Our Blog

How to Think Strategically About Social Media

How to Think Strategically About Social Media

Image of social media strategy

When I first sat down to write How to Make Money with Social Media with Dr. Reshma Shah from Emory University, we agreed that one of the biggest challenges advertising agencies, digital marketing firms and marketing directors have with their social media campaigns is that they think tactically first and strategically second.

This, of course, is backwards. A good social media campaign starts by laying out objectives, which is followed by strategy, then tactics, then an executional roadmap.

Given all that, we devoted one of the early chapters in the book to the concept of social media strategy.

I’ve included an excerpt from that chapter below. Of course, if you want the full experience, I encourage you to buy the book at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon — it provides a step-by-step roadmap on how to set-up, launch and manage a social media campaign.

To get a feel for the content in the book, read on.

How to Think Strategically About Social Media.

One of the biggest challenges with social media is that most people run their campaigns in reverse order.

What do we mean when we say people run their campaigns in reverse order? They start by thinking tactically before they think strategically, which is backwards.

A typical approach is to kick things off by saying, “We need a Facebook page. And a Twitter profile. And a Pinterest board!” But that’s the wrong way to go about it. The right way is to say, “We need a goal. And an objective. And a strategy.”

output_BqFklQ

 

Think of it this way — if you wanted to drive from Atlanta to Austin, you’d start by establishing your goal (to get to Austin), then think through your objective (to get there within 5 days without running out of gas) and then settle in in on a strategy that’ll help you achieve your goal and objective (to break the trip into 5 bite-sized chunks with stops every 3 hours to refuel and use the rest area).

Does that make sense?

We’ll cover the specifics about goals, objectives, strategies and tactics in a later chapter, because there’s a lot more to it than what we just mentioned, but for now, let’s shift gears a little bit and explore how to think strategically about your business, your customers and, ultimately, your next social media campaign.

A great place to start this exercise is by examining the motivations that drive your customers to buy your products or services in the first place.

On the surface, you probably believe that your customers are buying the features of your products or services. So, for example, if you’re Maid Brigade, a national home cleaning service, you’d say that your customers are buying a clean house. After all, when someone calls Maid Brigade, that customer doesn’t ask them to mow their lawn – they ask them to clean their house.

But is that really what they’re asking for?

Oh, sure, a clean house is an essential element of what Maid Brigade is selling, but there are plenty of businesses that clean houses. So the question really becomes, “In addition to a clean house, what is it that a Maid Brigade customer is really buying?”

For starters, they’re buying a brand they trust. For some companies (such as Coca-Cola and Apple), the value of the brand is one of their most important assets. For perspective on the value of a brand, consider this ­— in your neighborhood there are probably several local restaurants that sell pizza. And many of those restaurants sell better pizza than Domino’s. But Domino’s almost certainly sells more pizzas per store than any of the restaurants in your neighborhood.

Why? Because Domino’s has a national brand that people have grown to love and trust. And, when it comes right down to it, love and trust translates into big bucks. And more pizzas sold.

Now that we’ve talked about the value of a brand, let’s jump back to the Maid Brigade case study. People don’t hire Maid Brigade simply because they’re a trustworthy national brand or because they do a good job cleaning houses. It goes much deeper than that. When you drill down into what prompts someone to buy their services, you start to uncover some of the unspoken reasons why people gravitate to their brand.

For example, Maid Brigade was the first national chain to go green with their cleaning materials. So a certain percentage of people hire Maid Brigade because they like the green aspect of their services. For most people, “green cleaning” isn’t the very first thing they’re looking for when they do research on home cleaning services, but it’s certainly a key differentiator for their brand.

But we’re still just scratching the surface — you can go much deeper.

For example, what is it that people really get when they get a clean house? People get more than just a clean house – they also get time. In other words, they free up several hours a week that they would otherwise spend cleaning.

What do they get in those several hours? Initially, you might say they get time to play more tennis, time with their grandchildren or time to work with a charity. All of those answers are correct, but when you examine it further you realize that they’re actually getting the opportunity to have more fulfilling lives, to have deeper relationships and to get to know themselves better.

See how that works? What people are actually buying in a product or service goes much deeper than you might imagine.

If you were to write down a list of the features and benefits of using Maid Brigade, many marketers would just scratch the surface. But by getting inside the mind of the customer and thinking about what truly motivates them, you come up with emotional hot buttons that resonate with their prospects and customers.

Again, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t lead with “green clean” or “spotless counters” or “freshly-vacuumed rug.” Those aspects of the Maid Brigade brand are all important, but when you overlay those benefits with the deeper, more meaningful emotional hot buttons, you connect with your prospects and customers on a more lasting basis.

Here’s an Exercise to Help You Think Through Your Social Media Strategy

Grab a sheet of paper and write down a list of all the reasons someone buys a cup of coffee from Starbucks. We’d like you to think about what motivates someone to buy a cup of Starbucks coffee.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.14.29 PM

First on your list, of course, is that customers simply want a cup of coffee. That’s reason enough. But what else are they buying? Aren’t they also buying the “cool” factor at Starbucks? Aren’t they buying the fact that Starbucks is often populated with young, trend-setting professionals? And aren’t they buying the way the Starbucks environment makes them feel?

What else? You can go even deeper. Some people are buying the friendly smile from the Barista. Others are buying the trendy music playing in the background. And still others are buying the cushy sofas that are perfect for people working on laptops.

Going deeper still, you realize that some people are there because they feel lonely. And, interestingly, some people are there because they want to be alone.

Others are there because it helps them think. Or daydream. Or clear their minds.

And, of course, eventually we come full circle and realize that some people are at Starbucks simply because they want a darn good cup of coffee.

Our point, whether you’re talking about Maid Brigade or Starbucks or any other company, is that the foundation for any successful social media campaign is to explore the motivations that are driving your customers to buy your products or services in the first place. The odds are pretty good that they’re buying much more than just the features and benefits — they’re buying the hidden value of your products and services as well.

Wrapping Your Mind Around Social Media.

Now that we’ve talked about how to gain a deep understanding of your prospects and customers, let’s lay the foundation for how to think about social media. The easiest way to do that is to draw comparisons to other things you might be familiar with, so let’s start with social media in general.

What is social media? You can find dozens of answers on the Internet, some helpful and some flat wrong. But for our purposes, social media are the digital tools that prompt a dialogue between your customers and your business.

Unfortunately, many businesses use social media for one-way monologues instead of two-way dialogues. This brings us to an important point:

Social media is more like a telephone than it is a megaphone.

Businesses that use social media as a megaphone are using it incorrectly. You know the kind of businesses we’re talking about. They can’t stop talking about themselves and what makes their products or services special. But have you ever been on a date with someone who can’t stop talking about how wonderful he or she is? Have you ever been out with someone who constantly bragged and never once asked you about your interests?

We’re guessing here, but we imagine that if you went on a date with someone like that, it was probably the last date you had with him or her.

So back to our analogy—when you’re running your next social media campaign, think of the platforms you’re using as tools that are more like telephones than they are megaphones.

Key Social Media Platforms

Now let’s take that analogy a step further. If using social media is similar to using a telephone, then what is Facebook like? Or LinkedIn? Or Twitter?

We developed some analogies to help frame your thinking:

Facebook is like a pub. It’s a casual place where you can go to talk about what you did over the weekend, tell a joke, or tell people what you did at your high school reunion.

Google+ is like a country club. Despite the fact that Google+ is one of the fastest-growing social media networks on the planet and has a wide-ranging user-base, it still has an exclusive feel to it because it remains clean, uncluttered and (for the moment) advertising-free.

LinkedIn is like a trade show. You wouldn’t tell people at a trade show what you did in Vegas last weekend, would you? Okay, maybe you would, but the average businessperson wouldn’t. Limit LinkedIn to your professional side. Talk about business. Talk about interesting articles in the Harvard Business Review. And use plenty of phrases such as “value chain” and “business model” in your profile. That should do the trick.

Twitter is like a cocktail party. Cocktail parties are great places to mingle, share information, and make new friends — just like millions of people do every day on Twitter. It may be a bit of a challenge to pack a lot of information into 140 characters, but if you can master that aspect of Twitter, you’ll be able to use it quite effectively for business.

Pinterest is like a bulletin board. The whole idea behind Pinterest is that it’s a place for people to share thoughts, ideas, photographs, favorite quotes and other pieces of information on a series of digital bulletin boards that can be seen and shared by others. Most businesses use Pinterest as a branding tool to deepen their relationship with prospects and customers, but others are using it (quite effectively) to provide information about special promotions or product offerings.

YouTube is like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Times Square on New Year’s Eve is packed with people clamoring for attention, which illustrates the problem. Just as it’s hard to stand out in Times Square, it’s hard to stand out on YouTube. Too much competition exists. So if you want to use YouTube to make money, you need to build awareness for your YouTube channel first.

Image of YouTube stats

Other Social Media Platforms You Should Know About

One of the more common mistakes people make when thinking about social media is to think that social media is about only Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. In reality, social media is about much more.

For our purposes, we’re including the following categories on our list of tools you can use to grow your sales and revenues using social media:

Blogs and Digital Magazines—These are quickly becoming many people’s primary source of news and information.

Bookmarks and tags—Similar to digital yellow stickies that let other members of the online community know that you like an article or a Web page.

E-mail newsletters—Digital flyers that let people know about your products or services.

Widgets—Online gadgets that help you crunch numbers, check the weather, or find out how much money you made (or lost) in the stock market.

Content aggregation sites—Sites that effectively cut out articles from other online newspapers and repost them in one central location.

Wikis—Sites that enable large groups of people to contribute and edit content.

Voting—Provides people the opportunity to express their opinion on a product or service.

Crowdsourcing—Uses the talents of many people in different parts of the globe to contribute to something (such as the development of an open-source software program).

Discussion boards and forums—Places where people can digitally thumbtack their thoughts, comments, or suggestions on a digital corkboard hosted on your Web site.

Backchannel sites—Places where people at trade shows and conventions can comment on the event or the speaker on stage.

Tweetups—Meetings or casual get-togethers that are organized via Twitter (such as “Meet us as Bob’s Tavern at 6:00 pm. We’re getting together to discuss the top social media campaigns from this year”).

Photo-sharing sites—Digital photo albums on sites such as Flickr, Instagram, and Snapfish where people can upload their favorite photos.

Podcasting—A way for small and large organizations to broadcast their thoughts, comments, or perspectives on a wide variety of topics.

Presentation-sharing sites—Places where you can upload your latest and greatest PowerPoints.

Virtual worlds—Places where (young) people go to create second lives.

Ratings and reviews—Enable people to rate your product or service and write reviews. (Believe it or not, negative reviews can actually help your brand because they give you instant customer feedback.)

Social Media Models Used by the Fortune 500

Whether you work as a sole proprietor or at a Fortune 500 company, it’s a good idea to know how others are using social media so you can incorporate those models into your own campaigns.

With that in mind, here are five social media models that are used by the Fortune 500:

Branding. Some companies use social media strictly as a branding tool. Typically, this means running a YouTube campaign that (hopefully) gets a lot of buzz around the water cooler. In our opinion, using social media only as a branding tool is a twentieth century mindset. If you really want to supercharge your social media campaigns, you’ll incorporate one or all of the next four highly measurable approaches.

e-Commerce. If you can sell your product or service online, then you’ll want to drive people to a landing page on your website where they can buy your goods. How can you accomplish this? Just do what many e-commerce companies do and post special promotions available only to the people who follow them on social media. The promotional links are easily tracked so they can see how many people went to the landing page and how many converted from a prospect to a customer.

Research. Many companies are using social media as a tool to do research. Sometimes, this involves building a website to track the results. Starbucks has done this famously with their MyStarbucksIdea.com website. Other times, using social media as a research tool can be as simple as doing a poll on LinkedIn, SurveyMonkey, or via email.

Customer Retention. A good rule of thumb is that it costs three to five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Given that, wouldn’t it be smart to use social media as a tool to keep customers loyal and engaged? That’s what Comcast and Southwest Airlines do—they communicate via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to help solve customer service issues.

Lead Generation. What do you do if you can’t sell your product or service online? Then you’ll want to do what many B2B companies do—that is, they use social media to drive prospects to a website where they can download a whitepaper, listen to a Podcast, or watch a video. Once you’ve captured the prospect’s contact information, you can re-market to them via email, direct mail, or any number of other methods.

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, an Atlanta-based advertising agency and digital marketing firm that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

Book by Jamie Turner