The world has changed how it communicates. Social media means that our people — our workforce, our clients, our investors — are actively telling people who we are and what we stand for. Today the biggest risk associated with social media is the risk of not having a presence. What messages does this send? To start with, it shows you aren’t keeping up with how your customers expect to be able to access information and communicate with you.
Social media is about being social. It thrives on relationships. And your people want — and expect — to be able to engage with you via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, as well as via email, messaging apps and over the phone. They want to read your blog, watch your videos and listen to your podcasts.
Social media provides us with opportunities to influence and build trust. It provides a platform for organisations and leaders to share stories, ask questions, provide information and solve our customers’ problems. We can use it to build brand awareness, influence purchasing decisions, and share thought leadership.
However, above all, social media allows us to connect. And when we are connected we have stronger relationships, generate better results and have higher revenue.
…connection is even more important than communication.
There are six main reasons your organisation — and your leaders — should be using social media:
1. To communicate
Social media allows you to communicate what’s happening in your organisation and your broader community in real-time. Encourage your leaders to share their thoughts on your company intranet, and by using audio and video technology to reach your people. If you’re wanting to communicate and engage with a younger audience, then using social media will help.
2. To connect
Personally, I believe connection is even more important than communication. Because when you are connected with people they want to know more about you, they listen more carefully, and they are more inclined to want to help you and to buy from you. Social media is a fabulous way to build real and lasting connections that transcend online into the real world.
3. To share your expertise
Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others’.
One of the most generous acts we can undertake is to share our knowledge and expertise. Do you have a company blog? Or YouTube channel? Or podcast? How can you best share knowledge and information that helps your customers solve their problems? When you share your expertise — as an organisation and as an individual — you are helping others, and this is an excellent way to become known as an industry leader.
4. To demonstrate your purpose
By 2020 millennials will make up 50 per cent of the workforce. They have a very strong sense of social justice and want to work for organisations whose purpose is about a whole lot more than making money. However, research by Deloitte indicates most millennials believe businesses and their leaders are solely focused on the dollar. Furthermore, many other employees also want to work for an organisation whose values align with theirs, and who have a clear sense of purpose. Use your social media channels to share stories and case studies that demonstrate who your organisation is and what you stand for.
5. To attract better people
CEOs and leaders of organisations that use social media are more likely to be seen as employers of choice. Encourage your leaders to use social media — especially LinkedIn — to share stories, to talk about your organisational goals and values (and their personal ones), and to share what it’s like working with them. Also share what you do for fun at work, how you cope when times are tough, and what your people think of working for you. Demonstrate your values at work, which will help you attract the right people.
6. To show your personality
People do business with people they know, like and trust. The more you can show your brand personality, the more people are going to want to be connected to you, work with you and buy from you. Video is an excellent way to build trust, so create and share video content (and selfie videos!) and stories so people can get to know you and your people. Video doesn’t need to be slick and highly produced, creating content using a smartphone is all that’s expected for video content shared on social media.
Everything you do on social media should be helping you achieve your overarching goals and be aligned to your mission and values.
Developing a social media strategy
Organisations with the greatest success using social media have a clear and well-thought-out strategy in place. It needs to align with your strategic intent and be integrated into your business and marketing strategies. Everything you do on social media should be helping you achieve your overarching goals and be aligned to your mission and values.
Your social media strategy should include the following sections:
Introduction — if your social media strategy needs to be signed off by your senior management team or board, and they don’t have a strong understanding of the value of using social media, then consider including data from the Yellow Social Media Report outlining how Australians use social media.
Other information for this section includes: an overview of environmental and market trends; an analysis of what your competitors are doing; an overview of where your organisation sits with its current social media use; how your social media strategy aligns with your strategic plan; a brief overview of the social media activities you currently undertake; and any internal issues you need to highlight.
Goals — what do you want to your social media strategy to achieve? You want your goals to be SMART — specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time based. Remember, these goals are specifically for social media. These will quantitative (such as increasing social media reach and engagement) and qualitative (improving customer sentiment). You might also want to have some goals around how much your senior executive use social media to build relationships.
Target audience — it’s important you are clear on who your target audience is, as this impacts the type of content you create and where you share it.
Who is your audience? Are they clients/customers, prospective clients/customers, staff, your board, your suppliers, media, educators, academics, politicians, or a combination or all of these? Know when and where your audience hangs out on social media. Be as specific as you can, as this will save you time and money when developing content. If you don’t know, ask them. Conduct a survey, ask them in your newsletter, ask at your events, phone your key influencers and customers and ask them.
Social media channels and tactics — there is a common misconception that organisations need to be across every social media channel there is. You don’t. If your organisation is new to social media then start with one. There are many options, but your main choices are: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Snapchat.
Choose the channels where your target market spends the most time. For each channel you choose, identify the audience, how frequently you will post, the purpose of posting to that channel, the type of content, any budget required, and how you will measure success. As well as deciding on which social media channels to use, you need to decide how many accounts you want per channel. Today there is also an expectation that CEOs and senior leaders will also be active on social media — particularly on LinkedIn.
Content — creating content that resonates with your audience is essential. This tends to be content that solves their problems and has some call to action. Resist the urge to consistently share content that has a sales focus. Mix up the type of content — use words, images, video and audio. Plan your content and consider creating an editorial calendar that looks at what is happening in your market as well as key events and activities within your organisation.
Risk analysis — if your organisation is risk averse a risk analysis can help mitigate fear. Demonstrate you have thought about what could go wrong and articulate the steps you will take to mitigate the risks. An excellent way to mitigate social media risk is to have a social media policy that spells out what is and is not acceptable in terms of language, image use and content in general. This should cover your official social media accounts as well as what staff can and can’t say about your organisation on their personal social media accounts. Your social media policy should align with your code of conduct, and be regular training should be included in your staff induction and training programs.
Resource management — although it’s free to use social media platforms, there is a cost in terms of time. Many organisations outsource elements of their social media management, which costs money. And then there are fees for third-party tools that make life easier — tools such as image-creation and editing sites; video-editing software; stock photos or photo shoots; scheduling tools; and social listening tools. How much or how little you use these tools depends on the size of your organisation, and whether you can get by with free versions or require more sophisticated and expensive paid versions.
An action plan — arguably, the action plan is the most important part of your strategy. In its most simple form, your action plan is a to-do list. More sophisticated action plans include fancy excel spreadsheets with many columns. Regardless of what you choose, your action plan should set out who does what and when, what and how content is created, where and when it is posted, and the metrics for each. Make sure everyone responsible for an action knows what is expected of them.
Measurement and metrics — as a minimum you need to consider metrics that gauge likes, comments and shares, reach, the nature of engagement (positive, negative, supportive, etc.), and the traffic driven to your website.
Social media may appear overwhelming, but we need to remember that, at its heart, it’s about connecting and communicating with the people we want to build relationships with. Invest the time to create a strategy and then spend some time each day having conversations and getting to know the people you’re connected with. The more you get to know your people, the more they will get to know you, like you and trust you.