Those who begin their social media adventure often ask themselves: „How do I run a fan page?” Posing such a question limits your view on what you can actually achieve through social media. Let’s look at the bigger picture then. Let’s talk about social media strategy.

The companies, when asked whether they had a social media presence strategy usually confirmed. But additional questions revealed that a situation is far from optimistic. Only 28% of companies surveyed by Social Media Examiner had the strategy written down. Another 33% claimed „they were working on it” (it’s like I asked you if you’d done your homework and you said „yes, I’m just working on it”). And a staggering 40% have not thought about it yet. So, if you decide to write down your social media strategy, you’ll be better off than most of your competitors.

Why do I have to write it down?

For the very same reason firemen have written down procedures on how to deal with fires (and they practice them when there’s no fire around). A fire can be put down quickly if your reaction is proper and efficient. Or you can have yourself a catastrophe if you are going to wait for an executive decision on who’s going to hold the hose or turn the valve.

Social media consist of many unforeseen situations — both good and bad. And sometimes you don’t even know which you are dealing with right now. The most famous real time marketing campaigns begun with a disastrous situation… Take Oreo and 2013 Super Bowl for example — the lights at the stadium going out do not sound well, right? And yet…

Written down strategy means that in most cases you don’t have to wait for any decisions, you can just use standard procedures and it’s totally clear who’s responsible for what and when. In an ever-morphing social media world it’s a difference between life and death.

Seven steps towards a great social media strategy

What should you include in such strategy then?

  1. Gather a team of well-informed people. Your customers will treat your fan page (or Twitter for that matter) as another channel for exchanging information. They will ask and expect you to answer promptly. They will also expect you to make a decision quickly. Make sure that the input from social media is processed by the people with knowledge and power to handle them.
  2. Set the goals for social media presence. Seriously, why do you need it? Having a fan page „because everybody else has one” is throwing money away. The goals should be necessary and achievable. The latter is especially important. What happens if you write down „get a thousand fans a month” and go to the agency with that? Besides the fact that you don’t actually need many fans, the agency will resort to buying worthless „dead souls” just to satisfy your need. After all, it’s what you want, right?
  3. What exactly is it you want to build? Besides knowing how many bricks you are going to need, you also need to know what you are building. Customer service channel? Loyalty booster? Or maybe a sales machine with coupon giveaways? Social media allow you to build all those things. But perhaps not all at the same time…
  4. How are you going to measure your goals? Back to Social Media Examiner study: only 42% of marketers claim they are able to measure their social media activities. What is the rest doing? They’re clueless. Don’t be one of them, especially if you are going to hire an agency for that job. If you tell them to gather new fans, they will commence gathering new fans and not necessarily ask you „why you need them?” So you should plan for both quantitive and qualitative measurement. Facebook itself will help you with some of them (the amount of fans, the „talking about it” number), but remember you’re not running your company on Facebook. Do the effect show within your business?
  5. Plan your target group. Yes, you heard right. Don’t research who is going to listen to you, rather make a decision: whom you are going to talk to? Social media allow users to choose: who gets to be listened and who gets to be ignored. If you don’t speak their language, they’ll just ignore you. Also, you should think of rituals you are going to pin yourself to. Evening newsletter for reading in bed? Or perhaps hot offers that need to be clicked exactly at high noon?
  6. Plan the channels for reaching out. This is why I wrote at the beginning that it’s not about „running a fan page on Facebook”. If you sell clothes, perhaps Instagram or Pinterest are a better place to do so? Do you plan to have individual promotions? Consider a newsletter. Younger audience gravitates towards YouTube, it’s their default platform. Think of the ways your voice is going to spread.
  7. Set up answering procedures. In social media creating content is equally important as reacting to your community. I would even say in some businesses the latter is far more important. So you should not only decide on who and when is going to answer the questions. You should also make your communications more human.

Why so serious?

More human communication means that the content you post does not have to be completely serious. Especially in one-on-one encounters such as newsletters, private chats or telephone calls you don’t have to appear as stiff corporation.

Do you want an example? One of the most important customer service channels at my company is LiveChat — a window for talking to a live person on a website. People have yet to grow accustomed to this form of communication so they often ask whether they are dealing with a human being or a bot. In our social media strategy there is an explicit point forbidding us to answer this question clearly. When asked, we reply with something along the lines “I don't know. Are you? How can you tell?” We leave our guests with some dose of uncertainty and it very often pushes conversation in various, sometimes interesting directions. And such conversation is more memorable than simple „Hi, this is Martha, how can I help you?”