Social Networks & Digital Media

Framing our thoughts on social media

We need to begin thinking about not only our audiences but the networks our audiences are a part of – both online communities and that of the physical world. Most of us are overloaded with content every day, and even if we’re not glued to our smartphones or laptops, we know all know some people who are in our work circle or close friends circle. We can always catch up on the latest trends or news updates with peer recommendations. So, content is everywhere. The marketplace is flooded with information, and readers are selectively parsing what they want to see on their preferred platforms. Thinking about how to break through all that noise to reach our target audiences is what we should be strategizing as content strategists.

Factors to consider when developing content strategies

Consider three crucial questions:

  1. How will we create value? (That is, value to your customers’ eyes, not simply that of the company’s.)
  2. How will we deliver value? (Think multi-media!)
  3. How will we capture value? (What is our relation with our audience and how does that come in to play in terms our defining our value?)

Learn about your audience and find the influencers and experts for a topic or community. When you locate that information, identify and serve them by retweeting their content. Learn about the hashtags they use and watch what they discuss on different topics. In a sense, become a part of their world!

There are also advanced social monitoring tools out there that can help you examine topics and give you the break-down of key words used around topics (for example, Salesforce’s Radian6 and IBM Social Media Analytics). These tools can produce raw data that can put your quantitative data into actionable insights. With more insight about our audience, we can adapt our content strategy to meet the needs to changing live trends.

Your role with your audience

Step back. Ask yourself, “Who are you?” “What role is best for you with the audience?” Are you an influencer or an expert? You can be the go-to person for information on certain topics (the expert). Or, you can be the person who knows where to go to find the information and direct others (the influencer). You can always be a hybrid of the two. Again, this goes back to understanding your audience and their needs/wants.

It may be inevitable that you may receive negative feedback on social media. Learn to embrace the insights provided by your audience and try to continue to engage them in conversation. By adapting and being flexible, you can become even more of an expert/influencer who is willing to consider all sides of a conversation.

Along the lines of being flexible – you maybe be adapting your media and communication style depending if your audience is internal (to your company) or external.

The best social content strategies

There are 3 main types of Content Strategies:

  1. Engagement Strategy – The goal is to grow your influence on your social sites. You create content and then market it on Twitter, Facebook, or other sites. This is a one-way street, though. You don’t know who your audience are individually. You’re measuring your success by the number of new followers. When you have a new following, however, that is kind of it. You hope they will keep reading your materials, but you won’t know for sure. A way to get around this is by asking your visitors/readers to provide their email addresses. This way, you can make periodic deliveries, and their chances of reading your materials increases.
  2. Nurture strategy – This is finally a 2-way relationship with real-time engagement. You have your readers’ information, and you can email them to keep them engaged. With the emailing, you can select which content to deliver, as well as actively monitor and build this relationship. Take your content, and create steps. These steps should help you build your content along with your audience.
  3. Private virtual communities – Everyone is on a mission, whether that relationship is shopping or researching where to apply for college, you (your site) can help these folks along with their mission. These communities are private because your audience needs to log-in to access the information. Once they log-in, they can find advice and information about how to accomplish their goals.

The key differences between them is the relationship you have with your audience (surprise!). You can know your audience individually by name, anonymously with limited information, or entirely unknown.

Proving social ROI. Is it working?

It’s a little surprising nowadays that when we start up an account on a social network that we don’t think about our end-goals. Talking about this from a business standpoint, that is. How do we measure our return on investing in this new network? What is the metric to show that we are doing this successfully?

The best strategies for the highest ROIs are the nurture and private virtual community strategies. These strategies ask your readers to make a commitment to your brand. This commitment (email sign-ups, accounts creation) can keep them coming back AND gives you the information to find out whether your work is successful. Companies often place tracking cookies on laptops to gauge what is of interest to a reader. Accounts and profiles can also tell you more about your readers’ needs, desires and wants.

So how can you measure your ROI? Imagine a funnel. At the top open brim of the funnel, you’ll find your target audience (can also think of this as the target market). Narrowing down a little on the funnel, you can find your total social market. This is the group who receives your content reach. Keep on moving down your funnel – the next layer  is the information exchange landing page. This is the crucial layer where you can see how many commits you get from the audience who is seeing your content for the first (and maybe second) time. When the registration is complete, then you’re narrowing down to the website/mobile use > product inquiries > first purchase > loyal customer. See how this is helpful? When you are able to track a customer/reader, you can gather useful data that will ultimately help you calculate whether you are making money on this social network. If not, what can you do better?

Social ROI in any organization

Ultimately, the success of your social content will vary based on your business model. Among for-profit, non-profit, business-to-business, and business-to-consumer, there are many variations how you can use social media. Consider the type of organization you are in before you start implementing which strategy to implement.

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