This article is meant to review our own company appraoch to dealing with social media and leveraging it as a platform. Not to suggest we have it all figured out but I think this may be helpful to a really small business who is feeling overwhelmed by the consumer expectation.
Our customers and members of our tribe/audience want to consume relevant content and engage us in a digital relationship. Our primary social objective is to facilitate that relationship and deepen the connection between brand and consumer while also providing quality service.
Time and Resources about sums it up. Big brands like Cabelas, Geico, and Pizza Hut have the resources to hire entire teams to manage a social strategy and conversation. This has raised the expectation in the mind of today's consumer.
If our brand doesn't come at least close to that Geico level of engagement consumers get angry and won't engage with the brand. It isn't entirely fair as most small businesses don't have the resources to hire dedicated staff to manage social profiles and content… but alas nobody ever said Capitalism was easy.
So, to the best of one's brand-ability, we have to take the resources we have and do the best we can to arrive at or beyond the consumer expectation… even though we know we will fall short of perfect until the business can scale big enough for us to dedicate the resources.
Given those constraints our company dedicates itself to three primary goals:
1: Publish relevant / valuable content on our social networks consistently even when it isn't our content or doesn't directly lead to a sales funnel
We schedule daily posts to publish to our social pages/profiles with content we think our audience would care about. While we certainly don't miss the opportunity to publish our own content and announcements we also fill the gaps with other industry relevant and quality content. For some of the social sites like Facebook and Twitter we can share the same content to both… but for other sites like Pinterest and Instagram we have to be more image than headline focused and it takes incremental effort to find the best content.
While there are some tools out there that one may be able to setup to automatically publish blog content to your social profiles my experience has been that these tools don't work really well or reliably. At the same token the burden that would come with manually publishing every content piece the same hour it is published on our site is very high and not something we are currently willing to deal with. So instead we publish our content to social about 3-5 days behind the publish date on our site.
So essentially about once or twice a week we go into Hootsuite (more details below) and we schedule the next 3-5 days worth of content to schedule. We currate this content from our own site and from other sites in our industry (using feedly also discussed below). This does mean there will be a delay between the publish date and the share date but that hasn't bugged me or our followers in the slightest and in fact I believe it has been good for our SEO rankings.
2: Listen to the social audience, reading and responding to messages and posts
It isn't easy but it is important that we listen to our tribe and respond. We leverage a few tools (mentioned below) to monitor the conversation and chime in as appropriate. We don't feel the need to have something to say about everything but people do need to know the brand is there and is available when a question is asked.
3: Optimize social channels as a monetizable property. This means finding ways to track the traffic from social and learn the best and appropriate ways to leverage that asset to sell products
We use the right tools to encode links we publish to social and we leverage Google Analytics to track the traffic that comes from different social platforms and this makes it much easier to assign a dollar figure to that traffic. We also carefully optimize content that we know can lead to sales. We write better headlines, carefully consider the image being shared and when necessary ask our audience very directly to take action.
Each brand has to prioritize social channels based on where your audience spends the greatest amount of time. For our primary brand we use the following channels in this order of priority:
- Facebook – still the behemoth and very relevant to our primary and secondary audiences.
- YouTube – Too big for us to ignore for our industry and audience… debatably more important than Facebook for us.
- Twitter – huge traffic and still relevant to most of our audiences although fairly static
- Instagram – The next upcoming massive giant and already critical for our secondary audience
- Pinterest – We can't neglect it and over time it is growing in importance for our audiences
You may also want to focus energy on LinkedIn or Tumblr or some other website where your tribe spends time.
If we intend to have at our fingertips quality content that isn't our own that we can share with our followers we need to have a system in place by which we can currate and sift through that content. Setting bookmarks for 50 different industry websites and going through them once a week sounds painful enough to make me want to die… so we don't do that. Instead use a RSS reader like Feedly to subscribe to the feeds of those industry websites. The RSS Reader will pull in all the headlines from all the collective content. Then based on your own workflow you can login and very quickly scan for the best content for your tribe.
Hootsuite performs several functions for us. The tool is advertised as a social media client. It allows you to manage, publish to, monitor, and respond to all your various feeds and profiles in one place. It doesn't connect to every social media site but it does help us manage Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.
We use it to publish. When we identify a piece of content to publish now or later we use Hootsuite to schedule that content to publish to our profiles.
We use it to listen. When we get direct messages, mentions, or replies to our content we use Hootsuite to see all of that content in one place and quickly respond.
Our customer service team uses Zendesk and one of our favorite tools is the ability to import Facebook messages right into Zendesk and respond from within the Zendesk interface. It is a life saver.