By Julie Urlaub
Is social media a fad? A trend? Some might argue that this is the case. Then again, there are those who would argue that purpose-driven companies and sustainability-minded organizations are trends too!
Convincing naysayers has never been a winning strategy, but forward-thinking leadership has. Brands and executives harnessing the power of social media communication are helping consumers make sense of conscious brands. They are inviting others to the dialogue to discover how purpose- driven brands are creating real value through programs in sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), philanthropy, and volunteering. In essence, companies like Unilever, TOMS Shoes, and Recyclebank — as well as many leading executives — are building trust through social channels. They’re building trust that business is a force for good and, in the process, they are growing their businesses too.
You might think social media marketing only benefits large organizations. Hardly! According to Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, small businesses are the leading beneficiaries of social media marketing. In fact, some of the critical goals of business-to-business (B2B) branding via social media include building better relationships with stakeholders, attracting prospective customers and compressing sales cycles, monitoring competitive positioning, establishing thought leadership, and building brand awareness and preference among decision-makers. All in all, the great thing about social media marketing is that it is not exclusive to large organizations. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ are available to businesses of all sizes.
The key to success? Having a strategy. Granted, there is not a one- size-fits-all approach for social media marketing and engagement; however, a smart social business plan will be the roadmap to engaging at all levels of influence. Begin by asking these questions:
1. What are your Business Goals?
Many embark on their social media journey without taking into account proper goal-setting. Activity on social channels does not necessarily equate to business results, sales, and growth. How do you envision social media marketing supporting your overall business objectives? What is your main goal with social media? Is it to increase website or blog traffic? To promote a product or service? To communicate and engage an audience in topics that align with your brand? A best practice is to identify your business objectives and combine those with a social media marketing strategy that delivers results to both.
2. Who Are You?
While the various social media channels offer brand expression in different formats, including video, pictures, and text, it’s critical to maintain a consistent brand voice across all channels. When creating social media accounts, take into consideration the right “brand voice.” This is especially the case for executives acting as brand ambassadors for sustainability and CSR programs. Proper co-branding of your company and its employees important, and employees often make the best brand advocates. In fact, Edelman reports that the public finds employee advocates to be 200 percent more trustworthy than CEOs. On average, 92 percent of an employee’s Twitter network will be new exposure for the brand. Also, brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees versus by a company. Branding matters.
3. What do Your StakeHolders Care About?
How do they like to get their information? Social media users expect to see frequent, concrete, shareable content that includes case studies and projects in action, answers to stakeholders’ questions, videos, news, and updates on initiatives. This means that stakeholders are not interested in grand claims and general strategy overviews; they prefer concrete examples of how strategies are translated into everyday action and evidence of how companies are addressing major environmental and social impacts. The best social engagement is sharing what appeals to the heart and mind. Craft your messaging by asking what metaphors and images are most likely to appeal to your stakeholders. Inquire as to what is more important to your different stakeholder groups: numbers and logic or enthusiasm and inspiration? These guiding questions will help shape the content of your status updates, as well as identify which social platforms are best for your brand.
4. How is Your Social Media Marketing Growing Your Business?
Social media marketing isn’t a stand-alone marketing activity; it’s effectiveness is best when integrated into PR and marketing programs. True, social media can amplify the success of content marketing and PR initiatives by exposing content and placements to a broad audience, but how do you know if it is contributing to the growth of your business? Establish appropriate metrics to define social media success for your business. Align metrics to corporate goals. A top-down approach to metric selection provides corporate alignment and helps prioritize metrics. The key is to strike a balance between strategic-level and operational-level metrics. Also, be sure to select the right mix of metrics; for instance, a dashboard may include a multitude of key performance indicators that you measure. It is important to include metrics that actually matter and are aligned to your internal stakeholders’ needs for ongoing support.A social media marketing strategy, when executed successfully, can be a powerful vehicle to build your brand, communicate with stakeholders, drive business growth, and contribute to positive change.
It is time to start developing a social media strategy that will help you grow your business in 2016.
Julie Urlaub is founder and managing partner of Taiga Company. Leveraging 15 years of business development, marketing, and communications expertise in the energy, medical, and information technology industries, Julie now consults and advises clients on purpose-driven stakeholder communications in the social space. Julie leverages a BA in Political Science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and IT studies from Southern Methodist University to meet the social, technological, environmental business objectives of Taiga’s clients.