“We need a social media strategy.”
I hear this all the time. And companies have meetings upon meetings to discuss this. I’ve been a part of many of those meetings and it can be tiring to go through endless internal discussions as to what your social media strategy should be. You know what doesn’t work for a social media strategy? Not being social.
People just want to start.
Social media works when you become public about your discussion. So my recommendation is to fast track your social media strategy with the following recommendation.
While everybody’s situation is different, I find myself recommending the following basic model for most of my clients. Some of these recommendations are echoed in an article I recently wrote for Mashable entitled, “HOW TO: Jump-Start Your Career by Becoming an Online Influencer.”
There are plenty of variations, but if you don’t know where to start, this model will work well for you.
Step 1: Set up your own media outlet
You need an outlet to publish your thoughts. You need a place where you can invite influencers and customers to be interviewed. You can’t become an online influencer if you don’t create content.
Repeating my mantra, “Content is the currency of social media and search.”
If you want to be traded and visible in social media and search, then you must create content – ideally good content.
There are many ways to do this, but if you want to save yourself a ton of headaches, complications, and cost simply set up a WordPress blog with a theme that’s optimized for social media and search, such as the Thesis theme. This blog uses WordPress and Thesis.
Step 2: Create social identities
For most users and brands, you’ll want to have accounts and identities with the major sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Try to stay consistent and use the same username for all identities so as not to confuse yourself or your audience. KnowEm is a great service that will check across endless social services as to which names are and aren’t available.
Step 3: Create a proactive editorial plan
Create thought pieces, how-to’s, explanations, videos, podcasts, or anything else that demonstrates your thought leadership in your space. This is where you form viewpoints that you hope to become leading opinions.
A simple way to produce a proactive editorial calendar is to simply ask your sales staff and sales partners, “Why are we losing sales?” You’ll get answers such as “We’re not even a consideration,” “They don’t know how we’re different than competitor X,” and “They didn’t think we had a solution for problem Z.”
Take all the answers, rank them 1-10 in terms of importance, and start creating content (e.g., articles, screencasts, how-to’s, case studies, video interviews) that answer those issues. Next time your sales staff are out in the field and they get hammered with one of these top ten questions, they’ll have your content as support and they’ll be able to close the sale.
For more advice on connecting content creation with your sales cycle, read “Be the VoiceSM” – Build Your Business by Becoming your Industry’s Thought Leader.”
If you feel completely overwhelmed and you don’t even think you can start, read “Blogging advice for people who ‘have no time to blog.’”
Step 4: Create a reactive editorial plan
Set up search queries for relevant industry terms, and follow your industry’s top people. For management of all this microblogging and blogging behavior, there are tons of options, but you might want to start with TweetDeck or HootSuite.
When you see stories trending, respond with a short blog post quickly, and then a comment on the source material with a link back to your blog post. If it’s a growing story, keep updating your blog post with time stamps. Make sure to message out to all the venues that care about this content (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and industry specific message boards).
Step 5: Build relationships with your industry’s key influencers
Every industry has people that the rest of us look up to, read what they say, and respect their opinion. If you want them to start paying attention to you, pay attention to them first (Read: “Three simple tricks to getting influencers to pay attention to you”). Far too often influencer relationships are limited to pitching your product. Don’t do that. Instead, offer value to the influencer and the industry as a whole. I know you’ve heard it a million times before, but be genuine about your desire to form a relationship. They will soon see you as a resource, not a flack pitching your client’s product, and they’ll be eager to hear more from you.
Step 6: Build relationships with really big brands
If you’re a small brand, and nobody knows your name, you have to start associating yourself with brand names that people do know. That means you have to align yourself with big brands. You do that by writing stories about them. How are big brands associated with your business? Are they doing things similar, different, could they benefit from you? Do you have any big brands as customers? Do you have any friends that work at big brands? Ask if you can interview them. Publish that story on your media outlet/blog.
Step 7: Offer content to well-trafficked media outlets
When you start creating content, no one is going to know you exist. You may be a huge brand, but you may not be known as a voice in your industry. You can rectify your editorial anonymity by producing content for free on other well known industry sites. Simply approach the sites and ask if you can contribute. Just ask for a link back to your site.
WARNING: This takes work, ongoing work, and lots of it. You need to make your social media strategy a part of of your ultimate marketing, branding, content, and customer service process. None of this will happen overnight. But you need to start somewhere. So get started.
Stock photos courtesy of Shutterstock.