A few days ago, I started writing a post about how to set up your social media channels. Alas, I never finished, and today I was scooped by Chris Brogan, who wrote about Starting your social media channels. On the bright side, it’s reaffirming when you find your head is in the same place as Chris’s.
Chris provides a great overview of the ecosystem and some strategies, so I’ll let you read his post first. Then, come back here and find out what I have to say about how to determine the best channels by knowing your objectives and your audiences.
So, go on and read Chris’s post. I’ll wait.
First Step: Defining Your Objective
Welcome back! Many of my clients want to jump in to social media right away, but beyond a belief that they “must” do social media, they haven’t yet worked out what they want social media to do for them.
Like any communications strategy, the first step to being successful is understanding your objectives. For some, it might be increasing awareness of the brand, while for others it’s to generate sales. And yet for some businesses, being there is most important. Social media is deceptively simple. We all see teenagers using it, so it must be easy to do. The truth is that there is a learning curve, and sometimes, your objective might just be to get up and over that curve.
Whatever your objective, it will determine the strategy you start with. That, in turn, will determine the channels you launch, the tools you use, the content you create and the resources you apply. It also gives you a measuring yardstick.
For example, let’s say I have a goal to improve customer service for my pet store business. My in-store sales staff has been spending 30% of their time answering phone calls. Many of the questions ultimately come to me and my partner, because we have more experience. I’d like to cut the time my staff spends handling calls in half.
So, my objective for my social media channel is to become the go-to resource for pet care questions, and the measure is reducing the time my sales team spends on customer service by 50% by the end of the year.
Now I know something about the content I need (expert advice), who needs to provide it (my partner and I) and how I will measure success. I don’t know yet what social media channels I’ll need. That’s step two.
Second Step: Choosing Channels Based on Audience
This is probably the most critical step, because if you don’t define your target audience, you may as well not spend the time or resources on any communications strategy.
So who are the customers calling in for pet advice? Look through your customer call logs and evaluate the data. Are they young? Married? With children? Baby boomers? How many pets do they own? What kind? What is their income level?
Likely, what will happen is that several pictures will emerge. For the sake of the example, let’s say that retired baby boomers with one dog tend to call your store most frequently. Mothers with elementary age children and several household pets make up the second demographic.
Now do a bit more research. Call a few customers back and ask: How do you find out information about your pet? Do you search online? Are you active on social networks? Which ones? Do you read blogs?
Another dimension is likely to emerge. The baby boomers say they spend a lot of time on Facebook, sharing photos of their grandchildren and their dog. The moms enjoy reading blog posts as they sit through dance class and baseball practice.
This creates two very specific places for you to start building your social media channels: Facebook and your own blog.
Suddenly, social media is a little less daunting. You don’t need to engage in every channel, just the ones that matter for your objectives and your audiences.
Feel free to share your tips and experiences for beginning your social media strategy below. I’d love to hear them.