This is one of the top questions I am asked by my clients. Here are some variations:
Social Media Objectives
Always the most important consideration, you must start at the beginning. Let’s use an example – a software company. Let’s say that this company has 5 different product lines; three of them are well established with strong recognition in the marketplace. But two of these products are new and it’s critical that you bring more attention to its benefits, as well as position your organization as a thought leader in these areas. Of these two product lines, one of them has a “cheerleader,” someone who is quite knowledgeable and loves to share her thoughts. The other product line, while very critical, has a very limited staff at the moment and it’s almost impossible to get their attention for content creation.
Clearly, the group with the thought leader provides the perfect opportunity to create and grow a thriving social media community. There is clear need with associated objectives and with someone at the helm who can serve as a content source.
So how about the group who desperately needs product recognition but has no one who can provide the necessary thought leadership? Here, a decision needs to be made; you can either locate someone in the organization who is at least well-versed in key trends in this area to find and curate content or outsource the content development. If neither of these is an option, you might consider just building content surrounding this group into your corporate Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account.
Key Insight: Do not create social media accounts that you cannot support.
Social Media Content
I already alluded to this above but you really need to let the content, coupled with audience need, drive the decision about how many/which accounts. The reality is that some topics will drive more interest than others. But if you position it correctly – by adding value and not just promoting a product/service – then you will likely find a niche.
It is always challenging to not only locate but also gain buy-in from thought leaders within any company to contribute to content. But keep in mind that if you establish clear objectives, articulate them and put forth a process by which you will gather and publish content, you are much more likely to receive a commitment to content development. If this is challenging for you, I recommend that you read my recent post, How to Make a Blog Happen, in which I discuss how to make content gathering as easy as possible for your stakeholders.
And don’t forget that social media is about publishing both original and curated content; in this way you establish thought leadership for your brand, provide value and build relationships with others.
At the end of the day, though, don’t create social media accounts just because you think you should have them. It’s a lot better to have one Twitter account, for example, with robust content than 4 with sporadic content. If you can only support one corporate account – or if your objectives lead you to one account – then that’s what you should build.
What do you think? What has your experience been with multiple social media accounts? I would love to hear your comments.
I was just reading a blog post about how to write a blog post in an hour – great post by Marsden Associates, 8 Tips to Write a Blog Post in an Hour and Why Often Times You Shouldn't that addresses key considerations for making it happen. And each point is quite valuable in the development of authentic, interesting blogs. But something struck me…
I think I spend more time with my clients working through the challenges of getting people to blog than the actual development of the blogs themselves. It’s the age-old problem:
“I need great content to fuel my website, social media and my overall digital presence. But everyone is so busy and people just don’t see content development at the top of their to-do list.”
This is usually followed by the following questions:
Like anything else, a blog requires resources and a plan. Your blogging goals should light the way to your intended audience and, thus, help you decide WHO should write the posts. Typically, this would not be a PR Manager or someone in Marketing. While these folks can and should assist (I’ll get to that in a bit), the posts should be written by authors who feel passionate about the topics at hand and would be considered thought leaders in their respective fields. This might be an HR Director, a Sales Administrator or the CEO! The audience and content should dictate the author(s).
THE HOW AND THE WHEN
Spread the wealth. Try to make more than one person accountable for blog posts and assign them specific weeks. If you want to be nice, you can ask them how frequently they are willing to create content and if there are specific days/weeks that definitely will not work for them. Then, create the calendar of who is blogging and when. Publish the schedule and send reminders to help them out. But HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. If they tell you that they can’t craft a post this week then find out if they can commit to the following week and revise the schedule.
Make it as easy for your authors as possible! While it might put a bit more work on you, try your best to work with the style of individual contributors. In other words, find out how they prefer to transmit the content to you and then accept it in that format. When I work with my clients I let them know that we can schedule 15 minute calls where they can just tell me their content, they can record audio files on their iPhone and email it to me, they can write up some notes and email them, send me bullets – you get the picture. And then I will write up the actual posts and get their approval.
You might even decide that it’s best for your PR or Marketing Manager to take on the role of interviewing thought leaders; they can schedule 20 minute calls with contributors, gather the content and then write up the posts. It really all depends upon the style of the thought leaders and the resources you have available to make this happen.
Commit to a blogging frequency and stick to it. Ah, the question of how often you need to blog…there is no standard answer, in my opinion. In a perfect world, we would blog everyday but the reality is that for most of us, this is just not realistic. If possible, blogging 2-3 times per week is recommended. If you can’t commit to this, then I would say that you should plan on at least once per week. But here’s the caveat – whatever the frequency you select, you need to stick with it so that your readers know what to expect.
You could also determine that certain people in your company need to blog more frequently but others might only blog once per month, like your CEO, on very high-level topics. Again, whatever that mix is, spell it out, let the organization know and make sure you stick to it.
Many blogs have been written about developing great blog content, including the one from Marsden Associates, so I will not get into too much detail on that here. But I will recommend the following:
So it would seem that this is out of order – you might be saying, “Shouldn’t THE WHY be first?” My answer is kind of like Curly’s answer from the movie City Slickers when Billy Crystal asks Jack Palance what his secret is – yes, I’m showing my age with this reference. You have to find your “one thing” – it’s probably more than one but it all comes back to your objectives. What’s the purpose of your blog? To increase your brand recognition? To drive new leads? Whatever it is, spell it out and figure out how you are going to measure it.
I have seen the power of blogging and it’s pretty amazing so I’m always excited when my clients commit to creating a vibrant, thought-provoking blog. But I will also say that it’s not for the faint of heart. I would even suggest that in order to get people to truly commit to blogging, managers should incent people to do so and make blogging part of their formal yearly goals.
Okay, it’s your turn. In the comments section, tell us how you have successfully implemented blogging as part of your process. Still struggling with it? Let us know how we can help.
One of my new favorite shows is HBO’s Silicon Valley. Why? Because I find the startup world – and particularly the startup scene in SV – to be fascinating. On a regular basis, I am blown away by some of the ideas and technology being produced by these super smart twenty- (and sometimes 30- or 40-) somethings. And being from the more traditional coast and of a “not 20-something” generation, I find the culture to be very interesting. But on a deeper level, I think there’s more to my fascination.
If you haven’t watched the show and/or don’t plan to, it’s intended to tell the story of Pied Piper, a company founded on an algorithm developed for highly advanced file compression. And the main character first explains it as a way to for companies to quickly locate music copyright information. It’s not until others see what he’s doing that the true value of the algorithm’s compression value comes to light. And quickly, a few investors come flocking. But the main character decides to take the seed money rather than the quick but financially lucrative buyout offer so that he can create and foster his company, Pied Piper. And then, it’s off to the races…which is what is most interesting. The continued episodes share his escapades in developing a business plan, dealing with company name challenges, and purchasing SWAG. And the humor is absolutely not lost on me and I’m sure it’s not lost on those who consider themselves entrepreneurs and marketers.
But at the core, I enjoy the show because it brings up topics that entrepreneurs face every single day: WHAT is this company – this thing that we’ve created – all about, really? Are we really selling an algorithm? That might be what’s behind your company but if this is what you try to sell to your prospects, you will probably not recognize a lot of revenue, especially in the B2B space.
The truth is that there will be 50 more ridiculously smart entrepreneurs right behind you who will create the next faster, better, easier solution next month. So you damn well better figure out WHY you exist and be able to articulate it simply and effectively.
So if you’re a startup or a small business that hasn’t really taken the time to think through these things, here are 4 key questions you need to ask and be prepared to answer. Do they sound simple? Yes. Are they easy questions to answer? Just ask every entrepreneur who has tried to answer them:
Always put yourself in the mind of your customer/potential customer. It’s not about what you call a product or service – it’s about what your customer calls it and how it relates to their pain points.
But my absolute favorite scene in the first episode of Silicon Valley is the part where the founder and his friend approach Hooli, a startup turned large company, and witness a group of people on a “shared bike” to which he exclaims:
“Oh God. The marketing team is having another bike meeting.”
Perfect. Remind me to get one of these shared bikes when Take Root Marketing makes it big.
There’s a lot of talk about big data these days. It’s very buzzy and, for those of you who know and work with me, you’ll understand that I have a healthy skepticism for shiny objects and marketing babble.
But don’t get me wrong – most of this chatter surrounds topics that we should care about and that can prove very meaningful to our marketing efforts. But not just because you can sound important when talking to your CMO.
This brings me to the topic of Big Data. These is so much input these days and the power of Big Data lies in our ability to put our arms around all of this data to truly inform and improve our marketing results by better understanding our prospects and customers. This is an important and challenging endeavor but one that needs to start in a place that is rooted by an inherent understanding of our audience and our objectives.
To provide a specific use case for what I’m referring to, I will use social media. One of my favorite analytics tools is Simply Measured. It is simply amazing and provides companies with a veritable treasure trove of data. And it’s incredibly tempting to pull down pretty reports that show things like what time a Facebook visitor from Ireland viewed a specific post and which browsers my Twitter followers use.
While all of this is very interesting and can make us look smart, are they really important in understanding how my company is performing in social media based upon the objectives we set out? Probably not. But there are some important data pieces that you can and should be reviewing. So how do you know what to look at?
Time and time again, I see marketers and marketing analytics teams reporting on this kind of detail when they don’t even understand whether they have strong and growing engagement with their followers. And I also see executives who scratch their heads as they look at these reports wondering if they should care about these metrics or not.
So put away the fancy terms, pull out that Powerpoint that details the marketing objectives (that are also hopefully aligned closely to corporate goals) and figure out how you’re going to measure your results in a way that you and your team can share. Big data is a cool topic but wrapping your arms around key insights that relate to your specific objectives is even cooler.
Looking to drive brand awareness, for example? Figure out how many times your company is mentioned in relationship to specific terms, i.e. your keywords. How does this compare with the mentions for these same terms amongst your competitors? These numbers will begin to show whether your brand recognition is on the rise or if it’s stagnant.
And always remember your attribution. It’s tempting to say that a goal of social media is to drive sales. But if your product is one with a long, complex sales cycle, then it’s shortsighted to say that one interaction drove a sale. More likely, this is just one piece of the marketing and sales pie that helped to drive the sale. So think about the attribution of your marketing activities, as they are not all created equal.
In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss how you can begin to think about lead scoring. While you may think that you need a fancy marketing automation system – and it does help but is not a requirement – you can start to develop a simple scoring model that will help you to better report on marketing results.
Since I'm always referring to these and often provide them to my clients, here are 2 killer resources for image sizing:
I also really like this template that goes into more detail on Twitter, especially the background image sizing since that one can be tricky.
Twitter background dimensions 2014 - template
If you love building social connections and engaging with audiences on social networks the way I do, then you probably spend lots of time looking at content – Tweets, posts, blogs, images, videos, etc. It’s amazing but let’s also admit that there is a ton to sift through. Our social tools, like Sprout Social and Hootsuite, really help a lot. BUT it’s still wickedly time consuming. Yes, I said wicked…I live outside of Boston.
And it is never lost on me when one person out of the hundreds of people and brands I follow inserts a bit of humor and personality into their content; a fun image, an interesting metaphor, a personal story. Here’s a fun and very simple example. Wistia, an awesome video hosting company here in the Boston area, always injects a bit of humor into their content – always! They obviously produce a ton of their own videos that are always natural (vs. posed), include multiple employees and are not only offering valuable content but always make you laugh at least a little. So I always watch them! Yes, for the great content but also because they make me laugh.
I was just looking at Wistia’s Twitter page and saw this – a great photo + a fun addition to the bio description.
Let me ask you this question: can we not be both professional and show a bit of humor and personality at the same time? Why does everyone think that things have to be formal and serious? If you had the choice, what would you rather read?
So, my friends, it’s time to lighten up. For companies, that means…
On behalf of the company
Think about common themes that run through your office. Is there a group that goes running at lunch or plays softball in the spring? Think about how you can bring some of these themes into your content.
Come up with a fun campaign. This is especially helpful for companies whose products tend to be very technical or traditional. A great example is the Approva Corporation, an audit software company, who created the campaign, “I love a good audit.” They created a website, a greeting card app, videos, etc. But even if you don’t want to take it this far, think about how you can have a bit of fun with your brand or product. It may be a Facebook contest, an email campaign theme or a video and it could be as simple as a fun graphic that you carry through your marketing channels in various ways.
Posting on your personal accounts
What are you passionate about? What are things that you contemplate that you’re curious about? You likely have full networks of people that might share these interests but also might be curious about some of the same things! So take the opportunity to connect and engage with them. Below are a few examples.
So many of us travel for business and sometimes more often than we would like. I have seen executives post stories about their business travel, including how they passed the time and suggestions for frequent travelers, that have garnered more views and comments than anything they ever posted about their products or company. What about posting a “travel log” when visiting interesting locations? Add photos, unique experiences, people who you met, etc. These stories can be valuable because they make people “relatable” through common experiences.
Conduct a quick poll. Chances are you are connected to people within your industry and areas of expertise. So utilize these networks to ask questions of your peers and to gain new insights. For example, I have been seeing other social media consultants using titles like Social Media Advisor and Social Media Coach. So I created a quick little poll to see if I can find out what people prefer. I’m hoping to get thoughts from clients, prospects and other consultants. It’s like my own focus group that I have access to 24x7!
These are just a few ideas to bring your content down to earth and hopefully add some personality and humor to the mix. If you’re looking to get down to specifics or for more ideas like these, please reach out. I would be happy to explore them with you.
This is a question that comes up quite a bit. Here’s how I answer the question…with more questions:
Social media policies can take different forms and the 2 major pieces to consider are:
In terms of policies that speak to social media usage by those who represent the brand, there are many considerations; I have worked on policies for large companies that designate specifics like how an About statement should be set up on each social network, who is responsible for responding to comments and within what timeframe. There are also triage charts complete with if/then flowcharts for both positive and negative comments. Typically, these policies need to be reviewed by the Legal team, as well as Human Resources, and involve various stakeholders.
What about policies for smaller organizations that don’t necessarily want to apply so many constraints? There are many examples of these – most of them publicly available - and here are some questions that will help you determine what will work best for your organization. Think about these questions as the start of a needs assessment and really consider all of the potential situations that could arise – or already have:
While it may seem limiting to have a formal policy, I would argue that it brings legitimacy to your efforts, as well as a sense of commitment to doing things correctly and consistently. It’s also a way to show your key stakeholders that you are prepared – for the good and the bad. A good social media policy is also constantly evolving; what may work today will probably need some adjustments next year. If that happens, it means that you’ve made progress and that your company is embracing social media.
Do you have a great social media policy that you want to share or have you seen a good example of one? Please share it!
While I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day and believe it to really be a way for the card stores, candy companies and jewelry shops to make money, I certainly do believe in celebrating love.
Of course, I love my kids, my husband, my family, my dog and cat, I also want to take a few minutes to talk about my other love – for marketing and social media. Here are my top three:
I know that none of these points is earth-shattering but really a reflection of why I do what I do. Why do you love marketing and/or social media? Share!
There are TONS of social media tools out there and you have probably heard about many of them. They usually have funky names and they have all different “categories:” Social CRM, Social Listening, Social Publishing, Social Media Analytics, etc. I like to call it The Wild West of Social Software. How do you know which ones to use and which ones to leave alone? First, it’s important to understand how these tools help to support your social media objectives. Here are the 3 categories that every B2B company should care about:
Social listening (examples: Hootsuite, Tweetdeck)
What is it? Every good strategy starts with research and understanding of your industry’s landscape. Social listening tools enable you to evaluate what is happening around your keywords, competitors, influencers, media and associations. Good social listening tools allow you to use a streamlined interface coupled with strong customizable search capabilities to see the data that matters to you.
Social publishing (examples: Buffer, Hootsuite)
What is it? Rather than signing in to your company’s Facebook account, Twitter account, and LinkedIn account separately and each time to want to post something, good social publishing tools enable you to connect to all of your accounts in one location, create posts and schedule them for publishing at your desired day/time. While the features of these platforms vary, this key functionality will really help you to cut back on the administrative part of social media posting and manage content in one centralized location.
Social Media Analytics (examples: Simply Measured, Social Report)
What is it? Okay, not much mystery here and the analytics that you get out of these platforms are obviously only as good as the KPIs you create to determine what your social media success looks like. But good social analytics products will help you to develop customized dashboards and will also highlight both the more top level analysis like engagement and visitors but also post-level details so that you can determine which posts generated the best results and use this data to inform future content development.
Please note that the examples presented are not recommendations for each category; they are merely companies who put themselves into each of these categories. In future posts, I will seek to demystify some of these tools and present the pros and cons. The thing that I have definitely learned in the past few years is that there is no one tool that does it all really well. And that’s likely because the social media world – bringing new and changing social networks to us every day – is always evolving. As such, each of these categories and tools will continue to evolve along with it. In the meantime, it’s important to carefully consider where you should put your efforts.
Have specific questions about social media tools or want to offer up some thoughts? Fire away!
Let’s all say it together: “Social media is overwhelming. I can’t incorporate every social media channel and use every strategy and tactic.” Why are we saying this? Because we need to acknowledge that it’s true! Every day, there are new social networks being launched; some of them are fantastic and interesting and others are just okay and likely won’t have longevity.
We’re also saying this because as marketers, social media professionals and people, there aren’t possibly enough hours in the day for us to do everything. We need to focus on a few key networks where our audiences are already and then employ a few great strategies/tactics for each that will have the most impact.
I’m also saying this because it’s the New Year and as I think about the year ahead, I need to personally acknowledge this. I have amassed a good amount of expertise and knowledge about this space and yet I often find myself stressing out over the latest Pinterest features that I haven’t been able to fully investigate or that webcast about Facebook contest apps that I didn’t yet get to download. So, there! I said it in a public forum!
Hopefully you will join me in this quest for doing a few key things really well; it’s easy to talk about but harder to implement. Here are a few that I am trying right now:
I have already begun to see the results of #1 – it is revitalizing my Twitter account, garnering more followers daily, as well as more @mentions. The jury is still out on #2; I will report back when I have data to share.
In the meantime, I encourage you to figure out which social networks you will focus on this year – which should be a result of understanding your audience(s) – and then figure out those few new tactics that could really help to expand your influence. Figure out how you will measure each and then take a little time each month to see how things are progressing. You may find that they aren’t – I could find out that my increased Pinterest efforts aren’t really leading anywhere. So be prepared to make the appropriate strategy shifts so that you’re not wasting time.
Please share – what things are you trying out? Are any of them underway? What are your initial impressions? Let us know!
Renay M. Picard
The Take Root Marketing Blog is intended as a vehicle to assist and engage with marketers and social media addicts like myself - please share your thoughts, good, bad or otherwise. I'd love to hear from you!