Creating content, the stuff that engages people, preferably customers, potential customers, and influencers of these two groups people (otherwise why are you doing it?) is a real challenge, but one that successful use of social media demands is addressed. There are plenty of resources out there offering tips and templates, but they do not get the job done.
When you have addressed the challenges, and have great content, if nobody reads and shares it, why bother?
SEO tools also abound, just behind the seeming hordes of people offering to lift your Google ranking, for a fee. It seems to me that SEO has spawned a host of shysters matched only by the easy money opportunities emanating from Nigeria.
So where do you go in all this? How do you make the tough choices about how to allocate scarce resources? SEO or Content?
A couple of general thoughts that I have offered to clients over a while now, and which seem to work.
- Have very clear objectives. An investment in Social media is like any other investment, the first step is to be crystal clear about what it is you are trying to achieve. Setting out to get to the top of Google requires a different set of activities to engaging existing customers, building a position as an industry expert, or creating a sales pipeline. These objectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but using SEO strategies that build general awareness when you are looking for specific outcomes such as increasing your share of existing customers wallet, is as appropriate as taking the family car to a competitive hill-climb.
- Use analytics. Facts should always be the basis for decision-making, and the facts are there when you go looking for them. Marketing for the first time in its history as a profession can be held accountable to metrics that accurately measure outcomes, rather than just activity. It can be a daunting task, data analysis often can be to many, but there are free resources and tools available that offer an unprecedented accountability and transparency of marketing investments. A Google analytics dashboard at the very least should be compulsory. If you need a resource to assist your thinking, the very very, best is the Occum’s Razor blog written by Avinash Kaushik. A really good strategy is to take your device on holidays, and spend the week reading and understanding the stuff that Avinash writes. It is gold!
- Be prepared to experiment. Social media is a bit like the finches in the Galapagos, many may look the same at a fleeting and uninformed glance, but the detail of the evolution, the way individual groups have evolved to maximise their effectiveness in a specific environment is extraordinarily different. This has happened to the Galapagos finches over millennia, but is happening as we speak to social media tools and strategies, and the only way to leverage the specific circumstances you find yourself in, is to be completely agile, and committed to responding positively to changes in the environment and new information.
- Remove the rules and barriers to customer engagement. It can be confronting for many (particularly older, and dictatorial managers) to consider allowing personnel who actually interact face to face with your marketplace to have the authority to make decisions and respond on the spot to needs and opportunities as they emerge. Whilst there needs to be some general rules of engagement, that reflect the business model and values of the organisation, empowering employees can be remarkably effective.
- “Social” implies interaction.” Social media is a two way beast, whilst there is enormous potential to build value, the flip side is that the risks of social media becoming a problem are very real. The immediacy of the potential negative impact of social media needs to be recognised, and there needs to be very clearly understood strategies to deal with any such outbreak of negativity. If you cock up, social media can destroy you, particularly if you try and cover up the cock-up, and there is also the opportunity for malicious and competitive attack. This risk also needs to be acknowledged, and ideally “war-gamed” even if in a small way.
- We are stuck with Social Media. The final thing to remember is that Social media will not go away. We have seen it before, when Guttenberg got his press working, the world of the printed message changed forever, and it has happened again. Hoping it will go away, that the impact will not reach you is fantasy land, so get with the program, with all its challenges.