By Pat Headley

Social media for business

Getting things started with social media for business is not as daunting as it may seem.

We will take you through some simple structured steps to get you up and running in no time. A word of caution though, it does not begin with setting up a Facebook page.

First, determine the why:
Social media is no different from any other marketing initiative that you do.

Ask yourself:
Do you want to use social media for:

  • Lead generation
  • Thought leadership, or
  • Brand awareness

Also gather input from your stakeholders, conduct interviews and internal surveys to find out what social media channels would best serve your company’s goals. The responses will help you formulate the social media goals and objectives that align with the business goals of your company.

The Next Step Is To Map Your Bias Personas
(Who are they and where are they in the social media universe)

A persona is a representation of an ideal user that includes a concise summary of characteristics of the user, their experience, goals and tasks, pain points, and environmental conditions.

By designing your marketing strategy to meet the needs of specific personas, the needs of wider groups of users with similar goals are met. Also known as user profiles, user role definitions or audience profiles.

Personas tell stories about users so that people in the organisation can understand the user and what the user wants.

Personas provide powerful (yet quick and simple) guidance for making strategic planning decisions. They capture the most important information about each user group, typically including:

  • Goals: What users are trying to achieve, such as tasks they want to perform.
  • Behaviour: Online and offline behaviour patterns, helping to identify users' goals.
  • Attitudes: Relevant attitudes that predict how users will behave.
  • Motivations: Why users want to achieve these goals.
  • Business objectives: What you ideally want users to do in order to ensure the campaign is successful.

Find the channels where your team and your buyer’s interactions intersect. Then determine which social media channels will work best in reaching out to them.

Social media for business
Now you can start mapping your bias influences. Use monitoring tools to find out more about prospects.
Discover who and what influences your buyer's purchase decisions.

Time to turn inward now and map responsibilities among your team, it is essential to distribute the roles among the key stakeholders by setting up a social media task force around key responsibilities. Social media is most effective when there is shared responsibility for a unified voice.

Finally it's time time to set up your social media channels:
Use what you have learnt from the internal survey results and buyer personae to determine which channels you will engage:

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook and
  • Twitter

These are popular but may not be the most appropriate for all. You may even decide to use one channel exclusively or some other platform that is more popular in your region. The key is to know what is most appropriate for your company.

Now that you know where you need to be, decide what you will do once you are there, by establishing your content strategy. Begin by sourcing out existing content such as:

  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Opinion pieces and
  • Videos

Identify the topics or themes that align with your key marketing focus areas. Research what content would be more relevant by searching for brand-names, competitors and target keywords. 

Then repurpose your existing content accordingly and with the nature of the medium in mind; actionable, precise and simply written pieces work well for social media channels. This means that if have a 20-page white paper don't just tweet a link to it. Summarise the key messages into a short how to blog post and tweet that instead.

How do you know if you're doing things right or whether you need to tweak your initiatives?

That's why you must set up your metrics before starting. Create and align your metrics and the monitoring framework with your strategic objectives.

Social media for business
Some key metrics in social media include:

  • Reach
  • Buzz
  • Sentiment and
  • Influence

Measure only what matters to your business and ignore everything else no matter how tantalisingly high the numbers might be.

Next, customise your media channels:
For example, use blogging platform, a custom Facebook page, YouTube channels and so on.

Optimize them to reflect your objectives, the content on hand and the metrics you are interested in. Set up a robust engagement framework that shows who responds, how, where, in what channels, how often and how soon. Make sure everyone involved has bought into this framework, as consistency and immediacy are essential to well-managed engagement.

Following on from the engagement framework, develop a social media policy based on what's acceptable and what's not and prevailing company policies around confidentiality and transparency.

If you are unsure how to begin, check out existing best practices of other companies who are established in the social media space. Now you would not want your audience to walk into a ghost town or into a room where the paint was still wet.

Start populating your channels with the content identified earlier. To ensure momentum does not flag, develop an editorial schedule. Identify who will contribute and ensure someone is following up with them promptly; also remember to establish content syndication mechanisms.

Social media makes it easy to publish once and disseminate rapidly across multiple channels. Then with the metrics establishes earlier sets up the monitoring and measurement tools. It is important to get these going before you start so that you can see the before and after difference, the launch hatches are about to open, time to harness the power of your internal networks. Get the initial ballast by having your team propagate, publicise and promote your social media initiatives and it is lift off.

As your initiatives gain momentum analyse the performance. Remember that this is an iterative process. Adopt any new findings into your current processes and keep improving your efforts as you navigate your way through the social media journey.