How to Care for and Train Your Social Media Strategy
Far too often, social media is a “pet project” for an organization rather than a critical part of the marketing mix. Without a well defined strategy, your social media might be going to the dogs.
In 2010 my family adopted our dog. Everyone loved having a puppy: Tigger was cute, exciting, and new. There’s something magical about the first few months of a dog’s life. However, we soon realized the hard and necessary work of training our puppy to be the dog we wanted him to eventually become. With every pet comes care, nurturing, and training. The responsible owner will take the necessary steps to assure that those needs are addressed.
Interestingly, there are parallels that can be drawn with social media marketing. Initially setting up the account was exciting: your first post–those first few followers. But the day comes when excitement must be exchanged for serious work. The responsible marketer realizes that social media must be cared for, nurtured, and trained to produce the results desired.
VetStreet.com has an excellent article entitled “Puppy Basics 101 – How to Care For Your New Dog.” I really like the professional approach to their advice. I will borrow their approach as a professional social media consultant to provide you the “Social Media Basics 101 – How to Care For Your New Social Media Channel.”
Find a Good Expert
If you are utilizing social media for more than just a personal account, it is critical that you start with an expert who can assist you with your marketing strategy and planning. Your social media plan is a critical part of your overall marketing strategy, and not something that is just an “add-on” to assign to the youngest member of the team (believe me, I have seen far too many organizations simply hand over the keys to a critical part of their marketing to an intern because, as the logic goes, “They already know how to do it.”)
Because social media can be a key part of lead generation and prospect nurturing, it needs to have the attention of an expert who can at least provide coaching and training to the marketing staff for the effort. Sometimes that expert may be a new hire that will manage social media, other times it may be a hired consultant. Regardless, find someone who can lead with expertise in this critical area.
Setting up a Plan
Just like adopting a pet, social media requires a lifestyle change. Typically, adding social media to the marketing mix requires new responsibilities and changes in your work life. Setting up a good plan and strategy will help with the transition and set your organization up for success.
By working with your expert, you should be able to set up a social media strategy that addresses the following:
- Understanding your audience by persona (who they are and how they engage).
- Establishing social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) based upon your audience. For example, Instagram and Twitter for teens, Pinterest and Facebook for parents. Google+ for improved Google rankings.
- Establishing an editorial calendar (both content and frequency).
- Researching and setting up curated content sources.
- Creating goals and metrics to measure progress.
Your expert should help you set up this plan and then assist you with the training and automation that comes with such a plan. They can also help you avoid the common social media mistakes.
Caring for Your Social Media
Once you have your social media strategy, you’ll need to start growing your channels:
Food is important for all life, including social media channels. Be sure to feed your social media strategy with both curated and original content. Curated content is information that you do not write, but is shared with your audience based upon the persona. For instance, prospective students will be interested in understanding the process of getting into college. You could curate content from the College Board and other sites providing guidance, tips, and hints for success. They will find value in what you are sharing and follow your updates more intently.
Identification Tags: Hashtags
Part of the growth will come with using appropriate hashtags that will help your audience find your content. We have an entire post dedicated to this entire subject.
As the old adage goes: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Establish the metrics for growth. Set up appropriate goals with tools to measure impact. Be sure to measure the correct metrics per social media channel. See our blog post on this topic for more information.
Regular posting will insure a healthy social media strategy. Your expert can help you set up the frequency of your posts, but above all, there should be a routine for both your organization and the audience.
Be sure to show the love to your audience for their engagement with your posts. Be quick to reply to comments and acts of appreciation (likes, favorites, retweets). Learn to retweet others and think about the audience first and foremost. Your engagement builds the relationships that will grow in time.
Training Your Social Media
Repetition with Automation
They say that repetition is the key to habit. You should not only create a habit of working on your social media, but also create automation to assist with the day-in-day-out work of feeding, measurement, and regular exercise. Using tools such as Evernote, Feedly, Buffer or Hootsuite, and CoSchedule along with recipes from Zapier or IFTTT will help you focus your efforts on original content and relationship engagement and avoid the tedium that can be left to the computer. Your expert can help you set these up as part of the strategic plan.
Understand that growing a successful social media strategy is an organic, and sometimes slower, method of acquiring an audience. Paid advertising can short-cut the time needed, but often does not provide the engaged audience that will pay off in the long-run.
Keep in mind that your social media is first and foremost “social.” It is important to encourage your team, as well as your followers, on a regular basis. Studies have found that by asking for retweets on Twitter, you can see up to a 4x increase in those articles being shared. Followers need encouragement.
Your social media can grow into the lead generator that it should be only if you do the work of caring and training it well.
How do you care for your social media? What is your strategy? Add your thoughts to the comments section below.