Which social media sites are best for reaching your customers, members, donors or clients? With the constantly evolving landscape of social media sites and communities it can be overwhelming to feel you should have a presence
everywhere when you already have never ending to do’s and an overflowing email inbox. Yet you don’t want to miss an important opportunity to promote your organization and reach your current and potential customers. How do you choose how to best use your time on social media?
1. Think about your goals and what success will look like.
Even if you don’t have time to think through a full blown social media plan, it is important to at least briefly reflect on your most important goals for why you are using (or want to use) social media and how you can measure it. Is it generating
revenue, building community, providing customer service, getting new customers/members/donors/sales leads? How can you use social media to share stories and content that support your brand, what is unique about your organization and products and services? What would success look like if it works the way you are envisioning? Be realistic as it takes time to build your presence and start to see results. Flexibility is key to try different approaches, testing various ideas and messaging is relatively easily through social media.
2. Where is your audience? Be sure to use “listening” tools.
I am often asked if organizations need to have a presence on “all” of the social media sites (accompanied by an overwhelmed catch of breath). The question I always raise after asking about their goals and mission is do you know which social media communities your customers and potential customers use? Have you started “listening” on social media, that is, exploring what people are saying about you and discussing with each other regarding your industry or business where? Free tools like google alerts (for the general web) and twilert (for twitter) provide easy ways to monitor your brand name and business sector by signing up with them to email you when keywords you select are mentioned.
3. All or nothing? Refine your presence on one or two social media sites first.
It is hard especially when you are a social media beginner and/or have limited resources to have an effective presence on lots of social media sites. It is better to pick one or two sites that you think will have the best impact for your goals and audience and do them really well, then to spread yourself thin doing a little bit all over the place ineffectively. You can add other sites as you build success where you started.
4. Think about the unique environment of each social media tool you’re exploring and which is best for meeting your goals. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular social media sites:
Each social media community has its own character, look, and feel, and type of audience or purpose which you want to become familiar with when you start posting there.
Facebook has the biggest audience with one billion members, a casual friends-oriented environment, and loads of tools and functionality you can use to build a vibrant community.
For professionals and business-to-business organizations, LinkedIn offers a powerful way to network with people in your industry, stay up-to-date about news in your profession. It’s truly become a replacement for the resume and crucial for recruiting talent.
Twitter gives you the opportunity to share short, snappy news bytes or updates that can be a very effective way to drive traffic to your web site as well. It’s also a great way to follow the organizations and people you are interested in and find out the latest trends. You can use hashtags (words preceded by the # symbol) to search for information or to join a tweetchat, a twitter discussion held at a set time on a particular topic (for example, most Monday nights at 8pm Eastern there is a marketing #MMchat sponsored by The Social SMO).
Google Plus while a smaller community than facebook has developed a passionate following among those who enjoy its design and environment. Your Google+ presence enhances how easily people can find your key web pages when doing google searches because for obvious reasons google gives preference to results from Google+. Google+ Hangouts have intriguing potential for a wide variety of uses, giving you the option of having free online video discussions with up to 10 people or hosting virtual meetings to an unlimited number of people by broadcasting a Hangout to them.
Pinterest is the hugely popular visual pinboard site in which community members “pin” photos that they like in different interest areas and categories. Closely intertwined with facebook, people are using Pinterest creatively to share everything from recipes to home design tips to business and technology advice.
Instagram is another widely used social media tool to create smartly designed graphic representations that express information and data in an easy-to-understand visual way, or to add special effects to your photos. People share instagrams through the instagram app itself, facebook, pinterest, their blog, or anywhere else they want to online.
5. Plan your staffing, who will listen, engage, and make decisions on the fly for your organization?
The main “cost” of engaging in social media is time and effort rather than “hard costs.” Social media gives the power to any size organization to make an impact but it takes time…and it is very public so you want to make sure that whoever posts on behalf of your organization understands your goals and what is appropriate in tone and substance.
6. Plan your customer service approach and proactively anticipate issues that might arise.
Be sure to plan how you will respond to any customer issues that arise as people expect if you are online at a site that you will answer questions or concerns they post – and if your social media “listening” uncovers problems then address them as quickly as possible. Proactively prepare for what you think could arise, based on your audience and what you observe people “talking about” online. People can get nervous about the risk of social media uncovering issues but whether your organization has an official presence on a social media site or not doesn’t change that customers are online and they like to discuss whatever issues are on their minds on any particular day.
7. Gauge your progress and continuously test and update it as you go along.
Seek ways to monitor your progress, such as how you are engaging with current and potential customers in whichever social media communities you are using. Engaging people in an interactive, social way is a key benefit of social media that can help strengthen your brand, building loyalty and community.
How has your social media presence helped your organization spread the word about your services and products, or retain and strengthen customer relationships?