Every week, I get asked some variation of the question, “HOW do I get started building a social media strategy”. So here is my recipe that I’m happy to share.
To get started, building a social media strategy requires focused thinking sustained over a few days. Not the multi-tasking mayhem that most managers find their daily lives to be, but the kind of focused thinking done in preparation for a major test or when writing a thesis.
Instead of looking for the proverbial silver bullet, block off a few hours for the entire week. Start on a Monday, spend 3 hours alone in a closed door conference room. Immerse yourself in facts and data. Study the market. 2 hours on Tuesday. Study your competitors. 3 hours on Wednesday. Study your customers — both loyal and one-hit wonders to see what might be the difference between them. 4 hours on Thursday to see where they are online and what conversations they are having. And invest 4 hours on Friday to focus your thinking and organize your buckets of findings into hypotheses.
Here is a list of 10 checkpoints to keep the social media strategy development process focused:
1. Keep your objectives tight and reasonable. Don’t try to solve overpopulation when all you need is to neuter your dog. Just talk with likely users and help them to understand how your product or service fits into their life. And DON’T talk to me about demographics. If you are truly embedded within a community (because that’s what social media is), I can guarantee you that the group has not organized around some arbitrary labeling (w:25-54) or income or geography. It’s more likely to be lifestyle-oriented or significant moments in life.
2. Make the social media strategy EASY (because you’ve done all the thinking work, remember). Sharp and succinct like a short story. One of my favorite (CEO) clients used to challenge me with the opening line: I’ve got a new 30 days. What can you help me do to make a difference to my business? That litmus test gets you to clarity very quickly. Same thing with social media strategy. One page, tops.
3. Create the perfect storm between prioritizing what your customers want with your product / service, picking the top 10 places where your customers socialize (check the incoming pages to your web site for some guidance as to where they might be found), and setting the metrics goals for communication.
4. Clearly state your business objective. What do you want customers to DO? Are you looking for prospects or for regular users to put one more item into their cart or make one more trip to your store. And don’t say both because the more you dilute your social media strategy, the less effective it will be. Singular focus and discipline will produce spectacular results.
5. Get engaged with your customers and target audience. Birds of a feather flock together. Learn from them what they want and build a better product or service.
6. Be trustworthy. Approach communities with honesty and respect. Underpromise and overdeliver rather 6han the other way round. Answer the eternal question: why should anyone believe you?
7. Go extreme. Being distinctive is more important than ever when you are engaging within social communities. Read Purple Cow by Seth Godin. Pick out what is important to customers and make it unique.
8. Fail to plan = plan to fail. One of my favorite phrases of all time (it works better with 9 year old girls than 43 year old husbands, BTW). Be first, but more importantly, be the best. Socialmedialand is filled with ‘firsts’ who failed to plan and improve upon their initial business model. Friendster should have been Facebook. Yahoo is imploding while Google is cloud computing.
9. Don’t change your strategy. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Basically — let it ride. In any change bell-curve, people start off excited but then quickly get scared (especially if there is any kind of setback like lowered sales) and want to go back to ‘the old way’. Don’t do it. Declining sales have less to do with the fact you moved your media investment from traditional to social media and probably much more to do with a fickle audience or a new competitor.
10. Review, rinse, repeat. Socialize your product and strategy so frequently that people can lampoon you. The community will LOL with you (not at you) and as long as you can enjoy the fun, your company will benefit (as will your personal reputation).
Remember: strategy is only half the picture. Implementation is the other half which I will address in an upcoming post.