Does My Company Really Need a Social Media Strategy?
No matter the size of your business, you may have asked yourself whether or not investing in social media is necessary or worthwhile. The short answer is, “Yes.” Social media is essential for companies, especially consumer-facing brands, because of the consumer’s need for increased transparency and accountability. Having a social media strategy in play, which heavily focuses on social media communication, can significantly increase awareness of your brand, engage a new audience, or even diffuse a communications crisis that can affect your company’s bottom line.
Any company that wants to communicate with consumers directly needs to create a digital strategy to reach them. One of the most important things to remember is that the one-size fits all approach does not work when creating a social media strategy. You have to first figure out what you hope to accomplish with social media. Do you want to gain awareness for your brand, showcase your company culture or become a thought leader in your industry? Depending on your goals, there are a host of different networks you can choose to fulfill them. Each of them is used to accomplish a different mission.
To share information and also hear back from consumers, use popular networks like Facebook and Twitter. These are usually the first networks that companies decide to join because of this element of direct customer engagement. They can help you get your press releases about corporate responsibility initiatives in front of potential stakeholders or your videos about company culture in front of potential employees. While they are used primarily to share information, they are also two of the best platforms on which to promote discussion. Since the sites do promote discussion, both good and bad, they are perfect for addressing the concerns of consumers. You can respond, in real-time, to problems, which may in turn help you keep disgruntled customers.
If you are looking to recruit employees, look to LinkedIn and YouTube. You can entice a potential candidate by sharing information, like positive quarterly reports or recent research, on your LinkedIn company page. To show off a great company culture and explore benefits, use short YouTube videos that profile employees, demonstrate your commitment to the community or highlight awards the company has won.
Some of the fastest growing platforms are those that host multimedia, like photos and short videos. Instagram, the world’s fastest growing social network, and Pinterest are used to share photos and encourage users to share them with others. These platforms are great for distributing digital media, like infographics, that tell a story in seconds. Using images is a surefire way to increase engagement on any social media page.
If you are seeking a more select audience, you should explore industry-specific networks. While these targeted networks are not new, some of them have recently seen incredible growth. Doximity, a social network targeted at Physicians, has doubled its user base in the past year, and has 250,000 members, over a third of practicing U.S. physicians. The site is now the largest secure network for healthcare. Companies in the healthcare space can share research and collaborate on the network, making it a great place for company employees to become thought leaders. There are other networks, like Labroots for scientists, and Oilpro for oil industry professionals, that serve the same purpose.
Creating profiles on these platforms is the easy part. The most important segments of a social media strategy are content and community management. You must put in a significant amount of time to both create the content and interact with the users (i.e. the community) who are engaging with it. The content, itself, should be engaging, including photos, videos and charts, to increase the likelihood that it will be viewed, shared and referenced. Without proper community management, the content you produce will not have a large reach, and in some cases, not reach anyone at all.
In a world where transparency is essential, at a minimum, the majority of businesses and organizations must have a social media platform to show audiences what they value. What platform you choose is up to you, but there is a network for every mission, industry and issue. Dumping information about your company onto any of these sites without first thinking about how users will interact with it is a lazy and inefficient use of these valuable communications tools. To get the most from these networks, do not solely ask, “Do I need social media?” Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I trying to achieve by sharing information on social media?
- What do I want consumers, shareholders and the general public to know about my company? How much transparency is too much?
- What is the response I want to receive? Do I want likes, shares or conversation?
Asking those questions will help you to understand how social media is related to your larger communications plan. Social media should not be created in a vacuum, or seen as an addendum to an already finalized communications plan. It should be fully integrated into that plan, as it is an essential part of growing and maintaining any successful consumer-facing business in 2014.