As a consumer, you are blasted with the same request over and over: “Follow Us on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook.” Why should I? What’s in it for me?
These are questions of which a significant number of businesses cannot genuinely answer
Today, a notable number of businesses are approaching branded social channels from a “ready, fire, aim” approach. This method conjures a facade of achievement when in fact, any progress, if at all recognized, is short term and shoddy at best. Many focus on numbers without first analyzing who they’re trying to reach and, more importantly, how engagement satisfies the needs of their customers. Without a mature content and engagement strategy, a great unfollow and unlike movement is inevitable.
The answer is as simple as it is revealing. Create the number of channels that meaningfully extend the focus of your business. Only create channels that enhance the brand message without diluting it. And make sure you have the capacity to keep all the channels relevant.
A Focused PerspectiveThe key to zooming in on purpose and usefulness within social channels starts with the realization that there is no one audience. Nor is there a sustainable market for branded messages, marketing campaigns, or “Tweet/Like to Win” contests. Indeed, every channel created to represent the brand must carry a purpose, mission and corresponding value. One of the most common questions I’m asked by businesses of all shapes and sizes is, “What is the right number of accounts we should have in each social network?” Or, “How many profiles is too many or too few?”
Following these best practices will prevent your brand from falling victim to the coming wave of customer unlikes and unfollows. But more importantly, focusing social channels and investing in the value of each will improve the customer experience and encourage greater engagement. By increasing meaningful interaction, brand reach is dramatically amplified through the social effect. Your customers will not only be encouraged to “like” your brand, but genuinely love it.So what are the best practices for creating an engaging social stream? Let’s take a look at the traits of some of the more successful and regarded brands in the business.
1. Design an Effective Channel Strategy: Evaluate the main brand, sub brands and notable personalities that engender a “follow worthy” or “likable” presence. If there are other accounts that exist beyond the initial strategy, assess their value as a standalone channel and its current state. It may be best to simply truncate accounts or close them all together.
2. Create a Life Support System: Develop an organized framework that supports each presence uniquely. Ensure that each account establishes a rhythm that meets the needs of its audience.
3. Mission and Purpose: Know the audience you’re trying to reach and design a communicable mission and purpose for each account.
4. Develop an Editorial Program: Create an editorial program that addresses the various needs of the social consumer including entertainment, sales, service, engagement, HR, etc. Evoke the new K.I.S.S. (Keep It Significant and Shareable). Create content that’s both engaging, contextually relevant and shareable. Think beyond the basics and use polls, curation, promotional content and questions to your advantage.
5. Construct a Listening Framework: The best listeners make the best conversationalists. Build a listening framework that monitors the brands as well as the distinct conversations related to each account.
6. Establish Conversational Workflow: Each account requires an information path and workflow. They also require bridges between them to ensure that every representative is informed and that the right delegates within the business are on point to engage or respond accordingly.
7. Formulate a Decision Tree: Draft a clear flowchart that details the steps for a variety of “if this happens, then do this” situations. This is designed to help representatives follow a defined path for the real-time nature of engagement.
8. Initiate a Training Program: Representatives will require ongoing training to stay sharp and focused. Every engagement either reinforces or takes away from the brand experience. As technology moves faster than our ability to master its lessons, training keeps employees on track.
9. Install a Governance and Reward System: Much like the marketing team protects the integrity of the brand and how it’s presented, a social team is necessary to manage the integrity of each Twitter account as well as the overall portfolio. At the same time, a reward system must be put in place to encourage exceptional work.
10. Draft a Social Media Brand Style Guide: Chances are a style guide already exists that communicates brand presentation, usage guidelines and other forms of brand-related marketing aesthetics. This guide requires a significant update to account for social media. Its primary function is to define the brand persona, characteristics, voice, and essence.
11. Compose Guidelines: Develop a social media policy that conveys the Dos and don’ts of social media. If one already exists, update it. Current laws may protect employees’ rights to express opinion about employers within their personal accounts. Additionally, many employees complain that the existing guidelines are either too extreme or ambiguous to define successful engagement. Design the guideline to serve as guardrails and also a roadmap to success.
12. Serve Customers and Prospects: Social consumers now expect brands to solve problems and answer questions in social streams. Each channel requires a service function or a dedicated channel to satisfy needs and promote appreciation and loyalty.
13. Employ Language and Timing Techniques: Two points of note — timing is everything and in brevity there’s clarity. Studies already show that the timing and language of tweets and Facebook updates determine overall reach and engagement. Optimize language and timing to make every update count.
14. Design Engagement and Performance Metrics: Monitor the performance of each account to improve its engagement and editorial strategy.
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Brian Solis is principal of Altimeter Group, a leading research-based advisory firm. Brian is also the author of the all-new Engage!, an award-winning guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web. Follow him on Twitter.