STEP 1: Workshop business goals to find social connections.
Companies investing in social media should start with a clear roadmap to understand how social media can impact business goals. It is a powerful marketing tool, and depending on the line of business you’re in, can have utility beyond marketing. It’s critical discuss what success looks like with your stakeholders – who are you trying to connect with and why? It can be helpful to pose questions like, “what are we adding to the social media landscape that doesn’t exist already;” “what challenges do our target audiences face – how do they use social media to find solutions; “what outcomes do we expect to see from building/participating in online communities.”
Businesses that skip this step will spend more time and money on social media marketing, with less return for their effort. Social media has the power to deliver on business goals, so it’s a sound investment to establish social media goals that support those of your business.
No other marketing platform is as fluid or difficult to quantify success with than social media, so it’s important to have a point of true north to help you stay focused on tactics that move the needle. This can be a challenging exercise, particularly for B2B companies. But almost every company out there is still run by humans, and humans are social, so with a little work any company can build connections between your business goals and the human experience — at the intersection of a successful social media strategy.
A great example of a company doing this step well is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA may not seem relevant to social media at all. No one is experiencing FOMO (fear of missiong out) when it comes to airport security. No one is whipping out their iPhone to take selfies in the security line. But the TSA has somehow managed to build an enviable following of about 1 million Instagram followers by posting behind-the-scenes stories of items found in security, travel tips and “aww”-producing photos of its K-9 task force. TSA has developed a personal and witty tone, and has found a way to translate what you might think would be a boring, rigid social media channel into a highly entertaining, informative experience that adds value to my Instagram scroll.
Using Instagram, TSA has humanized its brand, which in turn has the potential to change public perceptions of the TSA experience. Yes, it’s airport security and there will be lines and cranky people and generally TSA can’t do much to make the experience pleasant, but thanks to its thoughtful social media content, I have another view of the TSA that’s positive. And believe it or not, I do have FOMO if I don’t see those cute, determined drug-sniffing dogs in my feed regularly.
STEP 2: Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to connect social wins to your larger marketing goals.
Social media marketing efforts have to be connected to business results beyond vanity metrics and soft measures for engagement, particularly when you start using them as part of your paid media mix. Facebook reported $16.6 billion in ad revenue in the second quarter of 2019. Don’t contribute to that revenue without getting something valuable to your business in return.
To help maximize the value of social media and justify the time and energy you’re putting into it, simplify your measurement systems and ensure they are connected to your goals (see Step 1). Companies can’t afford to take anecdotal highlights as signs of success.
The specific metrics you focus on will depend on your goals, but here are a few that we recommend building into your measurement system:
Rate of audience growth: Look beyond the total number of fans/followers and make sure you are focused on growth. Track net followers divided by total audience to get your growth rate.
Reach: This is a good metric to track for overall exposure; it’s also helpful to monitor this metric over time as it’s usually the one most impacted by changes in social media algorithms. While you can’t do anything to control for that, it’s good to have a gauge on how much those x-factors are impacting your social media strategy.
Engagement rate: This measure can be hard to define, but if you anchor these metrics to specific goals social engagement, can influence the bottom line. Here are few ways to measure engagement:
Amplification: Think of amplification as how far your content can reach beyond your audience, as measured in shares or retweets.
Conversation: Conversation is important to track the relevance of your brand. It’s measured by tracking the number of @ mentions you receive, directly or indirectly, across networks.
Affinity: Affinity accounts for the traditional “like” and/or other options for positive sentiment, depending on the platform, as measured by the number of likes.
Click-Through Rate (CTR): This metric can be tricky because a low CTR may not necessarily correlate to poor performance. Social media is good to prime your audience, but it’s not a great platform for conversion. Nevertheless, social media should fuel your sales funnel, which is why CTR is good to track.
Avinash Kaushik’s blog has several resources on this topic of measurement.
STEP 3: Build a social content strategy that’s rooted in audience insights.
Aside from having clear and measurable goals, audience is the next most important thing to build a successful social presence. You have to know what type of people you’re engaging with.
There may be as many as 3.4 billion social media users out there. Even the most successful social media superstars can’t reach a fraction of that. Although social media is designed for content to spread to everyone, it’s important to approach your content strategy with a realistic outlook and create content that will engage your core audience. To do that, you’ve got to know what moves them, what motivates and inspires them, what excites them, what makes them happy or sad. This insight is critical to your ability to publish content that resonates.
STEP 4: Be your most creative, authentic self.
We’ve talked a lot about the value of planning, but don’t forget that the real power of social media is how quickly it moves. You can afford to experiment, to push the boundaries a little bit. Social media has its own set of standards in the marketing world — things you might never say or do on your website can work great on social media. I like to think of social media as a sandbox that offers much more latitude to be creative, as long as you don’t venture so far outside the box that you don’t look and sound like yourself.
This authenticity can also be a difficult thing to hone in on, particularly if you have multiple people or an agency running your accounts. Our advice is to develop or adapt your style guide for social media to create some guide rails for what is authentic to your brand on this platform. (Note: A social media style guide might look very different from a corporate style guide, and that’s a good thing!)
This is also a good place to mention those social media moments that go astray — the well-intentioned employees who forget they are posted to the business account instead of their personal account; or those who aim for a witty joke but instead come off as culturally insensitive; or those pesky typos where a misplaced letter can carry a lot of weight. You can’t avoid it all, but a good rule of thumb we abide by: When in doubt, leave it out.
STEP 5: Commit to being active.
Quality social media comes from regular attention and activity. As I mentioned previously, it’s tricky to find that sweet spot with social media where you’re dedicating just the right amount of time and energy to get a return. I don’t think there is any magic equation to how many times per hour, day or week you should post. Most companies have complex algorithms that make that type of standard pointless to consider.
My advice to clients is to commit to being active. You don’t have to put a ton of energy into creating native content, as long as you are active on social platforms daily and engage with other users (e.g., commenting on industry news or sharing content you think is valuable to your followers).
I have a friend who’s a successful social media influencer. She started out sharing pictures and recipes of the food she was making for her baby. Her following grew quickly. She published a bestselling book of her recipes. Her social media audience continued to explode. She published her second book and then felt burnt out by the demands of posting every day. She went off social media for a long time. I loved her account and regularly visited her site for recipes, but when she stopped posting, I didn’t notice she was gone.
My point here is that no one is paying attention to what you don’t post. You’re only as relevant as the content you put out, so post content that’s thoughtful, meaningful and adds value to your audience. Post as often as your resources allow and measure your results to ensure your social media presence is moving the needle.