Excerpt

Chapter 6:

Social Networks

Overview: In today’s digital age, the frequency of individuals using social networking sites to connect with brands they love increases daily. Influencers initiate conversations with other influencers about what’s trending, what’s hot, what’s new, who’s who, and where to go for the best sushi. These conversations allow some brands to excel at connecting and resonating with their social users; while other brands flounder in the social web of confusion. This chapter will focus on the top five social networking sites and companies who understand their audience.

Setting the Stage

On a daily basis, it seems as though we are being introduced to a new social networking site or tool within the social web. Some have staying power, some linger a bit and some simply fizz out as quickly as a new one gains traction. Currently, there are hundreds of social networking sites on the social web. This chapter focuses on what we will refer to as the “Big 5” – Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

With so many ways to approach and design a brand strategy, it is always beneficial to the success of the strategy to plan ahead. Social media strategies should be synergistic with the overall corporate communications, public relations and marketing plans. Successful social strategies include elements from every department within the company. A few elements to keep in mind as you begin to design your social media strategy include:

  • Goal Plan: When companies decide to embark upon a social strategy, including setting up a Facebook fan page, creating a Pinterest board or initiating a Twitter account, they must first define what they want to achieve. Set clear goals and be sure to consider how this activity fits within the overall communications strategy. You also need to take the time to determine whether your customers utilize the particular social networking site that you plan to launch.
  • Content Plan: Formulate a plan for maintenance of your content. Social sites must be kept up or consumers will leave. Your social strategy should outline the frequency that devised content will be uploaded – hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Consistency is key, however posting relevant content is equally important.
  • Conversation Plan: Companies must determine the types of conversations that they are seeking in order to engage with their consumers. It is also helpful to consider any anticipated responses that will materialize. Is an “RT” good enough or is the expectation to converse back and forth between customers and your brand? Is liking a post on Facebook okay, or does the company want consumers to share the information with their audience too?
  • Operation Plan: Who is going to manage the social site? Planning is always fun, but once the planning is over someone must curate content and maintain the site. Creating protocols, reputation management guidelines, and rules for conduct are all essential.
  • Evaluation Plan: As with all public relations planning, the “evaluate” stage is critical. One method of measurement is to record the number of conversation starters. For example, you can track the number of status updates, videos, or links that a company shares in order to generate conversations. Companies can also track the number of Fans, increased Fans, likes, and posts generated by Fans. Measuring outcomes that correlate with corporate goals and communication goals are also a good way to evaluate the success of a social strategy.

As noted, social strategies should support the overarching goals of the communications plan and those of the company.  Any metrics collected should be weighed against those goals to understand the level of success that each initiative has achieved.

Excerpted from Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect with permission of the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield.  All rights reserved.

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