Thursday, 14 August 2014

Getting started with social media - an essential guide for beginners

Identify your existing audience

Social media enables you to reach out to new audiences, grow your markets, and network in new circles. Why then, do you need to identify where existing customers and contacts hang out? There are two good reasons for this: 

1.  Growing a social media channel can be hard work. People are less likely to follow, like, or share content from a name or brand they are unfamiliar with, or have not interacted with before. Connecting with an existing audience will give you that all important head start when trying to get a social media channel off the ground. Having them like, follow, or share your information will allow you to harness their contacts – amplify your messages, and growing your audience organically.
2.  You need to look after your existing customers in order to realise their lifetime value – it is more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Social media is an added ‘touch point’ through which contacts interact with your brand – it will remind them that you exist, reinforce your key messages through a drip, drip, drip of information, and persuade them to follow your calls to action.

Finding your existing contacts

It is well known that different demographic groups hang out on different social networking platforms. Pew Research Center provide some informative and insightful statistics on this topic.

Therefore, you need to decide which segments of your audience to seek out.  To help you decide on this, you may want to examine your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, or stakeholder database, to find out what information you hold on existing contacts.

Tools like Socialeyezer allow you to identify which social networks your target demographic audience hang out on.

Next, examine whether the platforms you are considering are increasing or decreasing in popularity for your target audience. Do you remember articles like this - highlighting the number of young people movingaway from Facebook (11 million since 2011)?

Of course, these methods will help you identify the demographics of people that are already engaged, to some extent, with your brand. Your objectives probably include growing your audiences and extending your reach in one or more of the following ways: 

1.  Retain existing customers, and continue to sell them the same products or services (market penetration).
2. Identify and engage new customers, and continue to sell products and services from your current range (market development).
3.  Promote a new product or service to existing customers (product development).
4.  Promote new products and services to new customers (diversification).

Define your social media objectives

It is really important for you to stop and think about what you want to achieve by having social media channels. What does success look like? Knowing what you are trying to achieve should determine the methods and tactics you use to get there. For example, if your objective is to increase website traffic, you may measure the cost per click of advertising campaigns; if your objective is to have people sign-up to a newsletter, you may measure cost per acquisition instead.

Having clear objectives will also help you to identify key messages, decide on tone of voice, timings and frequency of postings, channels to use, levels of engagement required, and so on.

Objectives can be wide ranging and may include: 
  • raising awareness of your brand
  • selling a product or service
  • encouraging visitors to subscribe, make a donation, or try new things
  • improving SEO by generating user comments and increasing engagement
  • gaining customer feedback and insight.

Listen to existing social media conversations

If you follow the steps above, you will now know:
  1. who you want to engage with
  2. where to find your target audience
  3. what your objectives for opening social media channels targeting these audiences are.
You are now almost ready to join conversations in the virtual world. Joining a conversation on social media is the same as joining a conversation in the real world. Before you begin to speak you make a mental assessment to: 
  • understanding who is already talking
  • note the tone, pitch, and sentiment of the conversation
  • think about how you can add value to what is already being said.
You do not: 
  • speak without introducing yourself
  • interrupt the speaker to take the conversation off on a new tangent
  • talk without listening and responding to the comments directed towards you.
The same rules apply to your interactions on social media.
                                                                                                                                                            
Listening will enable you to assess sentiment around your brand and decide how to amplify or manage these feelings when you open your own social media channels.

By listening to existing conversations, you will quickly be able to identify who your greatest ambassadors and critics are online. You can then evaluate how influential these people are to inform how much effort you should spend in engaging with them.

Social Media Monitoring Tools

There are a number of tools, both free and paid-for, that enable you to listen to existing conversations .

Social media monitoring tools such as Sprout Social, Brandwatch, Gorkana, or Meltwater Buzz are paid-for services that will do the segmentation for you.

Tools such as Social Mention, Addictomatic, and IceRocket  are freely available online and will require manual analysis on your part.

Once you have identified who the key opinion formers and influencers are for your particular niche, you can monitor who they are engaging with, and on what topics, by using a great, free online tool called Mention map.

Keeping social media conversations flowing

Just as in real life, your contributions to conversation should be guided by what is already being said, the tone with which it is delivered, it’s value to taking relationships forward, and so on. As your experience with social media develops, you will also initiate conversations of your own. A tool that can help you to manage your online dialogue is a conversation calendar. Simply put, this is a roadmap of planned conversations that you will participate in throughout the year. Of course, you will take part in unplanned discussions too, as you react to unknown events related to your sector. Here are some ideas of what your conversation calendar might include: 
  • events that you will be taking part in, or attending
  • annual holidays or sporting events that may #trend – wishing your customers good luck in Olympic events, for example
  • known dates of publications or product launches – of course you will want to plan for their build up in your planned conversations too
  • inspirational quotes specific to your niche – likely to be reposted and add to your online credibility
  • did you know...posts to remind customers of your offering and reinforce your brand and key messages
  • the birthday of your organisation, a product, or service.

Assess your capacity to manage different platforms

Fully engaging on social media can become a time consuming business. Failure to fully engage or respond to contacts can be damaging to your reputation. You will need to be realistic about how much resource the channels you are considering will cost you on a day-to-day basis and whether you can manage this on your own or need help from an independent third party. Issues to consider include: 
  •  How often do you intent to publish information?
  • How many responses do you anticipate receiving?
  • Who will manage the responses?
  • How will responses be managed out of working hours?

Questions?
If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I will do my best to help you out.

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