A large number of companies are thinking about their next steps in social media. One of the key factors in any social media strategy is the channel/content debate. Companies are struggling to capitalize on their use of social media channels. By means of a hands-on paper, we want to share our approach on how to make effective use of social media channels in order to spread content. This blog post gives a short summary of the paper. The full paper can be downloaded at the end of the post.
The paper is based upon a series of research projects conducted over the last two years, the experience gained from numerous workshops with our clients and an in-depth discussions with social media experts Erik Van Roekel (@evr) and Matthijs Van Den Broeck (@mgvandenbroek).
Evolving from a checklist approach to social media towards an effective social channel use requires a different mindset. To build this mindset you need to go through 4 distinct phases:
1. Channel & Content Strategy
The first step consists in formulating a clear vision on the role of each of the online touch points. Apart from defining the goals and content of each of the individual channels, this phase is also about deciding how those channels interrelate. In this phase, you define which touch points are most likely to reach the social media (and broader business) objectives. Instead of creating social silos you are going for an integrated approach where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Most managers think of social media channels as stand-alone silos. Content is spread through each of these channels without a clear plan on how to reach business objectives. The truth is that all online channels are interrelated. Consumers can even be routed from channel A to channel B. In this phase, companies should create a ‘content-conversion’ plan.
A content-conversion plan includes every touch point where a (potential) customer can come into contact with your content. Then you need to determine at which of these touch points conversion to your objectives (reputation management, community building, lead generation…) is likely to occur. All other social channels support traffic generation towards these conversion points. Instead of having a set of silo channels, this creates a set of interrelated online channels.
For example, the converting touch point might be the corporate website or blog. A corporate blog can be the touch point that leads people from the content area to the sales area. Your other social media accounts ensure that sufficient traffic is channeled to the blog every day.
For companies working in the knowledge sector, SlideShare can serve as a useful converting touch point. SlideShare is a social network site where people can share presentations (PowerPoint, etc.). This is the ideal place to showcase what you can do and what you have to offer. On this platform, it is easy to directly convert a reader into a sales lead. In case your key objective is community building, your Facebook page may be the best content-conversion point. When mapping out your conversion touch-point plan, define the trigger for each touch point that makes it possible to move on to the next. Furthermore, try to keep the lines as short as possible. The more steps are necessary in order to reach the touch point where your business goals are realized, the harder it is to achieve high conversion rates.
2. Build reach
To increase the return on content creation, it is advisable to build reach in the early phase of your online plan. In this phase, the hard part is maintaining a balance between relevant content on the one hand and being able to attract a large set of likes & followers on the other hand.
There are two ways to build reach: the slow approach and the fast approach. The slow approach builds reach over time by investing in quality content that spreads naturally. To succeed in the slow approach, you need three things: good content, a fixed rhythm and a lot of patience. Big brands usually lack the last ingredient, which is why we recommend choosing the fast approach. Our research has shown the following seven approaches to be successful reach builders:
3. Persuasion through content & interaction
Once you’ve attracted a significant number of followers and fans, you need engaging content to keep them interested. The threshold to follow a brand is very low but it takes a huge effort to keep your audience engaged.
Research conducted by InSites Consulting has shown that the average consumer actively interacts with no more than 5 brands on social media. This means your brand needs to be part of this select little group. Also, recent research has shown that fans won’t dislike your page if they don’t like the content; instead they will ‘hide’ your page. This means competing for the attention of your own followers with big love brands like Apple, Coca Cola and Disney. And let’s not forget, your toughest adversaries when competing for the attention of your followers comes are those followers’ friends and families.
The conclusion is obvious: this evolution is raising the bar for companies to be able to engage with consumers on social media.
Three elements are key in this particular phase:
4. From likes to ambassadors
The final phase is the most difficult part. In this phase you are looking to create a small army of active ambassadors. The previous steps focused on winning people’s hearts through great content. In this phase, the challenge is to create ambassadors: people who promote your brand to their friends and family. Here the question is: ‘What do we want our fans to say about us and how can we facilitate this?’. Succeed in this challenge and you will be rewarded with positive and impactful conversation about your brand.
In this stage, you need to convert your likes into ambassadors. The following factors are essential:
These four phases are obviously not entirely sequential; there is an overlap between phases 2, 3 and 4. In our strategy, it’s not that hard to define the necessary actions for the various steps. In real life, though, we need to be flexible enough to adapt to consumer needs in a moment’s notice. Once a certain stage is reached, phases 2, 3 and 4 become iterative steps in an eternal loop designed to build reach and create more ambassadors.