Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts once caused a stir by boldly declaring that ‘strategy is dead’. While I agree with some of his observations about the challenges of operating in what he calls a ‘volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex world’, it’s harder to agree with his idea that strategy is less important than it used to be. Try saying that ‘strategy is dead’ to Apple and Google, who have built up massive global businesses via having a definite strategic plan to outflank their competitors, in order to become the dominant brand in their respective sectors.
Strategy and planning has always played an important part in marketing and communications success. Nowhere is this more important than in the area of digital and social media. Unfortunately, planning and strategy are often relegated to second place when organisations decide they want a social media presence. Indeed, internal conversations about using social media usually start with the phrase “We really should be using Facebook and Twitter”. The trend for setting up social media profiles before planning critical elements is surprisingly common, and it’s one a number of recurring issues facing organisations that need to improve their social media.
- Failure to Build a Social Media Audience
In order to have an impact on social media you need to build a very relevant and targeted social community. I place a strong emphasis on ‘relevant and targeted’ because I often find that organisations rush to build up as many followers as possible and confuse quantity over quality. I recommend PR and Communications units take a close look at the types of stakeholders and audiences they need to reach – for instance relevant journalists, politicians, or state bodies – and then carry out activities to try to include them in your social media community. Ultimately, however, one of the main tactics for growing your social media community will be providing an interesting and valuable experience on your social media channels.
- Using Social Media as a Broadcast Tool
It’s tempting for organisations to use Facebook and Twitter to broadcast messages, updates and news. However, often they will post corporate-style updates in the same way as they issue press releases to the media. This style misses the nature of social media. Social media channels are very different to broadcast media such as TV and radio, where organisations can broadcast messages directly at audiences. The key to social media marketing success lies in engaging with the social ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ your organisation has signed up. Organisations and brands that use social media successfully engage with their social communities via interesting, useful content such as photos and video. Just as importantly, they are comfortable with asking people for feedback and answering their questions. Old style marketing was one way, but it’s important to remember that social media is a two-way street. Of course there is a role for informing people about events and news via Facebook and Twitter, but avoid making it the only way you communicate.
- Lack of Content
You may have heard the phrase ‘content is king’. Well content definitely is king on social media channels. Just think about the types of information, comments or photos you have engaged with on Facebook for instance. If you have received a Facebook post from family or friends, you will know that you are much more likely to share, like or comment on something that has an emotional appeal. So the challenge for organisations is to create content that your social media community is going to engage with. For instance a local council will find that having a steady stream of content from the following sources helps improve interaction on social media:
- Videos or photos of community events
- Audio clips from media interviews
- News updates
- Surveys and questions on council issues
Your PR unit should also be thinking strategically about content. Just as your organisation might have a calendar of events or announcements, you will want to plan a schedule of content for social media.
- Not Choosing the Right Channels
There are thousands of social media channels in existence; however most organisations tend to concentrate on the four major social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and You Tube. It’s very common for organisations to create a Facebook Page or Twitter Profile just because everyone else seems to be. However you need to carefully consider the channels that your audience actually uses. For instance, if you are a business-to-business brand, don’t assume that Facebook is the automatic channel to use. If your primary audience consists of Marketing and PR professionals throughout Ireland then you will want to consider Linked In and Twitter, which are better suited to B2B communications. I’ve often witnessed B2B brands spend a disproportionate amount of marketing effort on Facebook at the expense of LinkedIn and Twitter which could have provided a more suitable environment for success online.