Harnessing the Power of Social Media Starts with Understanding

“How do we get more people to like our Facebook page?” From the first tweet ever sent out into the Twitterverse to the first “Like” on a Facebook page, one of the most common questions we get from clients is how to get a bigger following on social media. Sometimes it’s even, “We need to be on Twitter and Instagram. Can you help?” Almost always, our initial response is, “Why?” You’d be surprised by how many can’t answer that question.

Because of this and the fact that social media is here for the foreseeable future, many businesses, small and large, dive into it without a defined purpose or strategy and ultimately waste their time and effort. They fail to realize that effective social media engagement is both art and science.

Often times, brands subscribe to the “build it and they will come” philosophy. Yes, just about anyone can set up a Facebook page, Instagram account, YouTube channel or whatever the social media flavor of the month might be at that time. With their new accounts, many companies begin to push out information and expect the engagement and brand loyalty to just flow in. We wish it were that simple. The following are just some of the steps involved in harnessing the complete power of social media.

It All Starts with the Why

Like with any communications effort or business decision in general, you need to clearly define your goals. Is it to sell a product or service? Is it to raise funds? Is it to recruit volunteers? Is it to simply increase awareness? Social media can do all of these things and because of it’s flexibility, sometimes all at once. It is a highly versatile medium, but without defining the “Why,” it can never be used to its full potential.

The True Value of Social Media

Next, you need to define what success means for your brand. Too many companies get bogged down with worrying about how many Facebook “Likes,” Twitter followers or YouTube subscribers they have. This is a very basic way to measure your efforts, but not the true measure of successful social media work. The true value of social media lies in the conversation that is developed among a brand’s target audiences. This genuine relationship leads to brand loyalty and preference.

Fostering the Conversation

How does a brand develop this type of powerful relationship? The first thing to understand is that, when done correctly, social media is treated as a communications channel rather than a marketing tactic. It’s something that needs to be considered for all of your marketing and communications efforts. The second point that needs to be understood is that social media has created an entirely different dynamic between brands and their customers. Picture traditional marketing efforts as a one-way street. Your message is pushed down that street and if it’s compelling, it resonates with your target audiences and leads to whatever action you are hoping they will take. Social media has turned that one-way street into a two-lane highway. Rather than speaking at consumers, a brand has to speak with them. Today’s consumer wants a voice in the conversation and needs to know that they are being heard. And if they don’t feel they are being heard, they will talk about a brand…and not necessarily in a positive way. So why not be a part of the conversation?

Social media has provided Joe Public with a platform, so it’s up to marketers to figure out to make them part of their message, not just its target. Those who do it well can gain valuable feedback from the conversation that is generated and actually use it to improve their businesses. Think of it as an ongoing focus group…a barometer for what Joe Public thinks about a brand.

What It All Comes Down To

So, how does a business harness this channel? It all circles back to strategy. There has to be a plan in place that outlines goals and objectives; the process for integrating this channel into the overall marketing and communications plan; which platforms are most appropriate for achieving goals and objectives; how content will be shared, monitored and managed; how efforts will be measured; etc. You get the picture. The big, complex picture and wild potential of a complete social media approach based on sound strategy.

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