The Lifeblood of Modern Branding
In today’s digital-centric world, the core elements of advertising are very different from what they were in the past. New businesses no longer consider traditional media such as print, radio, and television to be effective brand building mediums.
Instead, the focus is on social media marketing—the most targeted and focused approach to broadening audiences for brands across all industries.
The Importance of Implementing a Social Media Strategy
When social media first began to gain steam around the turn of the 21st century, marketing communications was the last thing on the minds of these young tech start-ups. In fact, social media was developed to connect the world at scale, enhancing daily interactions with friends, family and loved ones located both near and far. Early platforms like Sixdegrees, Friendster, Myspace and the rise of the blogosphere all played vital roles in the genesis of social media, but it wasn’t until years later that leading networks such as Facebook and Instagram would surface as highly effective soapboxes for brands of all shapes and sizes.
Social media eventually became a tool—at the time utilized by only the world’s savviest and forward-thinking brands. Once it caught on that social media marketing was the new focus group it wasn’t long until thousands of businesses were using it as a brand awareness tool, eventually changing the landscape of modern marketing forever. Today, implementing a social media program isn’t just assumed to be a good idea—it’s considered an essential aspect of finding success in a crowded marketplace.
Recent studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day, so there’s no question why they don’t want to be bombarded by blatant marketing tactics. With this in mind, the most successful brands using social media have learned how to integrate their products into the lifestyles that drive consumer passions giving them a leg up in building authenticity. One of the best ways to do this is by creating adaptive content that responds to consumers platform of choice and speaks to their interests by being the solution to their pain points.
Statistically, consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that responds to them on social media—one of many reasons why social marketing has value in the business world. Just having a social media program in place is no longer enough. Algorithms have shifted to the point of making organic success nearly impossible on its own because social networks monetization model is selling advertising to businesses. If brands want to get the most out of social media marketing, a focus must be placed on purchasing advertising to either drive sales, acquire new fans or reach a broad target audience.
What is Social Media Strategy?
At its core, social media strategy serves as a blueprint for success in what has proven to be a volatile, ever-changing landscape. It’s a form of navigational chart developed in large part to differentiate brands from their competitors and draw-in entirely new audiences through targeted, research-based efforts. In other words, social media strategy services help to ensure brand messages aren’t crafted and scheduled at random with hopes of “finding something that sticks.”
Many people don’t realize that social media can be used to benefit a number of different departments within an organization. Take human resources (HR), for example, which can streamline recruitment by posting new jobs on social media. Customer service costs can be driven down by moving the bulk of these interactions to social media, freeing up valuable time and energy for staff members.
Marketing, sales and public relations (PR) can all benefit from aspects of social media, especially with a well-planned strategy in place.
The Elements of Social Media Strategy Services
At Social Control, every brand we work with is unique and has its own set of requirements, all of which ultimately influence strategy in the end. Our social media strategy services are structured in a way that best takes advantage of a particular brand’s differentiators and market position. More often than not, however, the process ends up looking something like this:
Step 1: Identify an Overarching Goal
It’s not uncommon for brands to approach a new social media marketing push with a number of goals in mind, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. That said, we believe it helps to keep one primary goal in mind for measuring progress, which is to build a life-long relationship with a company’s target audience by actively engaging users on specific social media platforms.
Step 2: Perform a Competitive Analysis
One of the most critical elements of building a social media marketing program is first to perform a competitive analysis that takes into consideration other key players in a brand’s particular vertical. This is not to copy the competition but rather to learn from potential mistakes that are being made and plot a unique course that will assist in the differentiation process. We take a close look at engagement rates, platforms utilized and other elements of your competitors’ social media marketing efforts to gain a sense of the “lay of the land” and adjust our strategy with this information in mind. A competitive analysis also assists us in identifying challenges and opportunities for brands that may not have otherwise been clear before this step in the process.
Step 3: Determine Target Audience
A key component of any social media strategy is understanding the target audience. This can be easier said than done, especially in a shifting marketplace. We take a close look at market segmentation for every brand, analyzing the values that drive specific types of consumers. This allows us to develop an effective positioning model that will be utilized throughout a social media marketing program. Identifying audience values often serves as a jumping-off point for things such as written and visual content—a step no brand hoping to succeed can afford to skip.
Step 4: Analyze Passion and Pain Points
What makes your audience “tick?” Perhaps just as important, what is it that makes them turn their noses up? We think of these as passion and pain points, both of which hold equal weight in positive and negative directions when developing a strategic framework for brands. Our social media strategy services revolve around hitting every brand’s audience’s passion and pain points, which can help to maximize engagement rates and boost ROI.
Step 5: Outline Consumer Lifecycle and User Journey
A final step prior to the development of a social media content strategy is outlining both the consumer lifecycle and user journey for a brand’s customers. This includes developing an approach based on when/where/how brands get discovered and explored, inevitably leading to the “engagement” and “purchase” stages. When looked at holistically the user journey and how it applies to a particular brand’s consumer lifecycle can make all the difference in understanding social behavior.
All of the information gleaned throughout steps one through five of our process helps us to determine things such as character archetypes, ideal post frequency, overarching content themes, best practices for paid media/hashtag implementation and more.
Measuring Social Media ROI
As a social media strategy practitioner, one of the significant questions we get is about return-on-investment (ROI). Judging social media ROI has historically been a challenge for marketers and one that has only gotten more complex as platform feature-sets and algorithms shift constantly.
At Social Control we’ve developed seven models for judging social media ROI all of which can be measured based on specific brand priorities. It’s one of the key factors that sets our services apart—an ability to help brands see exactly how effective their social media strategies are performing with precise clarity and in real-time.
1. Sales Model
The sales model focuses on revenues which are directly linked to your social media channels and then tracked. We obtain several data points from each of your social media pages to develop analytical reports outlining sales of specific products, conversion rates, average cost-per-order and more.
2. Brand Awareness Model
With this model, we focus on how many people see, or could potentially see your brand’s social media activity. The goal behind the brand awareness model is to generate buzz around your products and services to drive purchase intent, either at retail or via e-commerce.
3. Customer Loyalty Model
The customer loyalty model aims to increase retention rates, creating lifelong customers for your brand. Judgment is based on how consumers “feel” about a brand’s products or services. Today’s most successful brands realize customer loyalty is an essential component of driving purchase intent through positive emotional experiences which increase perceived value. Metrics could range from the number of monthly subscriptions, repeat buyers, and engagement with loyalty programs.
4. Customer Advocacy Model
Customer advocacy is a customer-first model supported by customer service and strategic marketing tactics, which elevate the brand to foster customer relationships. With this model, we measure based upon the number of shares, mentions, positive reactions, user-generated content, and brand advocacy, comparing results to those of key-competitors for a more holistic overview of performance.
5. Brand Perception Model
How do people perceive your brand? Can negative sentiments be shifted in a positive direction via social media communications? Throughout a brand’s lifespan, it may be necessary to change course to incorporate shifts in the digital marketing landscape. The brand perception model is typically defined by tracking comments on posts and watching for a change in sentiment.
6. Earned/Organic Model
Earned media is creating content that provides results without having to pay for amplification (hence, earning the media). Success with this approach is usually due to utilization of techniques such as influencer outreach—sharing content with the hope that influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers will post about it—and social listening, which includes actively following, and joining, conversations people in your target demographic are having on social media to gain organic fan acquisition without paying for it.
7. Customer Service Model
The Customer Service model focuses on providing consumers with digital communication avenues for questions and product support. It typically involves comparing the cost of operating a traditional customer service (CS) department with performing customer service functions digitally, as well as the costs for transferring CS in part or in full to digital. Features include managing returns and exchanges, dealing with damaged goods and answering customer questions.
Overall there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution for determining social media ROI, and in fact, the model will vary from brand to brand. Most clients we work with will typically align with one or two of the models listed above, but depending on the age of the program, goals, and objectives may change. That said, this is why it’s essential to consistently analyze data and obtain a clear view of how well a social media program is performing on a weekly/monthly/quarterly basis.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Another way we work to determine the effectiveness of a social media marketing program is via key performance indicators (KPIs). Measuring social KPIs is crucial to understanding which strategies are working and which are not, but it cannot be done without first identifying key performance indicators such as reach, likes, comments, shares and more. Having goals in mind for each defined KPI is not only a smart way to approach social media strategy, but an essential part of “righting the ship” should things not be performing as planned.
Five Benefits of Social Media Strategy Services
Many of today’s most prominent brands have discovered firsthand just how vital it is to incorporate strategic marketing into their social media program, which many times is best left in the hands of experts who are hyper-focused on social media and its many moving parts. The benefits of jumping into a social media marketing program with a well-planned-out strategy in place are impossible to ignore, with the following being just a few examples:
1. Targeted Paid Advertising
With organic reach barely registering as an effective measurable for brands across social media today, it’s never been more important to focus on paid advertising. Just throwing money at social ads without a sound strategy dictating your decisions isn’t a wise idea because it often leads to wasted investments. Social media strategy services are the logical solution to this all-too-common issue.
2. Increased Engagement Levels
If you’ve had a difficult time getting users to engage with your social profiles you’re certainly not alone. It’s something that brands across all industries grapple with. In the end, however, engagement levels can only be elevated with a well-devised strategic plan in place, which can take a great deal of time and focus to develop.
3. More Conversion Opportunities
Conversion opportunities are precisely what most brands are looking for when deciding to embrace a social media marketing program. Successfully converting a fan or social media user into a buyer isn’t something that typically happens on its own. However—it takes a comprehensive strategy to get conversions to occur at a significant rate.
4. Social Crisis Management
Saying the “wrong thing” on social media can translate into being more than a simple mistake—it can damage a brand’s reputation for years to come. These “nightmare” scenarios aren’t always easy to avoid, and they’re far more likely to occur if posts are written and published without strategic thought.
5. Clearly Defined Goals and Objectives
No social media marketing strategy can be a success if clear goals and objectives are not set early in the process. Defining these can be exceedingly difficult for those who don’t live and breathe social media strategy, but when properly outlined, goals and objectives can make or break the result of a successful program.
Once implemented, a thorough social media strategy helps to keep your program on the right track—from planning to implementation.
Seth Silver is the Founder of Social Control, a leading boutique social media agency based in Los Angeles. An evangelist of technology, and educator to the business community, Seth writes about social behavior and the integration of brands within the lifestyles that drive consumer passions.