How To Create A Social Media Strategy That Makes Sense For Your Bottom Line

When I meet with businesses new to the social space, I always start out with one question: “Why do you want to develop a social strategy?” Typically, the off-the-cuff answer is “Well, because… we have to?”

There’s a sense of anxiety and urgency among many businesses when it comes to social. An anxiety that is difficult to define right away – one without a clear-cut reason behind it.

This anxiety seems to stem from businesses not understanding how social media is tied to business objectives and ultimately their bottom line, so they think they have to be “on social” without really understanding why. Too many teams jump onto the social bandwagon without a strategy and without giving any thought to measurable goals. Sending a deluge of tweets is not enough: businesses have to ensure that each and every tweet, status update and video is linked to their bottom line.

So how do you do this?

Set Objectives

The first thing to do when establishing a social media strategy with real business outcomes is to set objectives.

These objectives go back to the question of why your business is turning to social media in the first place. Do you want to establish a cheaper customer service outlet? Increase sales on your website? Improve brand awareness by integrating yourself into your local community? All of these objectives can be achieved via social media – they just have to be articulated first.

Here are the top five social media business objectives for B2B and B2C companies, from a March 2013 eMarketer survey:

  • Improve customer engagement
  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase content reach
  • Increase sales revenue
  • Increase lead quality

Many businesses skip over identifying their objectives for using social media, and end up launching a campaign without a solid foundation. Sadly, these campaigns usually fizzle out before they gain any traction – and this can often lead to the business retreating into the attitude that maybe they don’t “need social” after all.

Tying social media efforts to clear, realistic, specific and attainable objectives is essential to the success of any campaign.

Define your KPIs

KPI is a fancy marketing acronym that stands for Key Performance Indicators. These are the measurable milestones that show that your company is achieving its goals and objectives. They’re the stats and stories you’d tell your CEO if she asks how the company’s social media efforts are going.

Here’s a bad example of a social media KPI: followers. Far too many businesses still use this as their yardstick for success. They see more followers and assume they’re doing something right… but that only scratches the surface. A better KPI would be clickthrough on links shared on Twitter. And an even better KPI would be leads generated from these clickthroughs.

Each KPI should be tied to your social media objectives, and should be easy for your business to measure. Sentiment, for instance, is a good KPI for some businesses, but for other it is either irrelevant to their objectives or too difficult to measure effectively.

Establish your Tactics

Now for the fun part: how are you going to achieve your social media objectives? Your KPIs will help you create your arsenal of tactics, as you develop a plan for implementing your social media strategy.

For instance, if one objective is to reduce customer support costs and its associated KPIs are fewer phone calls to your call center and more @mentions from customers on Twitter, an associated tactic would obviously be to set up a customer service Twitter account. In addition, you’d want to create a listening strategy to ensure that no customer tweet goes unanswered, and a monitoring strategy to ensure that you really are capturing all customer inquiries.

The tactics portion of your social media strategy will include things like how many and which personnel will perform which tasks; which tools you’ll use; what content you’ll post; how frequently you’ll post and whether you’ll purchase any social ads. It’s the implementation of your strategy, and it should only be articulated after you understand what your objectives are and how you’ll measure them.

Monitor Regularly

Once you have clear objectives, measurable KPIs and well-defined tactics, you’re well on your way to a solid social media strategy that is tied to your business goals. However, no strategy is complete without a monitoring system in place.

To make sure that your tweets are reaching the right audience and your status updates are producing engagement, you must monitor your social media efforts.

I typically recommend regular monthly status updates. Whether you’ll be sharing these with a large team or just creating them for yourself, it is essential that your business understand what’s working… and what’s not.

You’ll want to use tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to see how your content is performing. Since you’ve already created some solid KPIs, it shouldn’t take too long to do a health check on your social strategy – but it is absolutely essential.

Do you have any other tips for creating a social strategy that is tied to business goals? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Image: Dusit/Shutterstock

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