It is necessary to have a cross functional team that reduces inconsistencies across all communication channels. To ensure similar voice and message it is a good idea to have a focused resource that oversees all social media strategy. Consumers expecting a seamless experience need authenticity and reliability from your brand voice across all social networks.
It is important that not only the employees manning your social channels have proper training, but so do the rest of your staff in understanding proper policy. Some things to include in your employee training:
- Documentation of your social channels
- Tracking tools for all social accounts
- Education on brand voice and messaging
- Crisis planning
- Understanding the hierarchy and escalation path for issues
- Ways to share information, such as an internal forum
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Cross-departmental education
- Encourage participation from all departments and all employees
- Continually evolve your training program to meet the needs of your audience and your company
- Clearly define your company’s legal stance related to social media content
- Use breakout sessions to get employees comfortable in the social sphere
- Allow your social media employees to be authentic and creative
- Be sure your social media policies are clearly defined, but not overcomplicated
- Have ongoing education to become masters in social media
Develop Your Brand Voice
Take a cue from your existing style guide that communicates brand presentation, usage guidelines and other forms of brand-related marketing materials. You will need to update such guidelines to account for social media. It should define your brand voice, message, authenticity, and principles.
Authenticity in brand voice is essential to communicating with your audience. Let your employees express themselves in a professional, human voice that reflects the attitude of your brand. This means your brand has to have a clearly defined voice that can be adopted by those employees writing content.
Know Your Audience
The best benefit of social networking is the ability to connect directly with your audience. This requires that your business understand what audience they are speaking to through social media on a more personal level. Real conversations will be had when speaking directly to your consumers through social channels, so don’t be afraid to ask them what their needs are and then look to meet them. A larger audience’s needs will vary, and your content needs to account for that.
Even within each social channel, your audience will change. Write a brief mission for those audiences per social channel. If you can communicate in one or two sentences the profile and purpose of the consumer in each social channel, you will have a much clearer understanding of the content that needs to be provided. Make sure that everything being shared brings knowledge and benefit to your audience about your industry that will be applicable to their own lives.
Consumers expect brands to solve their problems via social streams. Provide service to your consumers through those dedicated channels to promote brand appreciation and loyalty. Understanding the profile and needs of your audience will allow you to efficiently and effectively write for your readers. A community is being creating when you understand your audience and speak directly to them.
Set Your Goals
Set goals for your social media campaigns. To have a successful campaign, first you must outline what is considered “success.” What would you like to accomplish? Is there a particular event, promotion or new product that you would like to communicate to your audience? Different content will accomplish different goals. For example, creating brand awareness will require very different content than improving brand sentiment.
Each goal can be outlined in a few simple sentences with 5 key factors per goal:
- Be Specific. What exactly will this campaign achieve?
- Be Attainable. Is this goal going to happen with the time and resources available?
- Be Realistic. Will you reach your goal with the audience you have?
- Be Timely. Campaigns can be designed for a specific time period or around an event.
- Be Measurable. Always be clear on what will be considered a success and use the technology available to measure throughout your campaign.
By outlining clear and concise goals your campaigns will have a much better understanding of the content required. By creating the right content for the right audience you will be able to measure intended results.
Map out your results-based campaign with these steps:
- Identify your top goal.
- List key tactics or practices you will employ to achieving that goal.
- Identify the tools and technology will you use to get there.
- Assign KPI’s (key performance indicators) to measure results.
Common social media goals include: increased traffic to website, reputation management, brand awareness, and thought leadership.
Design an Effective Channel Strategy
Each social network has its own identifiable value. Each has its own audience, workflow, and benefit. You can create different measures, content and timing for each network. The one thing that needs to remain the same is brand voice. Studies already show that the timing and language of tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook differ and will determine overall reach and engagement.
There is a different audience for each channel and therefore the goals and content will need to shift to accommodate for each network. In your outline of goals and your calendar, account for each social channel. It is not necessary to utilize every channel if it doesn’t fit your goals or reach your intended audience. Any social channel you use needs to be relevant and meet your overall goals.
Plan Your Calendar
Once you’ve identified your goals, audience and brand voice now it’s time to form a strategy. Here is an example six month social media strategy:
Months 1 & 2 – Build and test the tools you will be using for your strategy foundation. That means testing everything from platforms to content. This is a great time to run a small test strategy, so you know your measurement tools and flow are working.
Month 3 – Assign your roles and policies. Test your new social media guidelines and employee policies. Allow for mistakes and learn from them quickly. Make sure you have outlined your crisis plan at this point. Begin learning the industry influencers at this point.
Month 4 – Begin establishing the core networks that will be used, such as a blog, as an example to other employees on brand voice and industry language. Start an internal discussion to gauge adoption and encourage discussion.
Month 5 – This is the point that you need to set a baseline measure for trending and growth goals. Start competitor comparisons in this month. Look for those members of your existing community that are committed to your brand and ask them for feedback. Begin your work on improving usability for your consumer.
Month 6 – Begin your direct social campaigns at this point across your selected social networks. Strike up partnerships with industry experts to broaden your user base. Within your internal channels, gain consistency and feedback from your own team to feed content and brand voice.
Once you have a social plan in place it is important to continue to iterate constantly. Do not just schedule a set of tweets for a day and then walk away. You need to be consistently monitoring your social channels. One of the best benefits about social media is to have the ability to converse and get feedback from your consumers in real time. This requires monitoring and continuous shifting to meet those needs. If you actively listen to your audience, industry experts and monitor your competitors you will learn how to shape your social strategy.
Through active listening you will be able to better monitor:
- Brand Sentiment
- Social Mentions
- Trending Industry Topics
- Industry Influencers
- Consumer Needs
Timely responses to these are critical. If they go unmonitored or unanswered your brand will not be gaining the essential benefits from social media. Your consumers, especially, expect timely responses to their questions and concerns. This can be one more customer service piece.
If you are actively listening and participating in conversations you will reap the most benefit from social and have the opportunity to iterate your social content strategy more quickly to meet the needs of your audience.
Measure Your Engagement
You have a clear set of goals, you are actively listening and the final step is to measure that engagement. This is where you can prove the true ROI of your social media campaigns. There are a number of tools that will allow you to monitor traffic, sentiment, fans, followers, awareness and more. Utilize these tools to measure your engagement. Monitor the performance of each account for a month or two to get the best baseline and then improve your engagement and content strategy.
Measurement is critical in determining the success of a campaign and how to iterate your social strategy persistently.
Once you’ve established the roles and responsibilities of those running your social media campaigns and those overseeing it is important to set editorial guidelines. Along with training, employees need to understand what your brand is willing to discuss and what it is not. It is important to be open and honest in your communication to your audience, but resist the urge to overshare.
If there are multiple people monitoring your social accounts it is very important that there is an editorial hierarchy. Your brand voice and message need to be consistent and accurate. There is a tendency to want to fill up your 140 character limit with all branded messaging, but be sure to leave room for citation and proper backlinks. Not only will you avoid plagiarizing, you will help build your social community.
- Check links
- Double check facts
- Cite Sources
- Avoid Slang
If you do make an error, correct it quickly. Otherwise, your glaring grammar mistake will be the focus of your post instead of the content.
Set out beforehand a list of those who need to be consulted in the case of crisis. Outline what is considered a crisis, so that it is clear when others need to be brought in quickly. One of the best ways to avoid crisis is to develop a decision tree in advance. Lay out “if this, then that” scenarios to make sure your reactions align with your brand values. It is important, here, to understand clearly how your brand reacts in a public crisis. How your brand has reacted in other channels will be your guide (or learning experience) for your brand reaction in social channels.
Do Not delete criticism, but respond with professionalism. Your audience will see if you are trying to censor any negativity. If you respond quickly and professionally you will be showing your consumers that you are listening, and some really great dialogue may emerge.
Do delete spam. It clutters your social sphere and needs to be deleted in a timely manner. Always delete the following comments:
- Violent language
- Hate speech of any form
- Hurtful words that are directed at a particular individual
Understand that it may not be just your brand’s accounts that are scrutinized. Be aware of any employees, board members or affiliations that have social accounts. Have guidelines for your employees regarding their personal and professional social usage. During training make your employees aware of how your organization responds to complaints, leaked information, false rumors, and how to react in the absence of leadership.
In conclusion, remember these best practices:
- Educate your employees on policies and guidelines.
- Know your brand voice and messaging.
- Understand your audience.
- Have clearly defined, attainable goals.
- Calendar your social campaigns in six month stints.
- Use available technology to monitor goals.
- Listen and constantly iterate your social strategy.
- Remember that not all social channels are the same and plan accordingly.
- Have a clear path for escalating crisis situations.
- Do not delete negative comments.
- Do delete spam.
- Be authentic and creative to give your audience benefits from reading your content.