This article first appeared in Capital Business and Executive Woman magazine – November 2016.
Are you curious which social media platform is right for your business? Worried that you might not have the right people to manage it? Confused as to if you’ll get a return on investment? You are not alone. Between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and LinkedIn there are literally billions of people seeking fresh content, ready to engage with your business if you can peak their interest.
It is a bit of a minefield with a lot of variables. However here are the three things that matter the most when solving this problem. Apply this framework and you know exactly what to do (or change) to get social media and content driving attention towards your business.
Everything comes down to if you have the right balance of Purpose, Platform and Practitioner. And you need to rate each one out of 10, with absolute meritocracy, even by committee if need be. There is no place for excuse or short cuts. Here are the questions you need to ask:
Why do you seek the attention of someone online? Is it to genuinely justify disturbing their day to offer them something valuable that will better their lives? More often, brands do not have their customer in mind when thinking about purpose and just communicate to shove another statistic about how great they think their business is. And, of course, no-one cares.
What response do you want from your customer? In many cases, marketers forget that just earning some brand goodwill alone can play out in their favour long-term. Consumers expect instant gratification online, but businesses still need to be patient and maintain a long-term view. Keep putting out content that your customer likes, (literally, “likes”), and you’ll be in a great position to ask for their business when the time is right.
If you are trying to sell something, it is completely OK to be straight up and ask for their money. Modern day content marketers have become so used to dressing up their “ask” for business as a piece of useful information that it has diluted their ability to be a business that actually sells something. Customers expect stronger brands to cut through the noise and simply ask for a sale when the time is right. Got a 20% discount on a product or service? You don’t have to always story-tell, just get the information to the customers in a quick and punchy way. Their purchase is their way of saying thanks.
When it comes to social media platforms, with some now established over 10 years, the giant successes are very much known to their user bases. As such, each of the major platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc) have well established unique features and benefits. Even if you get the purpose right, choosing the wrong platform could render the campaign useless. If you want the fleeting attention span of millennials to sell a burrito, choose Snapchat or Instagram. If you’ve just spent serious budget on a promo video for a sports car, target users using Facebook video or YouTube advertising.
The most valuable platforms have two sides to them, the consumer side (where you earn attention) and the advertiser side (where you pay for it). It is important to differentiate between the features and benefits of both. Putting your brand under pressure to come up with a witty status update every four hours may not yield you the same return as six paid adverts, all with a unique spin on them, targeted at six groups that may be interested in your product or service. When your business is able to balance growing its audience organically and spending ad dollars to catch attention at scale, you’ve got a winning formula on your hands.
In my experience, this is the most important variable of them all. Every business can go through a change in “purpose”, even on a campaign by campaign basis. As mentioned above, platforms change often too, it’s just what they need to do to survive. The linchpin with all these variables is inevitably the practitioner. The person you choose to put in the driving seat your social media and content marketing will ultimately determine the success or failure of your campaign.
The way to derisk this process is to ensure that you really think through which skill sets the practitioner needs way before you put them in place. Are they able to naturally replicate the tone of voice of your brand? Do they understand why responding to customers is a priority? Will they be levelheaded enough to cope in case of a social media crisis? A decent external social media can even be brought in to train your HR department to find suitable candidates much earlier in the recruitment process.
Take some time to think about how you would rate each of these in the context of any live social media marketing you have done before that may have succeeded or failed. Bring each one up close to a 10 and your chance of success will be exponentially higher.