Tips for aligning your strategy with social media

September 22, 2011

With its fast-paced evolution, social media continues to fascinate and frustrate as businesses figure out the nuances and opportunities each network presents.  However you’re leveraging social platforms, your activity should be aligned with your overall business strategy. Here is a framework to make sure you are doing just that…

Prioritise research.

Plenty of organisations pay lip service to research, but it is often the first activity to be cut from a budget or timeline. Businessess that have failed to analyse and understand their target audience have often made infamous blunders.

For social media engagement to work, it requires a firm understanding of the audiences that use the different platforms. Researching social media should tell you who within your target audience is using which networks for what purposes, and the sentiment they currently hold toward your brand.  Once you have a firm command of the audience, you’re ready to make informed decisions on how best to align your strategy for social media.

Align social media planning to strategy.

Don’t mistakenly view social media as a strategy in and of itself. Organisations adopt a variety of strategies in order to be innovative, popular or different.  Whatever your strategy may be, it needs to be the guiding principle that defines how you select and execute the tactical elements of your communications program, of which social media is just one arm.

Execute against individuals.

It is during execution that the social media efforts of many organisations fail. Most commonly, it’s a lack of thoughtfulness and personalisation as businesses treat the online community as a billboard, rather than a sounding board or discussion forum. We cannot view social networks as a mass medium—that suggests ignorance of their purpose. We must view them as a niche venue to reach targeted individuals (emphasis on individual) by customising our message to gain their embrace of our brand.

Hence, a brand differentiation strategy executed over social media may seek to affect influencers first, achieving success by initially winning over a small, but select, group of individuals who have the respect and ear of the larger community.

Evaluate…and measure.

As with traditional media, we can use digital channels to express a point of view, offer industry expertise and/or provide news. The relationship between a business and its “followers” does not remain static; we must continually refresh the conversation and—above all—listen to and evaluate the responses of those who are engaging in order to advance the dialogue. Quantitative and qualitative measurement in social media is most valuable if done in real time and used to refine messages and other expressions.