Social media isn't a one-size-fits-all marketing solution. Many companies believe that in order to participate online and be legitimized by the public, they need to have a presence on every social media channel available.
While it is important to have an established social media presence, not every channel is a fit for every company. With that being said, a company or brand must maximize its investment in each channel it has launched. While there are many examples of brands that have established and maintained a great Facebook presence, there are still too many organizations that set up the shell of a page, add a low-resolution logo as the profile picture and post once a month about a promotion or random fact. Relevant, lively content or insights are absent. Customer comments on the Facebook wall go unanswered for weeks. And engagement is non-existent.
It's this type of social media disengagement that can harm a brand's reputation. And this is one of the most common mistakes companies make when trying to quickly incorporate social media into their marketing strategies. Social media isn't an add-on activity. It's a separate discipline and an extension of the marketing mix, like PR or media buying – and must receive as much attention and strategic planning as any other area.
Social media disengagement comes into play when a company skips a very critical moment of self-assessment. Taking this step allows communicators to evaluate not only if social media (and which specific channels) are appropriate, but also if they have the bandwidth to support the investment. Otherwise, communicators may recognize the importance of social media in the evolving communications landscape, and hastily jump on the bandwagon – but neglect to invest time into developing and managing each channel.
So how can companies ensure they are appropriately engaged? I recommend first stepping back and assessing what level of social media engagement is the right strategy for your brand or organization. This is where a strong communications partner can make a huge impact on your brand’s success. Communications consultants are able to help analyze your industry’s landscape – including channels and investments among your competitors – and provide an unbiased look at what is and isn’t reaching an intended audience. Armed with these findings, together you can pair specific social media goals with the overall goals of your brand or organization.
There are several questions to answer as part of this process. Where are your target audiences actively engaging online? Are you willing to investment time and assets into maintaining a presence? What type of information will you share with your followers? And which social channel(s) will be most effective in reaching them? This brand assessment will allow you to see how beneficial, or not, specific aspects of social media strategy will be as an addition to your overall marketing plan.
Let’s take a look at how consumers are using social media sites. According to The Poynter Institute, more than a third (36%) of people on Twitter use the social medium to follow news organizations or journalists. This is a perfect channel for a magazine or newspaper to tweet the latest stories. Or, use The Huffington Post’s statistic about Pinterest users: 29.5% of the most popular pins are about food and drinks. This would be an ideal channel for an aspiring chef to post and pin recipes – yet not as ideal for a dish soap company. In the same vein, according to Mediabistro, 79% of LinkedIn users are age 35 or older. So this would not be an appropriate channel to market the next boy band, but would be a great channel for the boy band’s publicist to market himself.
One brand that is on-point with its social media efforts is Starbucks. The coffee king recently had a White Cup Contest, which encouraged submissions of drawings and designs on the iconic white cups. Entrants were instructed to submit their masterpieces via social media to Twitter or Instagram. By including the hashtag #WhiteCupContest, entrants gave Starbucks the rights to post their submitted artwork on the official Starbucks Pinterest board. Photos were shared on Starbucks’ official Facebook page as well. By realizing how to effectively reach potential and current customers, Starbucks was able to strategically leverage interaction with fans across multiple social media platforms. The company received almost 4,000 entries – and probably hundreds of new followers across their social pages – in just three weeks.
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