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How to look beyond the likes

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Many brands rush into social media without putting a business strategy in place that covers resourcing, objectives and execution for their social media platforms. GORDON GELDENHUYS looks at five of the best practices that will deliver good results.

Social media occupies a central role in today’s brand/consumer interaction space. Yet many brands rush into social media without putting a coherent strategy in place that covers resourcing, objectives and execution for their social media platforms. Here are five best practices that we’ve seen deliver good results for our clients in the real world.

1. Look beyond the likes

Consumers will not come just because a brand has built a page. Before getting started with social media, brands must ask themselves what they hope to achieve through their social media presence so that they can create an appropriate strategy. ‚ÄòLikes’ and ‚Äòfollowers’ are not business objectives, though they can be useful metric for understanding reach and audience engagement.

Does the brand want to learn more about how consumers perceive its product?

Does it want to build customer relationships? Deflect calls from its call centre? Or enhance its reputation? All of the above? These are more meaningful objectives to set and measure than likes and shares, which are more about vanity than performance.

2. Accept that your customers are in control

Brands are used to being in complete control of their marketing channels.

But in social media, customers have a voice and will drive much of the conversation. This means that brands must listen rather than merely talk.

The real art in social media lies in how well a brand deals with queries, problems, complaints, and (occasionally) praise. For many organisations, succeeding in this realm will mean that they’ll need to be faster, more agile, and more transparent in how they interact with their customers.

3. Align social media with your other channels

Social media does not exist apart from the rest of the business.

If the brand runs an ad on TV or in print, it will be discussed and dissected on Twitter. If a customer has a poor call centre experience, she might take it to Facebook. And if the person running a social media account makes a promise to the customer, the customer will expect this promise to be honoured when he goes to a physical store.

Savvy brands feed the whole organisation with information they learn from social media about what customers think of their products, customer service, competitors and so forth. And good marketing managers think about how they can use social media to inspire customers to continue campaign conversations long after a campaign has run.

4. Provide support from senior management

Too many marketing managers second a junior member of staff to social media community management because they figure that millennials understand this social media stuff. Quite frankly, in some organisations, putting a junior in charge of social media also reflects the fact that senior management doesn’t take social media seriously.

But a good social media strategy demands buy-in from the top. Though juniors can run the brand’s social media accounts day-to-day, strategy and policies should be driven by senior customer service, sales and marketing managers.

And juniors should have access to a senior manager to help them with any complications.

What’s more, CEOs and other high-ranking staff members should take part in the social conversation. Through this, they can inspire trust with consumers. They can also learn a great deal about their customers through direct social interactions with them.

5. Keep your content fresh and relevant

Social media demands fresh and relevant content every day – and in some cases, several times a day. Brands that neglect to update their content will lose fans, followers, and the opportunity to engage with their customers.

This content must not be hard-sell product information – it should instead be reader-centred information that promotes conversation and that is useful, entertaining, and sharable. A FMCG company with food brands, for example, could offer recipes or healthy living tips in social media rather than bombarding its audience with branded advertising.

* Gordon Geldenhuys, Head of Social Media and Insights at 25AM

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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