Ideas for Strategy
In 2013, maturing brands began asking how to go beyond a grab-bag of tactics and craft an integrated plan. The term “social strategy” was heard more and more. What brought on this shift? More companies wanted to become social enterprises who engaged with their communities across all channels and departments. That kind of full-scale effort requires planning and coordination. 2013 has shifted the conversation from social media strategy to a broader social strategy. Social has implications for your entire business, not just marketing.

Socialize your culture, not just your technology:
The days when businesses controlled the conversation are over, but most businesses haven’t adapted. They use social media as a megaphone, not a telephone. Your whole organization needs to adapt to the empowered customer.

Write up a plan:
Your social strategy needs just as much forethought as any other business process. Taking the time to plan ahead will pay off. Brent observed, “Strategic users are almost three times more likely to execute activities for engaging prospects than informal users (53% vs. 19%)” — and they were likely to see increased revenues.

Cultivate long-term relationships:
Retaining your current customers is 5 to 10 times cheaper than acquiring new ones. So why are you blowing all your social media efforts on the short-term sale? Use social media to cultivate the long-term customer experience.

Automate the boring stuff:
A more wide-ranging social strategy means you need to get more efficient. “Automating routine operations frees up even more time that could be better spent focusing on finding ways to more meaningfully engage with customers.”

Calculate the value of your social customer:
Real businesses like yours aren’t doing social media for kicks. How can you figure out what your social customers are worth? We explain that the basic idea is pretty simple: “Add up all the products and services they bought, subtract the cost of servicing them (phone calls, emails, chats, site visits, etc.) and you have a pretty fair measure of what a customer adds to the bottom line.”

Require certification:
Three thousand Dell employees have undergone their Social Media Certification Program, notes Forbes. Require every team member (regardless of their function or business unit) who wants to engage on behalf of your brand to complete your your certification program. That ensures they not only know what they’re doing, but that they’ve imbibed your core principles.

Require extra certification.
Require additional certification for anyone using social media to communicate to shareholders and media. A misstep at this level could be a disaster that costs your company millions and damages your brand beyond repair. Make sure the people at the controls have enough training. Then train them some more.

Share the vision:
Share and promote your social media strategy, governance and principles, not just low-level tips and orders. Don’t turn your team members into robots: they’ll feel frustrated, and so will your community. Instead, inspire them with the big picture. Then free them up to use their own voice and their own judgment as they engage online.

Double-check for compliance:
Monitor employees’ social media accounts to make sure they are active, brand-compliant and tracked. Don’t wait for an employee to screw up. Watch what they’re saying and how they’re engaging. Correct them when they make a mistake. Encourage them when they excel.

Craft a content strategy.
Don’t blog and write willy-nilly. Ask yourself why and for whom you’re creating content. Nail down the Big Idea that will play out in everything you write and all the tactics you execute. It’s a big decision and it should be broad enough to work for a long time. That could be years. Your brand has an established target audience whom you reach out to via traditional media, business contacts and even the social web. Take a deeper look at this group and determine who would be interested in your content. Consider why and how they would be engaged as well. What is keeping them awake at night? What problems can you solve that will help them do their jobs better or make their lives easier?

Your personality is one great way to break through. Establishing a voice moves you away from “corporate speak” and into a place that’s more distinct to your brand. This is more appealing to your community because it speaks to them in terms they understand. If you have an existing, overarching brand personality, extend it into your content.

Go beyond text:
Blog posts, eBooks, case studies and white papers may form the heart of your content, but work in some variety by considering other media. An audio podcast is like having your very own radio show your audience can tune into while at the office, during their morning commute or while working out at the gym. Photos add a little variety and freshness to your content. They personalize and humanize your business. Adding an image to your blog post will double your page views. Use video as a way to spotlight a product or people in your organization. Rather than waiting for the media to interview your company spokesperson, tape your own interviews and upload them to YouTube or Vimeo. Webinars, unlike many conferences and events, can be both convenient and affordable. Participants have the ability to ask specific questions and chat with the guests and moderator, and there are no geographical hindrances. Webinars are a great opportunity to gather names and email addresses for followup. If you want to convey information that contains numbers, dates, locations, measurements or comparisons, present it as an infographic.

Fill in the topic gaps:
Ask these questions as you figure out what to write about:
• Is the topic interesting right now?
• Is it popular right now?
• Is it timely?
• What is the competition doing or writing about?
• Will you have enough content for the month?

The sweet spot? A topic that you love, that’s timely, and no one else is writing about.

Build community relationships through your content:
You can learn a lot from your community if you take the time to listen. Though the members of your community can give you a good indication of whether or not they find your content valuable, through various social options, sharing your posts, comments, tweets and quoting your content, direct feedback is always best.

You can collect feedback from your community in a number of ways. Consider periodic online surveys, feedback forms, attendee surveys at your next webinar or conference, or even a questionnaire into your next email newsletter. If you plan on measuring and analyzing this information (and why wouldn’t you?) just be sure you are consistent and ask the same questions across your selected time period so you can measure any changes in awareness and sentiment.