared values that, when managed correctly, position a brand to succeed across the social sphere for many years to come.
So, what are some of the key steps companies should take when creating and managing their social media engagement effort? Here are the top five:
1. Planning: Why am I engaging in this conversation and what do I hope to get out of it?
2. Listening: What have those I plan to engage with been saying about me?
3. Communicating: What am I going to say that will generate the desired outcome?
4. Measuring & Responding: What was my audience’s response to my communication and did it net the desired results?
5. Testing & Improvement: Knowing what I now know, what can I do to improve my results with the next conversation?
Planning – Planning is the starting point for any customer engagement effort regardless of the audience or intent. Yet in a majority of cases companies have no actual social media engagement strategy. In one study, 70 percent of businesses were sold on the idea that social media could help, but only 43 percent had a plan in place to execute.
The need for a plan is particularly important in large enterprises where multiple social engagement campaigns could be under way at any given time. Customer relationship managers, for example, are going to be focused on a far different form of engagement than will, say, brand managers or the company’s consumer research department.
Engagement planners plan where, when, how, and with what kind of content (and at what frequency) to create earned media through community development, outreach, and online dialogue. By creating a social engagement plan, the company is able to both measure results against various KPI’s to determine its campaign effectiveness, but also to put in place the systems necessary for centralized knowledge sharing across the organization. For example, customer service may indeed be focused on a different outcome then marketing, but both organizations can glean valuable insights so long as there is the means for capturing and sharing engagement notes, conversations, activities, etc.. Engagement planning should be updated and adapted as new insights into audience behavior and content performance are concluded.
Listening– The cornerstone to any truly healthy relationship is listening, and social media makes this exercise particularly easy courtesy of the “digital footprints” created by all those online conversations, the channel APIs that let businesses listen. Social media are listening channels and companies would be wise to adopt this monitoring awareness as a way to correct consumer brand perceptions. The data collected from these listening posts can be used from everything from simple marketing tactics to broad-based strategic planning.
Many businesses measure the impact of social media not on revenue generation, but on insight that helped them meet customer expectations. Companies that learn to leverage 21st century “listening posts” will know what their customers and the larger world is thinking of them and are able to respond accordingly.
These listening systems particularly when paired with publishing platforms make it easier for companies to understand what the outside world is saying about them, but also ensures internal stakeholders are all on the same page internally. This can be especially true of large, geographically disbursed enterprises with thousands of employees.
Communicating – Content marketing is king and social media is its publishing platform. Today’s companies are being forced to let go of stale one-way business collateral and engage with consumers in a form and format of their choosing. Which means these companies must create value-added content that is engaging (ex: educational, humorous, compelling, evocative, or otherwise worth the time it takes to consume and share with others). Every company needs to publish to its various communities. It needs to know how to produce compelling content. It also needs to learn how to listen, how to get involved in online discussions, how to behave on Facebook and Twitter.
As for the content itself, there are two paths: Creation and curation. Content creation requires a company to make a commitment not merely to keep apprised of internal and industry development, but also to create and publish original, value-added content across the social eco-sphere.
Content curation includes current corporate content, updated as necessary, and uses it in the same way-to create, foster, facilitate, respond to, and otherwise engage in social conversations. As the number of social media channels grows, it is imperative that businesses implement some form of centralized social media management application that lets it schedule, track, and measure its publishing activities
Measurement & Response – You’ve created and executed against a social engagement plan, did your due diligence to determine what if anything was being said about your brand and you’ve published content across your social media network in a coordinated, targeted fashion. Key drivers of engagement are going to be things like what, when, and how much you post.
Fortunately, nothing beats the digital domain’s capacity to objectively monitor, track, record, and report on its own effectiveness. As a result, companies not only refine their tactics to improve results, they also can respond to community members who “raise a virtual hand” looking to engage with the brand.
Companies at a minimum should be measuring:
Volume: Volume is a great initial indicator of interest by your audience. People tend to talk about things they either love or hate, they rarely talk about things they simply don’t care about. Volume is not just posts, tweets, likes, etc., but also the number of people talking about your brand, the number of messages, and changes over time.
Reach: Reach is the potential audience for your content and can be measured by, among other things, re-tweets, shares, replies, etc.
Engagement – This is very important because it implies active participation. In most social media environments content can be both shared and replied to, so it’s extremely important to measure the full extent and context of engagement.
Influence – Identify and monitor individuals with large groups of followers who may have the ability to influence the decision making of others.
Share of Voice – If you’ve got competition, then it is important to gauge how much the social sphere is talking about your competition verses your brand.
Testing & Improvement – The avalanche of social media channels and technologies can seem daunting to even the most seasoned of marketing organizations, but it also is providing these organizations with a wealth of opportunities to test a variety of message forms and formats to massive, ready-made audiences.
The companies that consistently and persistently track, measure, and re-test against metrics ultimately will see significant results. By digging deep into the behavioral habits and response rates of these consumers, these companies will understand the content that best resonates with their audiences, the ideal time for publishing that content, who is most likely to respond and when and in what form. Social media is about learning, listening, and building your marketing strategy in real-time! You can’t ignore the analytics – measuring results must be a part of your social media strategy in order for it to create a positive ROI.
On the back end, companies need to stay current with the steady diet of changes that take place across social media channels and how they generate the data behind the analytics. This can become a huge challenge as the number and uses of these channels expand.
Far from a temporary aberration of the young, social media is an organic part of the Internet’s ongoing evolution toward enabling like-mined individuals to more easily create online communities. Few are immune to the lure of these networks, helping to explain their massive appeal. Fortunately for the business community, a growing number of social media natives are not merely tolerating but actively embracing corporate participation.
This means companies must abandon the often tone-deaf, one-way conversation of yesterday’s marketing and embrace the social media reality of today’s business-world.