For busy business owners it may be unclear where to start or what to do to integrate social media into your company. There are so many choices it can be overwhelming!
By researching interviews from marketers across multiple industry sectors I’ve gained insights into what actions they are taking to improve social media integration. Here is what I learned.
- Pick a strategy over tools. Social media changes constantly and new tools are being introduced at lightning speed. Using the latest and greatest technology may benefit the company, especially when its target audience includes younger and more media-savvy customers.
It is always important however, to judge the value and impact of a social media tool against the company’s marketing strategy rather than its innovativeness. How will the tool help your company develop a more effective marketing strategy? If not, confidently continue with that you’re doing.
- Have crystal clear marketing goals. If social media actions are undertaken without a clear customer objective, integration is likely to be elusive. This means that marketers should always identify a specific customer objective when employing social media tactics. One common approach we observed was marketers using social medial to help move the customer into and through the purchase funnel.
- Keep your sights on your end results. Social media is often used to generate brand, product, or company awareness. If awareness is the goal, your marketers must have a clear understanding of what happens next in the company’s marketing strategy to convert awareness into purchase intent. Likewise, if building brand advocacy is the goal, make it known to your marketers that you want to build engagement with fans and increase their loyalty.
- Prioritize your marketing strategy. While practically every brand is on Facebook and Twitter, there are many other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat. Brands typically do not have the resources to be on every social media platform, so how do marketers prioritize? They should choose the social media platforms that fit the company’s target audience and brand positioning. Facebook and Twitter tend still reach a broader demographic than Instagram and Snapchat yet, the latter are fantastic if your company sells clothing, food, homes, equipment, etc.
Find markets that complement yours and target their customers. Avoid driving traffic to your competitors’ audience, instead find companies that align with yours. Do you sell homes? Find pool companies or lawn care companies as partners.
- Create social media toolkits. Brand toolkits have become standard procedure for many companies and are effectively used to guide local markets on how to showcase global brands by providing templates and guidance for tailoring content.
In a similar way, some companies are starting to create social media toolkits which include templates for Facebook and Twitter posts. These toolkits will make sure there’s strategic alignment and create a more cohesive brand image across geographies and platforms while reducing the time and resources required to develop social media content.
- Put social media experts on brand and customer teams. When social media operates from a separate group or from a separate place, there is a greater chance of poor integration. Instead, social media experts should be closely linked to the brand and customer teams so they are involved as soon as communication objectives have been established.
This involvement pays off because social media experts are tuned in to the latest platforms and know what approaches generate interest from current and potential customers, fans, and enthusiasts. As a result, these experts can guide brand teams to the most effective results.
- Keep in-house or use an agency? With so much to learn and social media moving at such a fast pace, many companies outsource social media activities to multiple agencies. Some argue that this structure threatens the integration of social media because agencies lack a complete understanding of a company’s marketing strategy.
To combat this, what works well is to have your company sit with your social media advisor and tell them of the highlights and goals your business wants to reach. Your advisor will then formulate a solid plan to make sure your goals are met.
- It’s all about conversions. Social media is one of the very few places where companies can engage with their customers in an ongoing, personal, and real-time manner. If, for example, your customer posts he looking for a particular item, your companies can respond with a tweet containing helpful information or personalized discounts, and/or promotions.
- Just say no. Given the buzz surrounding social media, every brand or customer-facing function likely wants its own Facebook page and Twitter account. Marketing leaders need to hold the line and decide which social media platforms are ideal for a given brand from a strategic and customer point of view. Controlling social media access through a social media group ensures that someone is accountable and knowledgeable about the best ways to use it as part of a company’s or brand’s marketing strategy.
For example, if you own a real estate company you may only want to focus on two platforms. Choose platforms based where you can provide the most value. If you want to host podcasts for your company to share what’s new on the market along with advice, that’s where you should focus your energy.
Despite popular believe you do not need to be everywhere… not in the beginning. 🙂
- Champion integration. For integration to be valued and sought, leaders need to share success stories throughout the organization. Success stories can become part of the company’s ethos and organically influence the integration of social media in marketing activities. Testimonials and stories from your employees are great additions.
- Sort out attribution. If social media is part of a company’s marketing strategy, questions will be raised about its contribution to sales revenue and how it works alone and with other tactics. These are worthy questions and steps must be taken to understand and measure the effects of social media to integrate it with the company’s marketing strategy in the most efficient and effective way. Marketers shouldn’t let these attribution questions keep them from pursuing social media, but instead consider them an opportunity to prove its value.
- Learn from failures. It is easier to experiment with social media than traditional media, your company can test and learn quickly. Also, social media costs tend to be much lower than traditional media, so the losses from failures are less severe. By split-testing your campaigns, your business can more accurately determine which social media posts and campaigns have the greatest impact on their marketing strategies—helping to further integration efforts.
When social media is integrated into your business, then the management of your customers and brand assets are seamless. Strategic elements such as targeting, segmentation, positioning, and all go-to-market activities show a clear and consistent understanding of the value your company offers to your customers and how you aim to capture value from attracting and retaining these customers over time.
The result of social media integrated into marketing strategy is improved efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of the marketing plan.