The adage that a company does not define their brand but customers do is still an immutable truth. Brands can try to dictate what they stand for, but ultimately they are judged by the sum total of the customer experience. Brands that engage in a dialogue by listening, learning and participating are more likely to create a positive impact. Therefore, it is important that brands actively participate in dialogs throughout their social graph, leveraging the strength in their core message, feedback mechanisms, curating and distributing content, and visual expression as it applies across channels.
A social media strategy cannot exist without a content strategy. Brands must develop content that reflect the brand promise and give people a reason to stay engaged. Make it easy for your brand advocates to share your content through their social graph. Content shared through word-of-mouth is far more powerful at driving brand preferences and intent than paid advertising alone.
So how do you develop a content strategy? Here are a few important elements to consider:
- Know what your audience wants to talk about, be sure the topic is relevant, and understand how it fits into their daily lives. Be willing to engage in those conversations by using your own brand voice, in a personable language that your audience is using and characteristic of how your brand expresses itself.
- Know your audience and where they want to have these conversations. People follow you because they like you, and because your brand offers them something—so be sure to deliver. Remember that influential users (loosely defined as users whose actions result in additional site visitors) may generate up to 40% of total site traffic, even though they typically account for less than 5% of total site users. It’s important that marketers identify, recognize and reward those that are influential in converting others.
- Knowing where your audience hangs out is equally important. This can depend on their age and gender, as well as your offerings. There are plenty of statistics that break down social media sites by demographics, such as the Nielsen Social Media Report: Q3 2011.
- Measure the results and impact of your conversations. This can be tracking how many comments and likes received on Facebook, volume of Twitter followers, number of retweets and mentions along with social media referral traffic to your website.
Have the patience to build your community and engender trust, and the flexibility to evolve content over time. If you’re fun, honest and relevant, they will share with their friends and others, which is what social media is all about.
Lastly, managing Social Media is more art than science; however, creating a structured framework aligned with data driven principles will help brands improve effectiveness and investment return over time.