Business investments in social media are on its way to maturity.
The days where social media for business is a "cost of doing business" with no need for an ROI are over. It is no longer acceptable to hire somebody in marketing to "take care of the social media thing", while the rest of the business does business as usual. The fact that social media is not a marketing campaign but a cross functional engagement has also been well adopted. The idea that outsourcing your love to customers to an agency has also been well understood – at least in larger organizations.
Anatomy of a social media strategy
Creating a social media strategy for an organization with 2,000 employees, reporting to 200 managers and 20 executives and together hoping to engage with 800,000 customers is not an easy task.
Today, business managers know that a bit of tweeting, a profile on LinkedIn and a page on Facebook is no longer a social media strategy. Today it is also understood that 600 Million Facebook user, 200 Million Twitter user and 100 Million LinkedIn user generate more noise than all Fortune 1,000 marketing departments together. The dominance of the "social media rock stars" from 2008 and 2009 following 100,000 and be followed by 100,000 on Twitter is also fainting away. Businesses need more robust strategies to successfully engage with new and existing customers.
1) Like in every strategy development you will want to start by knowing where you are:
Conduct a thorough assessment. Not only assessing your own brand but customer sentiments, needs, frustrations and excitements. Assess your partner landscape including dealers, broker, retailer, reseller, distributor and whatever your sales channel is. Those partners have often the lion share of customer relationships. Analyze your competition in all the three aspects.
Now – this is a lot of work and often too much for a small SMB – but you will notice once done that it gives you an arsenal of opportunities to grow your business like never before. For the first time you see your organization, your market and your competition like you saw an x-ray for the very first time.
IMPORTANT: Those who told you to start with "defining your objectives" never built a social media strategy. Because once you are done with your assessment you will change whatever objective you had – absolutely sure.
2) Create your strategy – together with some market representatives
Once your assessment is completed you develop the actual strategy. Here is another "NEW": Unlike a typical corporate strategy, that us usually developed in secrecy in a board room, you develop your social media strategy together with representatives from your market – I.e. customers, partners, and whoever is relevant to you.
If you don't – don't expect anybody from your customer base to actually work with you.
The SMACAD Strategy framework has six core elements:
Goal – the goal is obviously influenced by the assessment and the finding of the needs of your customers and partners
Mission – The mission describes in very short how to achieve the goal
Benefits – Describe the benefits of that strategy for both customer and company
Methods – Develop a set of strategic methods / programs that are needed to fulfill the goal
Resources – Based on the above you are able to define the resources
Reporting – Finally describe what means success in every step and the tools that help measure it.
3) Program Creation and execution
Creating programs based on a thorough assessment and a well thought out and modeled strategy is almost a breeze. At this stage is is very clear what company and customers want and how they are going to execute the social media strategy together. Using a social media program framework allows to create initiatives that may be as creative and unique one likes to imagine – yet fitting into an over all strategy for the joint engagement.
Social media programs come in a sheer endless variety of colors. There maybe programs that are highly creative fun and enormously engaging. And there maybe business process alignment programs that are not fancy at all but necessary to create a faster business process that customers may have requested. There maybe programs that are completely executed by the market within the market where the company doesn't even do a thing, like customers sharing experience in a specific initiative and there maybe programs that or only managed internally. Obviously many programs are co-created and jointly executed.
Having Indirect Sales Channels
If your business goes through indirect sales channels, like resellers, retailer, distributor, dealer, broker or any other partner organization, involving those partners is paramount. Channel Empowerment is the core of such a strategy, as almost all relationships to existing, future and former customers is managed by those channel partners. In any case, the above strategy model is applied without change for indirect focused businesses as well.
Yes, some of this requires new thinking and an unbreakable willpower to lead. There is no way to make a difference by hanging on to the status quo. Fortunately business investments in social media are on its way to maturity. One reason is that we have very robust models to calculate a financial ROI. And interestingly enough, some of the ancient principles of strategy development are as current as it can get.