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Make your social media channels more effective in 4 steps A large number of companies are thinking about their next steps in social media. One of the key factors in any social media strategy is the channel/content debate. Companies are struggling to capitalize on their use of social media channels. In this paper, we want to share our approach on how to make effective use of social media channels in order to spread content. It is clear that social channels can also be used for customer service, conversation management and for collaboration purposes. This paper focuses on how to increase the impact of your content marketing via social media and how to optimize your social content strategy in four steps. The paper is based upon a series of research projects conducted over the last two years, the experience gained from numerous workshops with our clients and an in-depth discussions with social media experts Erik Van Roekel (@evr) and Matthijs Van Den Broeck (@mgvandenbroek). b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
The ‘checklist’ mentality is still alive & kicking During the past two years, companies have been overwhelmed with articles and feedback relating to the impact of social media and the modern consumer. At the same time, those companies have also been bombarded with new trends and evolutions. As a result, most companies are now aware of the radical changes that have taken place in our society. At the start of 2010, 45% of American marketers named social media as their top priority 1. In other words, social media awareness is now a fact. Most companies were already taking the necessary corrective action. A recent study conducted in both the US and the UK showed that only 12% of companies are currently doing nothing at all in the field of social media 2. In other words, there is both awareness and action. Excellent, you might think. Mission accomplished! They have heard a modern company needs a Facebook page and so they create a Facebook page. Check, done that! Twitter is becoming increasingly popular? Check, done that! Mobile apps are cool? Okay, I suppose we’d better start using those too… That’s all very good and possibly well intended, but its purpose is tactical rather than strategic. Companies that use social media for tactical purposes will, for example, create a new Twitter account for each new event but they don’t always do the necessary follow-up. As a result, they repeatedly invest in followers who are then left to their own devices once the event is over. Perhaps there’s also the occasional investment to win new fans on the company’s Facebook page but new and interesting content is only posted during campaigns. And what happens the rest of the time? Little or nothing at all. Not really the best way to create satisfied fans, is it? Such investments are unsuccessful because they are not the result of a clear- cut vision. They are just opportunistic, tactical pin pricks. As a consequence, a large number of companies create a cemetery filled with neglected social media (Facebook, Twitter & beyond) accounts. This has a negative impact on the overall effectiveness of their social media investments. Unfortunately not. Very definitely not, in fact. Seven out of ten companies that have adjusted their marketing strategy to reflect the expectations of the new consumer view these changes from a purely tactical perspective 3. This is what we call a ‘checklist mentality’. 1 2010, 2010 Digital Marketing Outlook, Society of Digital Agencies 2 2011, Social Media Integration Study, InSites Consulting 3 2010, Stop the Paradox Study, InSites Consulting b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
4 steps to effective social channel use 1 2 3 4 channel & content strategy Persuasion through content & interaction From likes to ambassadors build reach The final phase is the most difficult part. In this phase you are looking to create a small army of active ambassadors. In order to succeed, you can focus on two dimensions: start by getting people as actively involved as possible and then give them usable content. Don’t just give them content to read or view; give them content that adds genuine value to their lives. Once consumers are using your content this creates an amplification effect. Once you’ve attracted a significant number of followers and fans, you need engaging content to keep them interested. The threshold to follow a brand is very low but it takes a huge effort to keep your audience engaged. To increase the return on content creation, it is advisable to build reach in the early phase of your online plan. In this phase, the hard part is maintaining a balance between relevant content on the one hand and being able to attract a large set of likes & followers on the other hand. The first step consists in formulating a clear vision on the role of each of the online touch points. Apart from defining the goals and content of each of the individual channels, this phase is also about deciding how those channels interrelate. In this phase, you must define which touch points are most likely to reach the social media (and broader business) objectives. Instead of creating silos you are going for an integrated approach where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
These four phases are obviously not entirely sequential; there is an overlap between phases 2, 3 and 4. In our strategy, it’s not that hard to define the necessary actions for the various steps. In real life, though, we need to be flexible enough to adapt to consumer needs in a moment’s notice. Once a certain stage is reached, phases 2, 3 and 4 become iterative steps in an eternal loop designed to build reach and create more ambassadors. Conversion Convince with content & interaction Build reach through campaigns Content Touchpoint plan TIME In the next part of this paper, we will dive into the details of each of these 4 steps. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
STEP 1 channel and content strategy Most managers think of social media channels as stand-alone silos. Content is spread through each of these channels without a clear plan on how to reach business objectives. The truth is that all online channels are interrelated. Consumers can even be routed from channel A to channel B. In this phase, we recommend companies to elaborate a ‘content-conversion’ plan. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
What is a content-conversion plan? A content-conversion plan includes every touch point where a (potential) customer can come into contact with your content. Then you need to determine at which of these touch points conversion to your objectives (reputation management, community building, lead generation...) is likely to occur. All other social channels support traffic generation towards these conversion points. Instead of having a set of silo channels, this creates a set of interrelated online channels. On this platform, it is easy to directly convert a reader into a sales lead. In case your key objective is community building, your Facebook page may be the best content-conversion point. When mapping out your conversion touch- point plan, define the trigger for each touch point that makes it possible to move on to the next. Furthermore, try to keep the lines as short as possible. The more steps are necessary in order to reach the touch point where your business goals are realized, the harder it is to achieve high conversion rates. For example, the converting touch point might be the corporate website or blog. A corporate blog can be the touch point that leads people from the content area to the sales area. Your other social media accounts ensure that sufficient traffic is channeled to the blog every day. For companies working in the knowledge sector, SlideShare can serve as a useful converting touch point. SlideShare is a social network site where people can share presentations (PowerPoint, etc.). This is the ideal place to showcase what you can do and what you have to offer. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
Social Media ... Other Media Blog Content Conversion Point External Blogs ... Content sharing through silo’s Influence b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
Questions to ask in building your content-conversion plan 1. What is the key objective of our content marketing? Some companies focus on creating brand awareness and others on becoming an expert or on creating business leads. Depending on your objective, there are several content-conversion points to choose from. 3. Which channels can create traffic to the content conversion point? Once you’ve determined your content conversion point, the challenge is to bring people there. All social media channels can be helpful in reaching this goal. In this phase, the tough part is being able to use your content intelligently. For instance, suppose you’ve launched a great YouTube video and you want to share it with your followers. If you have chosen your blog as the content conversion point, you should embed the video in the blog and share the link to the blog post that includes the video. Mention your blog and the URL in the description on YouTube. Also, don’t forget to mention the name and URL of your blog. Every time someone embeds your video on their blog, this helps increase the traffic to your blog. If one of your employees gives a presentation outside your company, put the name and URL on the last slide: “For more info about our company/subject of presentation check out our blog at …” Create relevant cross links to your conversion point e.g. in your Twitter profile background. The more roads lead to the conversion point, the better. 2. Which online touch point provides the best odds of reaching this objective? Define the best place on the web to reach your objectives. Below you will find several examples of content-conversion points. Since so much depends on the context, the contents of this table should be viewed as examples and not as the only possible outcome of the discussion. Objective Touch Point Details Create business leads Corporate blog Link to contact details available and biggest change people will contact you for commercial information Strengthen the emotional bond Facebook Organize open and wide-rang- ing forms of customer collabora- tion to increase involvement Improve customer experience Twitter Most complaints and questions come through Twitter, so we focus on this channel for an optimum customer service ... ... ... b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
1. Define objectives 2. Content Conversion Point 3. Content Conversion Plan Social Media Lead generation Other Media Blog Community building Content Conversion Point Content Conversion Point ... External Blogs ... Reputation mgm Influence b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
STEP 2 build reach In order to generate impact with your content, it is important to create online reach. You can have the most brilliant content available, if no one sees it the impact will remain limited. There are two ways to build reach: the slow approach and the fast approach. The slow approach builds reach over time by investing in quality content that spreads naturally. To succeed in the slow approach, you need three things: good content, a fixed rhythm and a lot of patience. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
7 approaches for effective reach building Big brands usually lack the last ingredient, which is why we recommend choosing the fast approach. Our research has shown the following seven approaches to be successful reach builders: 5. Employee activation A company should always have more fans than employees. If your own employees don’t follow your content, how can you expect your customers to be interested? Train and facilitate employees to become active ambassadors of your social channel activities. 1. Conversation worthy campaigns Invest in social campaigns to boost the reach of your social channel activities 2. Rhythm: A one-time campaign won’t do it. You need a certain rhythm to share great content 6. Offline communication channels Building reach goes beyond online channels. Try to mention online channels in all your communications: TV commercials, print advertising, banners, point of sales material... 3. Contests & free stuff: Giving away some of your products is still an effective way to build reach in the short run (although there’s no guarantee of quality). Many companies are afraid to attract ‘low quality’ followers with this strategy. This is indeed a risk: once they are on board, the challenge consists in convincing such followers to stay with your content (step 3). 7. Partner up with other major brands: If you have a good relationship with brands that have a large social reach, you can always ask them to share your brand content (or a competition) with their fan base. 4. Social advertising: To grab the attention of your audience, you need to advertise your campaigns and content on social channels. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
Rhythm Conversation worthy campaigns Free stuff Social advertising Build reach through campaigns TIME b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
STEP 3 convince through content & interaction In this step you have to convince your audience that following your brand was a good idea. Keep in mind that consumers are becoming more selective in the number of brands they interact with. Research conducted by InSites Consulting has shown that the average consumer actively interacts with no more than 5 brands on social media. This means your brand needs to be part of this select little group. Also, recent research 4 has shown that fans won’t dislike your page if they don’t like the content; instead they will ‘hide’ your page. This means competing for the attention of your own followers with big love brands like Apple, Coca Cola and Disney. And let’s not forget, your toughest adversaries when competing for the attention of your followers comes are those followers’ friends and families. The conclusion is obvious: this evolution is raising the bar for companies to be able to engage with consumers on social media. 4 Fast Company, Ekaterina Walter, Your Facebook Fans Are Hiding Your Posts At An Alarming Rate (http://www.fastcompany.com/3001871/your-facebook-fans-are-hiding-your-posts-alarming-rate) b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
3 elements are key in this particular phase 3. Operational conversation management: In this phase, consumer engagement is one of your key objectives. To succeed, you need top operational conversation management. Have a person or a team ready to interact and engage with your audience. Be fast, empathic and listen to your fans so they will commit to your brand. Follow the conversations in real time and be ready to respond. 1. An editorial calendar: Make sure you know what your content updates will look like at least three months in advance. Our previous research paper, ‘a six-step content marketing plan’, outlines how to set up an effective editorial calendar. In fact, content planning consists of three layers: big campaigns (very intense), projects (recurring thematic themes) and content updates (small content sparks). 2. Creative content: Drawing up the perfect content plan is probably the easiest part of the long road to success on social media channels. Coming up with creative and talked-about content is the real challenge. It’s not an exact science and there’s no such thing as a foolproof plan. It’s really quite simple: building content that conquers the hearts of your followers and friends requires highly creative people. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
STEP 4 from likes to ambassadors The previous steps focused on winning people’s hearts through great content. In this phase, the challenge is to create ambassadors: people who promote your brand to their friends and family. Here the question is: ‘What do we want our fans to say about us and how can we facilitate this?’. Succeed in this challenge and you will be rewarded with positive and impactful conversation about your brand. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
Convert your likes into ambassadors In this stage, you need to convert your likes into ambassadors. The following factors are essential: 3. Questions and answers Put meaningful questions to your audience as we explained in the first bullet point. Once your fans start giving you inspiring feedback, be sure to return the favor and keep them in the loop. Let them know what you did with the feedback and why certain remarks were used and others were not. Be open about what use you make of their feedback. Gain their trust be being honest. 1. Broad consumer involvement If you involve your customers in your decision-making flows, they will be more committed to your brand. People are more emotionally involved when they feel they are part of the team and that’s how you create ambassadors. So content planning is not just about sharing cool content or asking evident questions. It’s also about asking your customers for feedback on your performance. Ask people’s opinion on all things related to your company and remember to thank them for the input they provide. 4. Branded utility Think of applications that bring added value to your fans. Look for content that is both highly relevant to your audience and in line with your business. Once again, you need top creative people to invent these applications. Once fans start using the utility apps, it is a great way for them to talk about your brand through the application. 2. Consumer consultants If you have in-depth questions concerning a new project or product, you should turn to your die-hard fans on social channels and invite them to join a closed community to discuss these topics. This makes them feel like they are really part of the team and essentially you’re hiring employees that are not actually on the payroll. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
You can plan for success in social media I am convinced that most companies could use their social channels more effectively. The problem is that most companies only focus on steps 2 and/or 3 of this plan. Most brainstorms start with the question ‘what should we share on Facebook?’. By taking that discussion to a higher level, you will change the way you look at social media touch points. When using the approach outlined in this paper, it becomes obvious that the KPIs, the media types and the content types differ in each of the steps. Reach building Content & interaction To ambassadors KPI Social reach Engagement Recommendations Owned media Earned media Media type Paid media and existing owned media Content types Campaigns Content sparks Applications, online products b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
After that: integrated content loop In order to use your online channels to maximum effect, they should be aligned with marketing actions in Content offline channels. Also, steps 2, 3 and 4 of this approach become an iterative process as soon as you’ve Reach building CONTENT LOOP reached step 4 for the first time. Once you’ve managed to recruit ambassadors, it is very relevant to increase your reach again and Conversion create even more ambassadors. At a certain point it turns into a perpetual loop and when it does, the content planning from step 3 and the TIME philosophy from step 4 merge in the overall content planning. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
Content Reach building CONTENT LOOP Conversion Conversion Convince with content & interaction Build reach through campaigns Content Touchpoint plan TIME b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational
Feedback & suggestions? I hope this paper has inspired you as well as presented you with a number of transparent guidelines on how to build your social channel strategy. Of course, I’m looking forward to your feedback and to hearing about your personal experience in this field, so feel free to contact me at Steven@VanBelleghem.Biz @StevenVBe Thank you and good luck! b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational