95% of the customers had a choice when they purchased the product or service in the first place, they had a reason for their selection. The single most successful way to use social media is empowering customers to share that reason and turn it into recommendations. The single biggest challenge: make it actually happen.
It became best practices to create a Social Media Strategy Handbook for each social media project documenting everything including the ultimate goal and purpose, initial market research, SWOT analysis, strategy, programs, actions, social presence, resources, budgets, reporting and the ROI.
We are sharing two examples of those strategy books that were created by attendees of the Social Media Strategist class. One was for Lindt Chocolate and one for a Hotel & Spa in the Caribbean. Non of the information provided here is confidential – everything can be found in the public social web.
Orientation / Assessment
Before we draw a map and decide where we want to go, we need to know where we are. As such we start with a deep assessment exploring where in the social web customers converse, what is on top of their mind, what excites them and what frustrates them. The same is true for business partners, the company’s own team and the competition. The Social Web is a wide open book and a competitor analysis is an especially eye opening project within the social media strategy.
One of the key aspects of good strategy frameworks are that they are scaleable. Whether it is a global consumer goods manufacturer, a local services business or a B2B technology enterprise. The strategy framework should be the same, the content and the result if the strategy however needs to be as completely unique.
SWOT Analysis and Strategy Model
If the assessment is done right and provides pure facts without any emotions or conclusions, a good old SWOT analysis unearths many key drivers for the actual strategy. The overarching goal may be simple: Grow the number of advocates to X amount if people by this or that date – the answer how to make that happens is to a large degree manifested in the assessment.
The strategy part of the social media handbook defines the goal of the whole engagement and it is better a clearly and numerically defined goal that is supposed to be reached within a given time frame. Furthermore we decide the actions we are going to take in order to achieve that goal. To motivate customers do something we have no direct influence over we need to decide well formulated benefits for the market that this strategy is delivering. We furthermore decide the places and space (social presence) we plan to deliver the benefits and we obviously need to decide the resources and the budget requirements including a corresponding ROI. Last but not least we formulate how we measure and report on progress and success to ensure the manageability of a project that no longer is a marketing hobby but one with a serious business impact.
The strategy is not only the road map for the management team but the actual map for the entire team in the company. May it be the product managers who leverage social media for crowd sourcing or product launches, may it be the support team that wants to leverage customer experience to lower support volume and drive down cost, may it be the procurement team that wants to get near real time market trends to optimize raw material purchase or warehouse capacity or any other market facing department within the given organization.
Cross Functional Engagement
The days were social media was a marketing gig are history. Engaging with the market and responding to needs is a responsibility every market facing department has. Why should a customer be motivated to engage when the company’s team is not ready to engage with the customer? It doesn’t mean that the teams spend all their times on Facebook – it means that the market facing teams spend more time with their customers and less time with internal administration. It only happens to be that reaching customers in the social web is easier and faster than trying to leave messages or visiting them.
A well designed strategy provides Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the teams to make sure that there is a good balance of market engagement, response times, fulfilling expectations and again providing the necessary manageability of a social media based business engagement.
Programs, Actions & Presence
The next part of the strategy book contains the necessary programs and actions that are required to achieve the desired objectives. And it describes the presences where those actions should take place. Also here the initial assessment plays an important role: Only if we know where most of the customers engage and how, we know where the company should engage. All too often managers decides the social presence to be where they personally prefer to be active. While LinkedIn for instance is known as a “professional network” most consumers can only be reached in platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others. Also teams will quickly learn that the decision maker and budget holder is usually dependent on the suggestions from their experts – the influencer and they maybe on very different networks. As decisions are to a large degree are made based on those recommendations, sales need to know who the influencer are and engage where they explore solutions.
Resources, Budgets, ROI
Being present in a social network is usually free and building some cools apps on Facebook for instance isn’t really expensive. Even the top monitoring tools cost less that $1,000 a month. So tools and technology cost is negligible. Human resources however is not. Changing internal processes from administration driven jobs to more external and market facing engagement takes resources. Motivating a whole customer base to engage, become an advocate and recommend a product requires to fix those internal problems that should have been fixed long time ago. The lion share of the budget actually has nothing to do with social media but get the organization in shape for an ever more competitive global market – no matter how small and how local a company may be.
Reporting Progress & Success
Making Social Media Manageable
With a well structured plan, methodical approach and strategic engagement it is actually very hard to fail. The structure of the strategy book is constructed in a way that all participating parties know exactly what they are getting into and have a clear understanding what needs to be done to achieve the given objective and results.
Social media monitoring, which helped in the beginning to assess a market is now being used to monitor the activities in a market on an ongoing base. It is used to provide leads for a sales team in a very early stage, it identifies potential issues and problems and is used to constantly monitor the defined KPIs.
The management team is able to leverage social media as an early warning system for changing market trends or upcoming challenges. It also is used as an inspiration engine by watching needs and desires in an early stage and allows to respond before the rest of the market responds.
From random noise to powerful recommendations
Most businesses start in the social web by creating a fan page, tweeting about their solutions, garner some people in groups and steer up some noise. The natural evolution is to create more noise, more people, more fans and more followers. The question arises: Are these fans potential customers? Are all those followers really advocates? Are we solving a business problem? More often than not, the answer is NO. To be successful, Social Media managers and consultants need to move from random campaigns to a more thoughtful and well structured engagement. In our experience, the strategy handbook became a centerpiece of that well structured and manageable process.