Social media has become a part of our everyday lives, no longer limited to just sharing funny videos or your vacations pictures, we have seen it go on to change the outcomes of elections, climate change awareness and make Gangnam Style hit over a billion views. It has evolved to become the largest marketing tool used by businesses to reach their target audiences since the advent of the printing press. While mainstream media still has the majority market share of advertising dollars spent, social is fast eroding that advantage every day and requires a considered and focused approach to be successful in the fast-paced and ever-changing digital landscape.

Due to the fluid nature of our world and by extent social media, we have tried to make this guide as comprehensive as possible to apply across various markets and platforms as well as the future as some of the ones we use today may not be around in a few years. By following a few basic principles, you will be able to navigate them and achieve the results you require, regardless of which you decide to use. In this ever evolving world of social, you must have the flexibility to change with the environment but more importantly your target audience. Even the best of content will do nothing to help your brand if they don’t see it.

 

1. PLAN.

Before you send that first post/tweet/blog/snap you NEED to have a “social strategy”. Your strategy will be your brand’s Bible, guiding where you post, on what platforms, what method you will use (video, images, GIF’s etc) but more importantly WHO you will be targeting and HOW you will be communicating with them. Your brand’s “voice” is vital in this aspect, as it will dictate how you will interact with the public and present yourself appropriately. Your strategy will also have your goals and guidelines for your brand, always keeping you pointed towards your objective even if you have new additions to your team our your brand’s approach to social changes.

Going hand in hand with the social strategy will be your roadmap for all your brand’s activities, the content calendar. Using one in your execution will prove invaluable if you don’t already. It allows a bird’s eye view of your approach online by breaking down your posts by date, time, and platform. When combined with a scheduling tool, this allows you to set your posts in advance, assuring they will be delivered on the correct time, freeing you to focus on moderation and communication with your audience as well as analysis of your approach. A content calendar also comes in handy for larger teams, allowing multiple people access to the same information and ensuring your brand stays on the same page at all times.

 

2. EXECUTE WITH EXCELLENCE.

The sheer quantity of traffic on social media can make it difficult to get your message heard above the noise so it is vital that you set yourself apart from your competitors if you wish to be successful. While not everyone has digital campaigns with huge budgets and massive production resources, you can make your work the best it can be. Just by spending a little extra time and effort to ensure that your content is as creative and contextually sound as possible, you will stand head and shoulders above the masses and make your job just that much easier. Learn to make the best use of the tools available and stay up to date with changes in the industry, what worked 6 months ago may not still be effective. Pay close attention to your grammar and ensure that your content is culturally relevant.

While most of us do have a Facebook account, not everyone knows how to use social media as effectively and efficiently as you would require for your brand. If you don’t have the time or resources to do your own social media, you should find someone who is. This doesn’t mean you have to hire the biggest agency available but you should ensure even if it’s a member of your internal staff that they have an understanding of how social media works and be able to add value to your brand.

If your brand has a presence on several social media platforms, be as consistent as possible. Use the same or similar names, artwork and graphics. While each platform has it’s own specifics in terms of image size and resolution, by keeping your art consistent, you can help build your brand’s awareness even more.

“Don’t practice till you get it right, practice till you can’t get it wrong.” – Dr. Olive Lewin

 

3. PAY TO PLAY.

Marketing has always been about getting the right message to the people that you want to hear it and in the social world, it’s the same. The key advantage this time is that not only can you target very specific audiences in some instances but you can see the actual conversion rates as opposed to running a full-page ad in a newspaper and even with a promo code, you’d still be guessing what your actual metrics would be. Get acquainted with the ad platforms your brand uses and get a lot more bang for your advertising dollar. Even among the various social media networks, advertising costs and strategies can vary tremendously. The same applies to internet marketing as well, if you are using banner ads in 2017 chances are while it will be prominent, very few people will engage with it and even more will dislike it because it gets in the way of their content. Still not convinced? When you’re watching Youtube, do you watch the ads with interest or click SKIP AD because you want to watch your content? Be creative in how you craft, where and how you execute your ads on social and I guarantee that you will see success in just that action.

Increasingly we are seeing more and more platforms, lead by Facebook use algorithms to sift through the torrent of content that is increasing by the minute with ads are becoming the best way to get your voice heard and build your audience. Even on platforms that still have an organic timeline, ads are an excellent tool for reaching exactly who you want to target. Targeting is yet another benefit of advertising on social, allowing you to focus with extreme detail on exactly who you would like to reach. This is a topic that you should spend as much time as you can understanding, even if you make mistakes, the benefits gained far outweigh any time spent watching and learning. The cost to advertise on social media is a mere fraction compared to traditional media and should be a part of if not integral to your brand’s social strategy. As the market continues to shift towards social, expect the gap between them to decrease.

 

4. LISTEN!

While most brands see marketing as how to get their message heard and seen, the key to social success is listening. The reason for this is that with the interactivity afforded by online interactions, brand marketing is driven by the ability to have one to one communication with them. Customers want to feel the brands they are interacting with have a genuine interest in them on their terms so our approach must adapt to fit into the changing marketplace.

Use the tools available to you to find the people talking about your brand, learn more about them and engage them in a meaningful way. Don’t be in a rush to push your message either, it has been proven time and time again that by giving to your audience, you build more brand affinity than simply requesting engagement. This presents added value as your audience will see the time and effort taken to address their concerns. A happy customer that feels valued is a far better advertiser of your services that any ad or promotion you can run.

 

5. MEASURE.

After setting up your social strategy and content calendar, you will need to see if your approach is working. It is important to measure the success of your social media strategy as you execute to ensure that you are reaching your objectives. Again, one of the distinct benefits in the digital landscape is that you can measure everything. Not sure what time is the best time to post, well try different times of day and see which gives you the most impact. If you are running ads, don’t be afraid to try various versions to see which ones give you the results you are looking for. Sometimes just changing a few words for your post can mean a massive difference in how it is received. You can use the native insights in many of the social platforms but there are a plethora of third-party apps that offer that functionality as well. Explore and experiment to see which ones work best for you. Nothing is written in stone and the seas of change are constantly changing the social landscape.

 

6. BE AUTHENTIC

In the same way that someone can hear you smiling as they hear your voice over the phone, it’s the same way that the public will react to your brand’s messages in the digital space. The first key to authenticity is honesty, so be yourself. You will use the social strategy you developed as your guide in how you proceed and some brands may have restrictions on how much personality you can add so always be aware of that. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is better to take some time and ensure you have the correct information instead of rushing to have a quick response. Likewise, when fans of a brand see that they are not just interacting but listening and then acting on the feedback, they become even more loyal and supportive.

7. PLAN FOR THE WORST

You have created an awesome social strategy that the client loves, your content calendar is well organised and scheduled and interactions with the fans are going great….until something goes wrong and you need to find a solution. Even when you have executed your strategy flawlessly, things can go wrong at any time and often outside of your direct control. From natural disasters to bad customer service or crisis management, you should have mechanisms in place for when things don’t go quite as you planned. Each brand will have different approaches to a crisis but the key is to have a plan of action to deal with the issues that present themselves. When a crisis does arise, it is best to get in front of it and handle them as quickly and appropriately as possible.

You can decrease the chances of this happening by having systems in place to ensure your brand’s integrity is properly maintained. One crisis that has hit several brands around the world has been inappropriate posts ranging from racist, offensive or combative originating from their social media. It is vital that the people who you entrust your brand’s social media have a clear understanding of the guidelines set through in your social strategy. Do your due diligence when recruiting and ensure these individuals are fully briefed on what is expected of them and trained if necessary. Take your time and plan, have oversight at all times to maintain your brand’s integrity. Clear and constant communication between team members is vital to the pain-free execution. The reputation that has taken decades to build can be destroyed in a moment by an error in judgment, so don’t leave it to chance.

 

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