Social media can feel overwhelming sometimes.
Faced with so many social networks and tools, it can be difficult to decide how best to use our limited resources. Should I be on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook? If I have limited time, what should I be doing and where should I be doing it?
Each person and business is going to use social media slightly differently depending on the nature of their business and their objectives. Rather than prescribe a set of actions for everyone, I am going to suggest 5 key aspects of social networking the understanding of which can guide you in prioritizing what you should be doing in social media.
Strategy comes before tactics
Social media without a strategy is like having a map and compass but no destination.
As common sense as this may seem, lots of businesses start doing social media without a clear answer as to why they’ve chosen those tactics and how they will help them achieve their goals.
For instance, you might have set up a Facebook page or Twitter handle for your business with no plan for how you’re going to find and create great content to share. Perhaps you’ve started doing social media when instead you should be buying pay-per-click online advertising.
￼Your strategy can (and will) evolve and change over time, but not being able to articulate a social media strategy is a recipe for failure.
The take-away: Think hard about the strategy underpinning your social media activities, especially if you want to prioritize your actions and get results.
Understand the difference between paid, owned and earned media
All digital marketing can be understood in terms of 3 types of media:
- paid media is advertising, usually the pay-per-click variety we are all familiar with on Google;
- owned media is your business website, content and marketing materials; and
- earned media refers to your reputation in social networks.
While each of these media types have distinct characteristics, they can be deployed in an integrated and coordinated strategy to advance your business objectives.
Generally speaking, as your business moves from paid, to owned, to earned media, it exerts a greater degree of engagement and influence on your audience. In other words, someone who searches Google and finds your advertisement on the top or side of the page is less inclined to engage with your content than they would with the top 3-5 organic results of the search.
￼The take-away: if you want short-term lead generation and effective conversion to new business, you should consider a different set of tactics than if you are seeking to establish thought leadership and build a trusted brand around which a rich referral network can grow over time.
Creating and curating great content will be your biggest challenge
Social media has placed the tools of publishing in everyone’s hands.
Every business is now a publishing business.
This has many implications, but chiefly among them is the fact that we now have new competitors. In addition to competing with other businesses offering similar services, we are now competing with other publishing businesses that are attracting the attention of our networks, our clients, and our prospects.
In order to compete in the publishing space, we need to become proficient at what publishers already do: create and curate compelling content that audiences want.
- Create great content – Whether by writing articles, recording videos, or creating slidedecks, you need to produce and publish content that attracts your audience’s attention and answers their questions. You must develop publishing platforms and learn how to harness the knowledge, skill and experience you already possess to tell remarkable stories.
- Curate great content – Discovering and sharing high quality, relevant content for your audience helps them to understand what’s important in a crowded information environment. Curation is an effective way to show your credibility and define your brand while providing a valuable filtering service for your clients and prospects.
Don’t hide your personal brand in the shadow of your professional brand
The business world is built on relationships between people and trust. That much more so in advice or consulting relationships, where people are relying on you to deliver in a crucial area of their lives.
People do business with people they know, like and trust.
Trust is complex equation in which intimacy is a key factor. Think of your closest business relationships and you’ll realize that they are people who know you, with whom you’ve shared personal feelings and experiences. People need to know you in order to like you and eventually trust you enough to do business with you and recommend you to others.
The take-away: Businesses often struggle with injecting personality into their social media. Yet it is precisely the right balance of your personality combined with your professional credibility that drives trust and engagement online.
Those who invest the most in social networks get the most out of them
Return on investment (ROI) is a popular rubric for measuring social media effectiveness, especially in the financial services realm.
Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.
But ROI calculations applied to social media can often miss the forest for the trees. For example, the stuff of social media – relationships and trust – are typically built over longer term timeframes. And the benefits of social media engagement are often not quantifiable in immediate monetary returns, but measured in non-tangibles such as “goodwill” or “social capital”.
If you’ve been doing social media and are disappointed with your returns on that effort, perhaps it’s worth looking more carefully at what you are investing. If you are not dedicating energy and resources to engaging audiences with great content, why are you expecting great returns? You will reap only what you sow.
The take-away: Focus more attention on what you’re investing in social networks – what you’re giving – and less attention on what you’re getting and your ROI will improve.