In the year of the social media revolution, we've seen many brands, organizations, and individuals jump in and make a concerted effort to expand their presences online and establish their social media footprints. Some of these brands have done a great job and really understand the importance of social media in getting people aware and engaged -- while others are latching on to the newest trend and, perhaps, going through the motions to keep up with the Joneses.
Among the more than 3 million businesses creating Facebook pages and groups -- not to mention millions of special-interest and community-driven blogs, up to 70 percent of which blog about brands -- many have failed to connect the dots in terms of how to use these platforms effectively. Many brands fail to leverage social spaces to drive awareness and engagement among their customers and fans. They simply aren't having conversations about their brands in the places their audiences share most.
To provide a little background on me: I run a social media marketing agency (KARMA Media Labs) that helps organizations and individuals connect with target audiences and build word of mouth in the communities where they live. In my time working with partners to outline social media strategies, I've seen many assumptions and preconceived notions about social media -- what it is, how to use it correctly, and how it fits into a brand's overall marketing and media strategy.
So how do you know your brand needs an extreme social media makeover? Here are some top signs, misconceptions, and pitfalls I've encountered when diagnosing a social media emergency.
Your social media marketing campaigns are short term.
I've seen a lot of brands and partners make the mistake of planning a social media marketing campaign for the same window of time as they would an online advertising campaign. To really benefit from social media marketing, it has to be a long-term commitment.
Social media marketing has a large residual value because the content posted by influencers stays online for long periods of time, and interactions with this content continue to accrue over time. Ultimately, the longer the content stays up, the longer your audience has to engage with it, and the longer search engines have to find it. Social media campaigns should last longer than a few weeks. You should start the process by listening to what is being said about your business or brand, connecting with those having conversations and building trust, and fostering long-term relationships and word of mouth.
Takeaway: If your social media campaigns are short term, you might want to rethink your strategy.
A Facebook page and Twitter profile is the extent of your social media strategy.
Many people equate social media with social networks. While it's important to harness the word-of-mouth nature of social communities, social media marketing is so much more than how you're represented in social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Tapping into the power of influencers, bloggers, and tastemakers who specialize in your cause or subject matter is something that is equally important. Those who place their stamps of approval on your brand generate awareness among their readerships. Likewise, it's important to tap into the power of conversation and, when possible, engage in dialogues with consumers who are talking about you or your brand.
Takeaway: If blogger relations, influencer outreach, and conversational marketing are not being considered in your social media strategy, you might want to think again.
You're not using social media because it might open the door for negative feedback about your brand.
As long as social media continues to grow and become a mainstream mode of communication, negative comments about your brand are inevitable -- and most likely already taking place. Fear of negative feedback holds many companies back from using social media, but what many fail to realize is that addressing those comments -- and doing so quickly -- shows your customers that you're listening and that you care. Managing your reputation is the key to connecting to your audience.
Takeaway: By listening and responding to your customers, not only do you demonstrate that you care, but you also take advantage of a huge opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
An intern handles all your social media efforts.
Does a company really need senior level involvement or outside help to execute social media marketing, or can a team of interns do it? While it might not be a bad decision to have junior-level staff managing your Facebook and Twitter updates, reaching your target audience requires focusing on more than just how you're represented in social networks.
Tapping into the power of influencers, bloggers, and tastemakers who specialize in your cause or subject matter is something that requires an element of skill. You're up against a lot of clutter and competition when it comes to getting your messages and calls to action heard. Thus, it's wise to have a strategic game plan that defines where your brand will be represented, how consumers will engage with you, and the likelihood they will spread the word. From a day-to-day execution standpoint, interns can absolutely have a role in updating content and making sure your audience is engaging with your brand and content through social channels. But higher-level strategy is required.
Takeaway: From a strategic standpoint, it's important to involve skilled senior-level marketing specialists who understand the nuances of social media and how it fits into the overall business plan.
Your competition generates more online buzz than you do.
Are you listening to what your customers and fans are saying about you online? Are you measuring and incorporating this feedback into your overall marketing plan? Putting your ear to the ground and assessing your online buzz is not only important in assessing brand sentiment, but it also helps identify opportunities where you can get your message in front of people who are likely to share your message with others.
As mentioned in my earlier article ("Social media tools that marketers shouldn't miss"), there is an abundance of social media tools -- some paid, some free -- that can help you get your arms around the level of buzz surrounding your brand, as well as your competition.
Takeaway: Don't let your competition beat you in the social media game. By incorporating social monitoring into your marketing strategy, you'll have a better sense of consumer feedback and an opportunity to expand word of mouth.
You've allocated a large portion of your marketing and media budget to social media.
Many people assume you have to spend a lot of money to generate awareness through social media. This isn't necessarily true. While some campaigns and tactics do require larger budgets than others, you can actually spend very little money -- as compared to more traditional media -- to make a big impression. Many of our brand clients that have managed traditional and online media buys have a preconceived notion that the same kind of budget and media dollars is required for social media marketing. But visibility through social media and word of mouth doesn't have to be bought.
Takeaway: If you're effectively leveraging your assets and information, the currency you need to gain visibility isn't money -- it's content.
Your company does not have a social media policy.
Social media has become a mainstream mode of communication; thus, companies need to recognize that not only are their customers talking about them online, but their employees are as well. When companies set up their social media programs, they also need to establish corporate guidelines for communicating in the online social space.
It's up to companies to recognize that the social web has new implications for their brands. Every person within the organization has a personal brand, and those personal brands become folded into the company's brand. And yet, it's not something you can fully control.
Takeaway: Companies should train their employees on best practices and effective use of social tools.
Your video strategy consists of repurposing your 30-second spot.
Brands need to understand that telling engaging and compelling stories is what works on the web -- not hard corporate sells. Your customers are more likely to engage with and share interesting videos, and this type of content can live forever, continually promoting your brand.
Whether you're a part of a larger company, a standalone brand, or just a start-up company that believes in itself, make a video about the work you do, what it means to you -- and get it to as many people as you possibly can. If the concept for the video is clever enough, there's no end to how many people might see it across the globe -- and pass it along to their friends.
Takeaway: People love a good story, so why not get your story out there?
All interactions with your video occur on your website.
Nothing frustrates me more than when I see brands and entertainment properties pushing content on their websites and stripping that content off of blogs and communities. By limiting viewing options to a corporate website, brands are limiting the potential for fans to engage with the content in popular social channels. Engagement on social channels creates more conversation, word of mouth, and potential for tune-in. At the end of the day, while consumers might or might not view your content on your website, it's equally -- if not more -- important to make sure the content reaches them where they engage.
Takeaway: It's not about more traffic on your properties -- it's about more traffic in the minds of your consumers, regardless of the channels they're using to consume your brand.
Your social media efforts are minimal because they can't be measured.
Not a week goes by that I don't see yet another article or blog post bemoaning the fact that social media marketing cannot be measured. Such articles and blogs usually tout a new "revolutionary" way of measuring word of mouth.
Social media marketing can be measured, and most campaigns can be evaluated on an ROI basis. The biggest reason why social media isn't measured properly is because companies do not take the time to define what their social media goals are in measurable terms that enable them to determine what their success metrics are. Word of mouth, social media, and non-traditional online marketing analytics are just as accurate as traditional offline and online analytics. However, because the marketing methods themselves are new, their measurement has not been standardized as it has with more-traditional types of media.
Takeaway: You cannot manage what you do not measure, and you cannot measure what you do not define.