Global internet users spend more than two hours each day browsing social media — a double-edged sword for companies who have the opportunity to reach more consumers, but also have more people to engage with and respond to. To develop your social media strategy, the authors recommend you ask yourself the following questions: 1) What are your goals? 2) Which platforms should you use? 3) What’s your content strategy? 4) Are you ready to talk with your audience — in real time?
Companies of all sizes today are looking to improve the effectiveness of their social media marketing — and with good reason: Digital platforms are constantly innovating the way that brands are discovered, shared and experienced. The data speaks for itself: The number of worldwide social network users is expected to reach 3.09 billion monthly active users by 2021, and global internet users spend some 136 minutes per day surfing social networks. Many organizations have responded by allocating more resources to digital marketing — technology now accounts for 29% of total marketing expense budgets, according to a recent Gartner estimate, and digital ad spend for 2020 is estimated at about $385 billion.
Yet these numbers are a double-edged sword. Consumers today react to products, services and ad campaigns in real-time through social media, creating new demands on organizations. Generating and sustaining high levels of engagement and enthusiasm online requires clarity around the firm’s goals and values.
Successful digital strategies are not about aesthetics or style, but a fit between what your brand promises and delivers. To develop your strategy, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What are your goals?
In the case of startups and niche products, your social media marketing strategy may begin with the need to test ideas, create awareness and build anticipation for new products and services. In other cases, the goals can be far more specific — boosting sales, geographic expansion, increasing real-time brand engagement, or generating quality sales leads.
Once you’ve set your goals, identify your metrics for success. Are you looking to gain “likes”? Do you want to spark an online dialogue around an issue? Or do you want to inspire behavior change, for example, encouraging your followers to recycle? Your metrics must align with your marketing goals.
The sheer volume of available data can make this task challenging. Clearly defined metrics, including a timeline and budget, will ensure that your campaign is on track. Not only do goals allow you to clearly measure your progress, they will also give you a clear answer to the next question that you need to ask which is…
2. Which platforms should we be using?
Decision making around platforms must be rooted in an understanding of your customer’s identity and preferences. Different social platforms appeal to different demographics, and you need to do the research to find out where your target audience hangs out online. For example, younger audiences may be more effectively reached on newer platforms, like TikTok or Snapchat. Health and wellness brands, with their emphasis on aesthetics, may want to develop on a more visual strategy, focused on Instagram. The same logic applies to geography — WhatsApp is popular in India, whereas if you want to reach people in China, you’d need to focus on WeChat or Weibo.
3. What is your content strategy?
Quite often, organizations have the budget, team, agencies, and ideas in place, but they have haven’t thought deeply about content. This leaves both revenue and goodwill on the table: One survey revealed that 46% of consumers reported they follow brands because of the inspirational content. You need to understand what types of content — for example, articles, video, pictures — will drive engagement with your audience. Great content strategies create conversation and sharing with the brand and amongst other users.
Your content should be unique, useful, and shareable. For example, one of the authors (Deepa) is currently working with ArogyaWorld, a global health nonprofit, on a campaign to help establish some common understanding around “eating right” in India. Inspired by the U.S. government’s MyPlate.gov initiative, we worked with a leading design firm to translate the Indian government’s complex nutritional guidelines into a simple picture for both North and South Indian cuisine, showing cooked quantities and meal plan options for various ages and lifestyles. The graphic will be rolled out on social media and in its Healthy Workplace program that cover 3 million employees.
If your content is sensitive, your content strategy should take that into consideration. For example, Techdivine, a firm owned by one of the authors (Ananthanarayanan), once worked with a client in the mental health industry who was concerned about the lack of engagement on their Facebook page. It quickly became clear that most users were not comfortable engaging on this issue on a public platform. We re-oriented the strategy to encourage users to chat with the brand by using private messaging options of social networking sites. We also created resources which allowed people to get answers to their questions securely with expert articles shared via exclusive password access through private chats on social networking platforms.
4. Are you ready to talk with your audience — in real time?
Social media interactions are two-way — driven by both brands and consumers — so your organization needs to show that it is listening and engaging with questions, concerns, and suggestions. Companies that seize a moment can generate brand awareness and goodwill. For example, when a Twitter user recently mocked a South African man who proposed in a KFC, the fast-food chain responded by providing the couple with a wedding planner. Many other brands, including Coca-Cola, Woolworths and Audi, also chipped in to support the couple, showering them with gifts and experiences.
Social media offers brands the opportunity to create memorable experiences. Techdivine, a firm owned by one of the authors (Ananth), once saw a tweet from someone travelling from Manhattan to Chicago for the first time, mentioning that she was looking for something spicy to eat. We looked back at her earlier tweets, which hinted at an interest in arts. So, on behalf of our client, a restaurant based out of Chicago, we welcomed her to the Windy City and even shared links to some interesting art events and activities around the city. We made sure, not to pitch our restaurant prematurely. Curious to know who we were, she thanked us for our tweet and inquired about our restaurant. At this point, we sent her a beautiful collage of some popular spicy dishes that the restaurant served, along with a map and a deal she could unlock if she visited the restaurant and tagged the brand by checking in. Needless to say, what followed was a visit, not only from her, but many others who saw this conversation online.
Brands today, have a much bigger ability (and responsibility) to inspire and connect with consumers. Trusted brands are more likely to attract business, and social media is a powerful tool to create engagement, gain feedback, and build that trust with your audience. By answering the above questions, you can ensure that your social strategy aligns with your goals and adds values for your users.