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How social are you? 5 steps to the perfect social strategy

Posted on 2nd November 2011 under Social

I have a firm belief that in five to ten years time, we’ll no longer refer to media as ‘social’. That’s because everything we do will be social by its very nature. We’re already seeing social functionality dominate much of what we do online, from shopping, consuming news to listening to music. But how equipped are brands to cope with this uber social future?

Not very! That’s if the results of a recent study we have conducted are correct. For the second year in a row, we’ve taken the fastest growing technology companies in the UK and benchmarked how they are using social media.

We found that, despite an increase in the number of social channels that are being used (and, in particular, a substantial take-up of Facebook amongst B2B companies), the vast majority of the companies we looked at are failing to use these channels to actually be social.

Only 31% of those with a Facebook account used it to engage with users. And of companies that had a blog, only 20% received comments and only one company replied to comments received.

Twitter saw the highest levels of engagement overall. Of the 41 companies with a Twitter account, 68% used it to build relationships with followers. However, on average, only 14% of tweets were replies and 14% were retweets.

Stuck in the one-way push marketing techniques of the past, it seems brands are still largely ignoring the opportunity to use social media for the explicit function that sets it apart.

So what is the answer?

Going back to basics with your social strategy

Anyone tasked with managing social media will be familiar with the feeling when a client or CEO comes and says, ‘I think we need to be doing more on social networks’. The easy answer to this quandary is to set up an account and just start sending out the odd message every now and again. And it seems as though that is exactly what many companies have done.

But, I’d suggest a more strategic approach is needed.

Here are the key questions to ask:

1. What’s the objective?

From customer service and customer engagement to driving sales and media outreach, social media can be used for a vast array of different business tasks. So it’s important to think about which one/s are important to you.

2. How will you build a community?

Having an objective is one thing, but if no one is listening to you, you’ll never achieve it. Building or tapping into a community is therefore an important first step. So find where your audience is, listen to what they are saying and begin to reach out to them.

3. What are you going to say?

Content is key. You could have the best community in the world, but if you’ve got nothing to say, you won’t be able to engage in conversation.

4. Who’s going to manage it?

Deciding who will run and manage your social media activity will again depend on what you are trying to achieve and who your audience is. Invest in training and find the right people – internally and/or externally – for the job.

5. How will you measure success?

As with all types of marketing and PR, if you can’t measure outputs, outcomes and impact, you’ll never know whether it is working. Agreeing metrics in advance and review them on a regular basis to help you work out whether it’s working.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to social media. It takes a carefully thought through strategy and equally considered execution. Get this right and you’ll be well on your way to capitalise on the social future that is just around the corner.