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Questions to Ask Before Taking your Business Social

29 April 2013 BY

It’s Monday. Chances are there are currently many businesses holding their weekly meetings to decide what they will be doing this week. Chances also are that some managers had a nice weekend with meeting friends and maybe even some birthday parties. The talks on those parties used to be mostly politics, but these days the discussions differ a lot. For example Social Media is discussed on almost every gathering. The good, the bad and the ugly of Social is being discussed.

I am willing to bet my entire fortune on it that somewhere on a birthday party some manager, some CEO or somebody else with a decision making role overheard or was part in a conversation about how Social Media is used in business. That person will have heard from his conversation partners what a great business tool it is for them and how their Facebook page reached ‘a 100 likes’ within a short amount of time. When that same manager turned his head at the birthday party he would see a group of kids all looking at their phones. Updating their Facebook status, playing a game or ‘apping’ their friends. In the back of his mind he will have thought: we need to do something with that.

This Monday morning that manager will have headed into the office, into the weekly staff meetings and will have said: “We need to do something with Facebook as well, where is our Facebook Page?”. And then the treadmill starts. A Facebook Page will be set up. Content will be created and will be posted. There will be employees begging their friends for likes and after a few weeks or months they start to wonder why Facebook didn’t work for them as ‘promised’. The manager by that time will have forgotten all about it and the marketing team will need to start looking for solutions.

Because they haven’t thought about it first. Because they lacked a strategy and just chose a channel.

In this article I’d like to highlight a few elements about what things a business needs to think about before ‘jumping in’.

Did you think about your strategy?

A much made mistake is that businesses don’t have a strategy when it comes to Social Media, they just do. Now it is good to try things out and learn from that. But taking your business as a guinea pig might not always be the best idea. It might hurt your business in the long run. Playing around should be done with some thought behind it.

strategy_tacticsTactics not strategy

The big thing here is the difference between tactics and strategy. ‘Trying out’ usually means trying out tactics. It’s not a strategy. Even stronger: I wouldn’t call a Facebook Page a ‘strategy’, I’d call it a tactic. Now you can try out tactics as much as you want, as long as your strategy is in order.

Why and what of a strategy

A strategy should be the thoughts behind what you do: what is your goal, how do you as a business want to be perceived and where do you want to take your strategy. A strategy (though adjustable) should survive any tactic and it should survive any social network. Even though chances are slim of that happening, but if Facebook and Google would fall over tomorrow, your strategy should still be in place, you will just choose different platforms.

Your strategy should therefor think about several elements, for example:

- what are your goals
- what is your target audience
- how do you want to be perceived

What and where is your audience?

An important element of what to think about before you jump in to social media is your audience. You need to figure out which audiences you are targeting, who are they and why them? And remember: you are not just targeting those you can sell to, you are also targeting those around them. Those that influence the people buying your product.

So it is important to create profiles of your target audiences. Important here are a few elements, for example:

- Where is your audience located, both physically as well as online: are they even on Facebook?
- Who is your audience influenced by: the people around them, specific celebrities, specific websites?
- What does your audience like? Do they like watching funny videos or are they in need of help and looking for advice which you can give them?

All questions you need to ask yourself before choosing which channel to use on Social Media.

Where is the content coming from?

Now here’s an interesting one: the content. One of the new ‘buzz terms’ is Content Marketing. For many this is creating as much content as possible, then spitting it out into the world using as much channels as possible, including Social Media. However that is NOT what Content Marketing should be all about. Content Marketing should be about making sure the right content is marketed to the right people using the right channels. This can mean content you created yourself or other content. Important however is that it always should fit the purpose: it should help your strategy forward.

Don’t go creating content just because of the content. Please.

What are your resources like?

A big trap many companies fall into is the resources. They create the Facebook Page, the Twitter account and the blog, connect it all together and then suddenly realise there has to be content which has to go on those channels. But who will be creating that content? In general the company will look at the marketing department, hoping they will pick it up. However the marketing department doesn’t always have the right resources or the knowledge to create the right content.

This in many cases means that the effort of ‘going social’ dies a slow death because there is no content. So make sure you have the right resources!

Can you handle what’s next?

To make my point here I’d like to tell this story:

I was once asked to help out a webshop getting more traffic and more sales. They had a real life shop as well. When I got to their offices they were located across the street, four staircases up. The office had two people working on the webshop. One of them I was talking to, the other one was a girl who was sitting behind a computer and had boxes all around her. At a certain point in the conversation I dared asking what the girl’s job was. She was the ‘packing lady’.

 

I asked for more explanation. It turns out that whenever an order was placed on the website, she would get an e-mail with the order. She would then walk across the street (remember, four staircases, no elevator), get the ordered item out of the real life shop, go back, get a box, she would wrap the item, go down again to the post office and she would mail the item.

 

I was a bit baffled at first and then asked how many orders they were getting each week. The answer: about five… I then asked how many hours the girl was working. That answer: she was working 3 days a week…

 

I off course asked what would happen if we would increase the number of orders to hundreds. Could the girl work more hours? Would she be physically capable of running up and down those stairs each day? And was there budget to hire more people, was there a plan for when the orders would increase? The answer to all the questions was ‘no’.

 

At that point I decided not to optimise: they weren’t ready for it…

The message here is to make sure your organisation is ready for what will be coming, but for if its a success as well as a failure. You need to understand that online can influence your entire business, not just the marketing department.

Can you handle the truth?

A final consideration before jumping into social is whether or not you can handle the truth. Many organisations have an image of who they are which might not be the same as some people outside of the business have. You could be in for an unexpected downside of Social Media: people might not like you and express that.

Are you willing to handle this and most of all: accept this? There is no ‘turning off’ social once you’ve started you know…

Conclusion

So if you are that manager who heard ‘something about social media’ this weekend, you might want to think about things before you drop a bomb on your colleagues in the marketing department. Make sure you ‘do social’ for the right reasons, not just because your next-door neighbour has a son who does smart thing with Facebook.

And if you are a marketeer: make sure you ask the manager the right questions: why are you doing this, is there budget and resources available and what is the goal of ‘doing social’. If the answers are not ‘right’ you might be in for some trouble…

AUTHORED BY:
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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. -- You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.
  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    This argument goes way beyond social – it applies to digital in general. Too many companies feel they need to do digital but have no considered thought or strategy behind it, and have no realistic budget and definitely no realistic expectations.