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K.I.S.S: 'Keep It Social, Stupid'
By: Ted Curtin
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It’s one of the greatest organizational challenges of the day. From Twitter to Facebook, YouTube to Google+, businesses large and small are scrambling to understand and harness the power, speed, and reach of social media. The proliferation of mobile devices from smartphones to tablets only serves to increase the level of urgency as businesses try to remain relevant and connected to their customers. But to effectively harness the full potential of social media marketing they must first understand the underlying premise. It’s social!

Unlike traditional marketing media channels, social marketing is not about reach and frequency. Those factors are important, but they don’t drive the process. Instead, they are the end result of a relevant, authentic, and valuable message that is felt, shared, and promoted by the very audience you are targeting. When a YouTube video goes “viral” it’s not because the creator intended it to be viral — those attempts are easy to spot and almost always fail. No, social posts, tweets, and videos spread because the audience felt so strongly about the message, laughed (or cried) so hard at the video, or believed the information was so useful that they just had to share it with their own network of followers, who in turn did the same with theirs. It’s the ultimate relevancy filter and test of authenticity. For individuals, being social is easy. For entire organizations, that can be much more challenging.
  • It starts with alignment.
    This is critical to assess, and repair if necessary, at the earliest stages of a company’s commitment to engage its various audiences in the social space. Without alignment, it’s difficult to create an authentic presence. From the C-suite to the front-line customer service reps, your organization’s core values, your brand's promise, and the experience you deliver to your customers need to match up.

  • You’ll need a plan.
    To blindly enter into such a vast universe with so many channels carrying different types of messages to varying demographics is, at best, a waste of precious resources and, at worst, potentially damaging to your brand’s existing reputation. Creating a clear strategy from the start allows you to evaluate the overall success of your program and make adjustments as necessary.
    • What are your goals? You can have multiple goals, but I would recommend narrowing it down to a few core goals, whether they’re focused on awareness, driving traffic, increasing sales, or improving customer feedback.
    • How will you measure? There are a number of fantastic tools such as CrowdBooster that can be used to track the success of your program from reach to results. The best online measurement tools are both customizable and scalable to fit your needs now and evolve as you do.
    • Where is your audience? You should focus your efforts not just where your audience exists, but where they are most likely to interact with your brand. Facebook may have the larger numbers, but in certain demographics Twitter tends to draw more active and socially engaged users. Most likely you’ll want a mix of both.
    • What resources do you have? You might have a deep pool of internal talent that can dedicate the time to develop this program, but most likely, you’ll be better off enlisting the help of a consultant specializing in social media campaigns or a digital marketing agency with the depth and experience to handle even the largest of social media marketing initiatives.
  • It takes a serious commitment.
    Social media is not a seasonal wardrobe you take out of storage when the weather changes. This is a long-term process that, when done correctly, will grow exponentially over time and has the potential to deliver significant rewards in the form of new business, new markets, increased customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, indispensable product and organizational feedback and, because of the deeper level of connectedness with your customer base, greater market resilience for your brand.

  • Establish guidelines.
    Guidelines for content creation help to ensure that your brand message stays on point, your customer service message fits with your marketing and PR initiatives, and that your brand’s message stays true across all of the available channels. Products like Vitrue make it easy for larger organizations through integrated content libraries that aggregate all branded content, making it easy for employees to share appropriate messages across various networks.

  • Start by listening.
    That’s how you’ll learn, how you’ll know who to engage, and how you’ll know what to share. At the core of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Diaspora, or whatever the next social media platform happens to be, these spaces are built around interactive and interconnected communities of friends and followers. That’s the beauty and the power of social media.

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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