After talking with hundreds of executives and analyzing research reports and white papers, it is clear that social media is no longer an emerging technology that is nice to have and instead is a solution that businesses must have now. Social media is rapidly being adopted by the Fortune 5000 as well as small and medium sized businesses that are strategically utilizing these proven technologies in their organizations. On the surface, these solutions seem to meet their needs yet how do these companies know if they have selected the right strategies?Companies who want to remain competitive by having a closer connection to their clients and aligning their employees to the mission and vision of the organization are experiencing tremendous value out of their investments in social media. Success in social media is not a technology problem, instead it is a business problem. Here are five critical success factors to consider before you launch the right social media strategy for your organization. If you clearly understand the outcome you want (results) and why you want that outcome (purpose), then creating a list of actions that will make your strategy come to life is easily done.
1. Compelling business objectives
The first aspect that is often overlooked in designing a social media implementation is the actual strategy, purpose and planned outcome. Businesses often forge straight away into a tactical implementation without anything more than, “We will put up a community or forum and our customers or employees will simply show up.”
Thinking about your strategy as a business goal rather than a social one will change the conversation that you have about what the most important part of the social media strategy will be. It is important to visualize where you want your company to be within twelve months and ask yourself the question, “How has my social media strategy transformed my organization?” This is a hard question because in most cases, you may not have developed your strategy – yet. Having a clear and detailed understanding of your business objectives is critical. What does success look like to you? Once you have established that, developing the road map, selecting the tools and the team to get there is much easier.
Question: Do you have a clear view of a social media strategy? Suggestion: Consider having an expert guide you through this process in order to develop the ideal social media strategy that fits your ultimate outcome perfectly.
2. Ideal implementation considerations
One of the challenges to utilizing any new tool is implementation. There are often a lot of areas to consider, many audiences to appease and numerous constraints. When you begin working on your social media tactics, choosing solutions that can offer simple and fast implementation options is very important. If it will require IT resources and a team of people from your company, you may want to consider alternative solutions.Another option is to begin with a pilot, rolling out your social media initiative to a small group of customers or employees first. This will enable you to test, measure your results and make changes before you unleash your strategy to the entire target audience. Ideally, if you can set up your social media solution without having to connect to existing databases, without linking to existing websites, or without having to be concerned about user authentication – at least for your pilot – then don’t. In many cases, it can easily take you six months to understand all of the potential issues that HR, IT and Legal may put forth and this may distract you from executing on the core business objectives you have worked so hard to create. Instead, consider building internal momentum with a pilot program first and then you can replicate your success with a more in-depth integration of the tool or tools throughout your organization.
Question: Have you taken into account the steps you will follow to implement your ideal solution? Suggestion: Ask your vendor what the process is to be up and running with a solution or a pilot within a week.
3. Measurable insight and business intelligence
In developing your social media strategy, you will need to understand the audience that you plan to offer this solution to. This knowledge will allow you to mold your solution to best fit their specific needs.
You may be familiar with the idea of website analytics or statistics. These are metrics that track usage of a website, time spent on pages, and where the visitors come from, for example. Similar to website metrics, it is critical to choose a social media solution where you have the ability to measure the key aspects of your strategic objectives. With the ability to track campaigns and analyze the intelligence you gather, it will be clear how you can best use that information to serve your audience. Having the ability to utilize the business intelligence to deliver insight is not only a key driver of success; it can transform your business.
In order to have insight that is valuable enough that you can make better business decisions, you can start by creating tactics that will yield answers to deliver the insight you are looking for. Great rule to follow: If you want great answers from your audience, you have to ask great questions.
Question: Do you have the ability to access business intelligence about your audience at your fingertips now? Suggestion: That which gets measured, gets done. Make sure you have instant access to key metrics at all times.
4. Engaging user experience
One of the biggest challenges to any social media experience is to create something that captures the attention of the audience in three seconds or less and keeps them coming back for more. If compelling enough, three seconds of interest extends to three minutes of interaction and then into three hours of repeat activity. This is the ideal situation. Think of how many websites you have been to that were slow or poorly designed. Chances are that once you had a negative first impression, you did not return.
Choosing social media tools that are easy to use, visually engaging to interact with and that offer value to the audience will play a significant role in the success (or failure) of your strategy.Understanding how good design helps people use social media will transform how they interact with other users and information. This should be a key objective for you. If you spend significant effort on crafting the other key aspects of a successful social media strategy, yet you neglect design, your efforts will not deliver the best results possible.
Question: Are you offering your audiences a compelling and engaging experience? Suggestion: Impeccable design makes complicated concepts easy to understand and will result in delivering greater value to your audience. Insist on it.
5. Easily communicated ROI
If you follow the steps covered above carefully, you will definitely see results in as quickly as one to three months after implementation. Understand that these efforts take time to grow organically; your initial steps must be nurtured so that they become great strides moving you forward.
To recap: 1. Make sure your objectives are clear that you have a road map to follow throughout the process. 2. Insist on a solution that is easy to understand, easy to set up and maintain. 3. Choose a solution that delivers measurable insight. 4. Select tools that have a high level of attention to design and user interaction.
The return on investment you receive will be directly tied to the strategic objectives you stated at the beginning. Are you trying to communicate better with your customers so that they know more about your products, and as a result buy more? Or are you making sure that your employees can find the right resources at the right time and save hours hunting for experts to help them? With a successful social media solution in place, imagine the thousands of hours saved if you were able to provide this type of information to your audience with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.
“Economic hardship is demanding that we produce more from less. As a result, we’ll need to embrace new ideas and deploy new approaches so we can arrive at new goals.” – May 2009, Deliver Magazine.
Being able to move a successful pilot project to the next step will mean that you can show the business results of your pilot to other stakeholders and clearly demonstrate how it has affected your business. You will have command over these results because you will have taken a baseline measurement at the beginning of your effort and measured it continually throughout the initial phases. This practice of defining your outcome, understanding your purpose, then taking the actions to implementing your chosen social media solution will result in success.
Question: Do you know how to effectively identify ROI from existing efforts to solve your challenges? Suggestion: Focusing on the ROI you want to deliver can change business trajectory of your campaign. Consider your ROI goals early in your planning process.
Do you have the five aspects of a successful social media strategy in place now? Can you afford to not seriously think about what it will take to get started with your own social media strategy?
At introNetworks we understand how daunting this information may seem to you. There are hundreds of choices, different paths you can go down and many people to convince along the way. It is a significant amount of work to take this all into account and develop an ideal social media strategy.
If you feel like you aren’t sure where to even begin, we can help.
Every week we help companies discover and develop their own effective social media strategies. After working in this industry for over seven years, we understand the nuances and politics of putting together and implementing a strategy that will align you with your customers and employees like never before.
We will be in touch shortly to answer any questions you might have as a result of reading this report. Alternatively, you are welcome to reach out to us to explore the possibilities.