An Actual Game Plan For Social Media—Part 1
"Social media is going to change the face of my business."
"Social media is great, but I need my people on the phone."
"I'm old school and don't know the first thing about social media."
"Social media is useless for business."
If you have said, or thought, something similar to one of these statements, then this article is for you. Wait...these are completely contrary points of view, how can this article be applicable to any of these scenarios? While this article will probably be most beneficial for those that see some value in social media but want to take it to the next level, we've tried to include specific takeaways for everyone.
Let's get started by talking about the why...
Why is social media important to your business?
Buyers are conducting research through social media.
For those of you that said "Social media is useless for business," think again. Many studies have found social media has far-reaching impact on buying habits. Consider these statistics from a recent Mashable.com study:
53% of respondents use Facebook to interact with a brand.
42% wrote an online post about a product or brands.
20% use Facebook to research products or services at least once a week!
Consumers are becoming more socially savvy and turning to social media outlets as a way to gather unfiltered feedback and recommendations.
Social media directly impacts search results.
In the past, you could create a good website, search engine optimize a few pages by adding good keywords in key areas, and sit back and enjoy decent traffic from search engines like Google. Well, that's no longer the case.
Search engines have evolved drastically over the last year and continue to make changes to their algorithms. To ensure users keep coming back, Google, Bing and the others need to serve up the most relevant results. This has caused the search engines to review how they rank information and take into account varying sources to help provide great results. This is where social media comes into play.
Social media is built around people sharing content they find interesting. It's about following people of influence and people that share good insight. It's about connecting with companies that offer great products or services. And it's about being popular in your circle.
Now, let's connect the dots. Search engines look to serve up the most current and relevant data. Social media is a popularity contest that is won by building connections and having influence. So, search engines look at social media to help them determine what is actually relevant. If people are talking about something in great numbers on social media, then it must be relevant.
While you may already have a great website that ranks well on search engines, social media is going to be a necessity if you want to maintain and grow that presence.
So what do you need to do to stay relevant?
Here are some tips.
Integrate social media into your marketing strategy.
Contrary to what many social media "gurus" suggest, I don't think you need a full-fledged social media strategy. For those of you that said "Social media is going to change the face of my business," this is for you! Social media is NOT a silver bullet. Facebook is not going to instantly solve your biggest recruiting challenges. Becoming active on Twitter is not going to flood you with "A-level" prospects. If that's your expectation, then you will be disappointed.
The simple truth is that social media is another delivery channel to disseminate your message. And, while it is an amazing tool to reach your exact target audience, it is MOST valuable when combined with other marketing tactics and mediums. So again, social media isn't a strategy, it's a tactic that should be combined with other tactics to reach your audience on many different platforms.
Develop a content plan.
As I've detailed, social media marketing and search engine optimization are beginning to overlap—and that overlap will increase over the next year. The real driving force behind being effective in both SEO and social media (and marketing as a whole) is storytelling. People and companies that have a good story, whether it's entertaining or educational, will come out on top.
When crafting your marketing strategy, spend time developing a strategic content plan. Once you've developed this content plan, you'll use your website, search engines and social media outlets (and all the other traditional mediums) as delivery channels for this content.
To help you get started, here are tips for developing a good content plan:
Brainstorm - Get people from every job function in your company involved in content planning. Discuss the challenges they help solve each and every day. If you can pinpoint common questions or challenges they face on a daily basis, you will have a great collection of topics to write about.
Listen - The key to being a great communicator is to start by being a great listener. Follow your existing clients and prospects on social channels and just listen. Take note of the questions they ask and the content they share. Add these topics to your content plan.
Ask - The best source for content ideas may come directly from your clients (and candidates). Talk to them about their biggest business challenges (don't just focus on staffing issues). Learn about what keeps them up at night and then write about those topics.
Adjust - One of the best things about social media is that you have access to nearly real-time data. You can see who is sharing (or not sharing) your content. You can examine engagement and traffic data. If you find that a particular topic is generating a lot of interest, adjust your content plan to include more of that type of information. Likewise, if a topic didn't get response, replace similar types of content you had planned in the future.
Once you have a content strategy, get commitment.
I've seen many staffing and recruiting firms that develop great marketing and content plans—and they work wonderfully for the first two months. Month three comes around and other priorities creep in and frequency drops. By month four, posts are sporadic and engagement drops. When engagement drops, ROI drops. When ROI drops, it's easy to pull the plug and say that social media and content marketing "just didn't work for us."
Don't let this happen in your organization! If you're serious about driving value through social media and content marketing, you need commitment from your staff and a way to hold people accountable. Part of your content strategy should include assigning an owner to every piece of content you plan. Make that person accountable for delivering good quality content that your entire staff can then leverage on their social channels.
If you can't get commitment from your staff, or they are simply stretched too thin or lack expertise, find another source for content. (Warning: Sales pitch coming) Haley Marketing offers complete content marketing solutions that can outsource the timely task of creating good, original content, and it's way more affordable that you might think!
Once you have good content, share it socially.
In our next issue of The Idea Club, we will share specific strategies for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and a few other networks. We'll highlight ways to leverage content, build your network and drive more sales.