I’m a late convert to the social media game. In fact, I wrote some horribly misguided blog posts in years past about how social media was never going to integrate with search and how it was all just ego-masturbatory excrement.
Well, chalk that one up to ‘learning experiences’. I can’t be right all the time.
So yes. We have to take social media seriously. I may be a reluctant adopter, but that doesn’t mean I do it half-arsed. When I choose to do something, I do it as good as I possibly can. Otherwise what’s the point?
When it comes to social media for clients, we genuinely believe that the client is best positioned to take charge of their own social media activity. Nobody knows their business and their customers better than the client itself.
But that doesn’t mean we just let them get on with it. On the contrary, it’s important to give the client proper training and guidance. Social media should never be engaged in just for the sake of it. It needs a strategy, complete with objectives and tactical execution to make that happen.
What we often do for many of our clients is deliver social media trainings, aimed to get the right people in the client’s organisation up to speed about the various aspects of social media, and give them solid pointers on how best to use it.
When it comes to teaching organisations how to use social media effectively, I’m a firm believer in teaching the overall mindset first and foremost, and not get in to the nitty gritty details of specific functionality until the bigger picture is clear.
In my experience as a lecturer – for the University of Ulster’s Digital Media Communication course and the Digital Marketing Institute‘s boot camps and postgraduate diplomas - one of the things I’ve learned from teaching digital marketing is that the bigger picture matters more than the individual nuts & bolts.
Everyone can be taught to do something, but the ‘why’ behind it is much more important – and much harder to define. As with SEO, you need a strategy to make social media work for you. It begins and ends with a clear picture of what you want to achieve, and how you want to go about it.
Below I’ll share an outline of a basic social media training plan which serves more or less as a template for our training sessions. We adapt it where necessary of course, but generally speaking this training plan outlines the various aspects of social media marketing that we want to impress on a business new to the game:
It all starts with explaining the basic principles. What is social media, and how do people use it? This is about explaining how social media is a two-way conversation, and that organisations need to leave their old broadcast-mentality behind.
What we also try to convey is how social media happens on the users’ terms. Users choose to engage with you, not the other way around, so shouting as loud as you can – a very effective tactic in classic marketing – is meaningless in social media. Users will just ignore you.
Lastly, here we also introduce the necessity of clear goals & objectives. Companies shouldn’t do social media because everyone else is doing it, but they should have concrete and realistic goals that outline what they expect to get out of it in the long term.
You can’t divorce social media from the platforms which enable it, so we take proper time to explain the various major social media sites in detail. We go through the strengths and weaknesses of all the big players, and devote extra time to show the functionality of the most important platforms.
For Facebook, the following aspects will be included in the training:
And for Twitter these topics will be addressed:
After teaching the basics of Facebook and Twitter, we tend to change which additional platforms we spend in-depth attention to depending on the industry and target demographic of the client.
For organisations that deliver products and services that are very visually rich – this can be everything from custom jewellery and fashion to canvas photo prints – we delve in to platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. Clients that generate video (or have ambitions in that direction) we show the inner workings of YouTube and a few alternative video sites.
For sites that generate awesome content (and only for those) we show the basics of social news sites like Reddit, ensuring we emphasise the community aspect and steer them well clear of any potential impulse to spam these sites with mediocre (or worse) content.
Google+ we tend to show only in passing, as despite Google’s boastful membership figures we feel it is not currently a good expenditure of resources except if you sell services aimed at digital marketing professionals, such as consultancy or SEO tools.
Especially in light of Amit Singhal’s recent announcement that Google will scale back its promotion of Google+ and will show other social media results in its SERPs. (I cannot help but suspect that recent exchanges between Google and various antitrust regulators had something to do with this about-face.)
What we also address here is what many companies see as a huge risk of social media: public negative feedback from customers. Time and again organisations quote this as the biggest risk in social media – customers actually talking back to a company, and doing so in a public forum! Shocking!
What we try to show them that it’s actually a huge opportunity. The company receives direct feedback about what it is doing wrong and how it can improve its products and services, and by publicly addressing these issues the company can shows its commitment to improvement and customer satisfaction.
Many are the examples where complaints have been turned in to cheers, simply by the company addressing the complainant’s concerns humbly and appropriately. If a company is unwilling to do that, well… makes you wonder if they should be in business in the first place.
In this module we again focus on realistic goals and objectives and how they fit in a wider digital marketing strategy, as well as align with the organisation’s overall marketing strategy.
We try to find the company’s tone of voice for social media sites, ensuring there’s not too much of a gap between how users perceive the company versus how the company speaks for itself. Authenticity is emphasised, as no one likes a fake personality in corporate social media. It’s important to stay true to what you are and what you stand for as an organisation.
It’s vital to nail down what the organisation wants to say, how it says it, and to whom. Without those three aspects, there is a real risk of the company not adhering to its own social media strategy. Make it very clear how the organisation should present itself and what audience to focus on. This should be the guiding hand in everything they post online.
What we’ve found to be very helpful is the creation of a content calendar, in which we outline what will be posted on which site and on which date. This content calendar takes input from all kinds of sources – the website’s content strategy, offline marketing activities, seasonal events and other opportunities – and serves as a constant reminder for the organisation to stay on top of their social media.
With such a content calendar in place and continuously updated, we can guide the social media activities of a company and decrease the risk that they’ll abandon their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts after a few weeks of aimless experimentation.
Lastly we close the loop and address the need to measure the impact social media has, and try to attribute appropriate value to the organisation’s social media activities.
Multi-channel attribution is essential here, so we make sure the client understands the importance of tagging every link with Google Analytics tracking codes (in fact we give them tools to automate this process as much as possible) and show them the reporting features available in Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and whichever URL shortener we end up using.
This final module is usually a prelude to an extended consultancy gig where we regularly review the client’s activities, report on results, and help fill in content calendars for upcoming months. We might adapt the formulated strategy if we think it’s necessary, though we’re hesitant to adjust things too soon as we believe it takes time for social media to gain a foothold and a company’s audience to embrace it properly.
So, that’s pretty much our social media training template. What do you think? Does this training plan cover the essential aspects of social media? I’d love to get your feedback, so please leave a comment with your thoughts.