In 2011, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape (remember that?) and investor in companies such as Facebook, Groupon, Skype, and Twitter, wrote: “Why Software is Eating the World.” In this essay, he gives Amazon and Borders (among others) as a dramatic example of a software business eating a traditional business. Although the article is focused on software, there is a greater message (warning) that should be heeded and it is not new: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Remember, Holley Carburetor was a very successful carburetor company until…car manufacturers started using fuel injectors instead. The ‘Software is Eating the World” quote is a sticky one, and since then people have inserted several different topics in place of the word ‘software’. I’ve seen ‘Mobile is Eating the World’, ‘Data is Eating The World’ and more.
In terms of marketing, it has been said that social media is eating the world. Traditional marketing channels are losing (relative) effectiveness at breakneck speed. Gone are the days where being on social media is a choice. To me, the question of whether or not a company should be being present on social media platforms is analogous to workplace attendance. In the human resources arena, absenteeism, as we all know, means an employee doesn’t report for work. Worst case scenario, right? Presenteeism is the idea that he or she comes to work, but they are not productive while they are there. Ehh, better, but not great. Lastly, there are employees that not only show up, but they are effective during their time there. Most supervisors would choose the third employee every time, yes? If we apply this concept to a company’s social media presence, then, there are three categories: 1. companies who aren’t there, 2. companies who are there but aren’t being productive, and 3. those who are there and being effective, that is, achieving their business objectives. So, following with the analogy, I’m not your boss and I’m not here to scold you. I’m your trusted co-worker who is going to cover for you while you catch up. Here are 7 steps you can use to get started or increase your effectiveness if you’ve just been ‘looking busy’ on social media:
Understand your objectives.
Define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This is a fancy way of saying, “I want a, b and c to result from my social media efforts.” Later, you will inevitably ask the question, “Are my efforts working?” In order to effectively answer that question at some point, you need to answer this question now: what does “working” mean for your business? Is it increasing brand awareness? Is it increasing leads? Brainstorm with your stakeholders about what your KPIs will be.
Get to know your audience.
Learn everything you can about your audience. I mean everything. Learn what they read, where they work, what they do after work and what they like to eat. This is crucial. It’s not enough to know their age bracket, gender, geographic area and income range. If you want to be the best at what you do, kick it up a notch and be them. Read what they read, do what they do and eat where they eat. Each target audience not only has a language- it has a specific dialect. The more that you understand about your audience and the way they naturally interact with one another, the more effective you will be in communicating with them – by emulating the way they interact with one another. For example, if you spoke to a group of vegetarians, and said something meant for a group of meat eaters, you would do damage to your credibility, right? Although most times the differences may be not quite as stark as this one, they are just as important. Did you know that a CIA operative was found out because he held his fork in the wrong hand? Details matter. In order to build a presence on their turf, you can’t stick out like a sore thumb. Keep in mind, this is the place people go to look at pictures of their grandkids, ask other moms questions and sometimes just relax and enjoy the infotainment that is social media. They don’t go there to be pitched to. You know the adage, ‘When in Rome’? It works for social media too.
Learn about the landscape.
Pick five brands that you like then five competitors. Don’t think too hard about the first five, it’s subjective. If they interest you, you chose correctly. Observe them on social consistently. Pluck the techniques that catch your eye as a consumer. Think about your business objectives and how to integrate these techniques into your strategy. Then test, iterate, repeat. You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have any favorite brands on social media because I’m never on social media.” What’s that? You want to hit a homerun, but don’t want to practice and you don’t even watch the game?
Determine which platforms are right for your business.
Pick what social platforms you will start with.I recommend starting with Facebook, and one additional platform such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat. Some ways to decide where your business belongs first: go where your customers are. If you are targeting a certain age segment, you’ll want to know what platform they predominantly use. More questions to consider: do you have a visual product? If so, consider Pinterest or Instagram. Is your product or service B2B or B2C? If you are B2B, consider LinkedIn or Twitter as your starting point. Does your brand have a great story to tell? Consider Snapchat. There is no one size fits all template, but there are lots of different winning combinations.
There’s content creation and curation – and you need both. On content creation: it’s been said that content is king. I would tweak that just a bit to say quality content is king. Do not, (I REPEAT) do not create subpar content just to have more of it. It is better to have less if that means it’s interesting, relevant, fascinating, awe-inspiring, top-notch content. On content curation: use websites like Feedly to find interesting content to curate. If you find an article, video, meme or quote that is applicable to your product or service, you can weave it into your social media posts. Interact with the authors and companies in the articles on social platforms for maximum impact. Be sure to add something of value to the topic, to allow the reader to understand why you are involved in the conversation. Then post away. It is most efficient to pre-schedule content using a program such as Hootsuite or Buffer but if you wish, you can post your content direct to each platform.
Schedule and Implement
Post quality content on a consistent basis when your audience is active. Create a calendar with all of your content. Although this may seem like a non-essential step on the social media road to success, I assure you, it is. (I balked at this step, once, too.) The posting schedule can’t be arbitrary. It will depend on three factors, listed in order of importance. First, you must determine when you have an active audience. On Facebook, you can find this out in the insights tab. It will show you when your fans are online. Would you shout at an empty auditorium? Probably not. The same thinking applies here. After that, you will give your best estimate of how much quality content you will be able to create in a given time period. Lastly, you will schedule the content on a consistent basis. If you estimate you will have one quality post a week, I would suggest scheduling it on the same day each week. Audiences respond well to consistency. Quality Content. Consistent Basis. Active Audience.
For starters, evaluate your social performance at the end of each month. Although you can continually keep a pulse on your KPIs, I would discourage changing anything because you don’t see results immediately. Even though social media is wrought with instantaneous moments, the results from your efforts (most times) won’t be instant. A mistake I see happen all too often: stopping an effort before it’s been given a chance to deliver on the KPI. Instead of a checklist (sorry, no one and done), think of these steps as a perpetual process you can use, each time through armed with more and more data. The magic of this process happens between evaluation and KPIs. There, should be tons brainstorming and iteration. You should take what you have learned from completing one cycle and apply it to the next. If you skip this part, you might as well be on a hamster wheel, because your social media will stagnate. And if you want to succeed on social you have to keep moving, because just like New York never sleeps, social never stops.