When social media campaigns fail, we all lose. And often social marketing efforts could be wildly more successful if a few simple fundamentals were given more attention early on.
To help provide a roadmap for those fundamentals, we reached out to some of our favorite social marketing pros to ask them a very simple question.
“What is the biggest social media strategy mistake that most businesses make?”
Their answers were really insightful and span the full range of problem areas for social brands.
We’ve categorized all the answers into 7 mistakes that every brand should make sure they are overcoming when sitting down to build their social marketing strategy.
1. No Business Goals
AKA Bringing It Back To The Bottom Line
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when they formulate their social media strategy is that they let their social aspirations drive the thought process, not their business aspirations.
By contract, businesses have to make money and they have to deliver products and services that drive long-lasting preference and loyalty. Without these, there won’t be a social strategy because there won’t be a business.
It sounds simple, but all too often, companies try to get a great deal of social media content out there and, only later, do they start to look to see how all of that engagement actually helped their business meet its goals. As with any business project, it’s a good idea to start with what you’re hoping to achieve.
The biggest mistake is not spending time to clearly and specifically define their business objectives and then create a social strategy to achieve those objectives. Businesses get hung up on publicly visible social metrics like fans and followers, instead of focusing on social as a path to achieve real business goals. Set your Champagne Moment, define a social strategy to get there, and execute.
Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, and American Express are three organizations’ whose social programs I really admire. Each has a completely different approach, but rather than simply trying to acquire Facebook fans, they appear to be experimenting in ways that deeply align with their company’s culture, values and business goals.
Southwest is constantly trying new things, but fun and their own employees are at the center of everything they do. Patagonia has an almost soulful approach, less about their product and more about a lifestyle in tune with the environment. And, American Express has built big, meaningful programs that provide genuine value to its business customers and showcase the perks one associates with their brand.
2. No Inclusion In Overall Strategy
AKA Reducing Social To A Condiment
Brands struggle to attach a clear return, or ROI, to social. Add in the perception that social media is free and the social staff is often new, and most social marketing leaders will not be in higher level decision making roles. They are not included in larger brand strategy discussions until the plan is set.
When you say ‘social media,’ many people just think of Twitter or Facebook. But what they rarely understand is the need for the larger plan.
When social is marginalized within the larger brand strategy, a cycle of underperforming is created and not seeing an ROI perpetuates because the key social media stakeholders are not sitting at the table with the rest of the decision makers.
Here we are in 2013 and even major organizations continue to treat social media like a side show. They’re not investing in appropriate staffing or infrastructure. They’re not creating content worth a damn. They’re not including their own employees in their plans. Instead, many organizations are focusing on cheap, quick fan acquisition without thinking about a long-term social business strategy.
A big mistake I see people do is to pander in order to get likes and retweets. I’ve seen brands post things that have absolutely nothing to do with their brand in any way, shape, or form. If the hot topic of the day has nothing to do with your brands, and you can tie back to your business objectives, you don’t need to say anything! Engage when you have a reason to.
3. No Conversation
AKA All Talk No Listen
Don’t forget the basics. Brands seem to formulate strategy around what content will produce likes or shares. Yes, you can develop creative, beautiful and funny content for your social networks but don’t forget about engaging your audience with a dialogue. Too many brands are now taking their communities for granted and posting content but not participating in the conversation. Listening, responding and engaging should still be the core of any social media strategy.
A mistake I see is companies misunderstand social networking altogether. Networking is all about meeting like-minded people and helping them first, before you ever ask for anything in return. Instead of building relationships, many companies use social networks as just another channel to push their marketing messages. Build the community first.
4. No Loyalty
The most consistent miss is a fundamental misunderstanding of social’s role within the communications ecosystem.
In most cases, social media is a much better loyalty and advocacy play than it is a customer acquisition vehicle. While social CAN be used to make new customers out of thin air, the more well-reasoned strategy capitalizes upon the enthusiasm that your existing customers (presumably) have for your brand, and encourages and cajoles them into becoming volunteer marketers on your behalf.
Instead of “how can we get new customers?” one of the best questions to ask when formulating a social media strategy is “what can we provide to current customers that will get them to buy more or convince their friends that we’re worthy of their time and attention?”
5. No Free Lunch
When creating social marketing strategies, companies talk about “creating an army of advocates” that will do the selling for you. For free. As with everything else – you get what you pay for.
Advocacy programs take dedicated resources and relationship building. And creativity. While a team of advocates can be encouraged to sell – think outside of the “Conversion” box of your strategy. Your Advocates can create educational posts, videos and podcasts showing your products and services in use. They can be a useful part of your Customer Service plan. Another way you need to use your creativity is incentives – creating a plan that compensates (yes, that does means money) your advocates at different levels in ways that allows them to participate in ways that are ethical, and that your company and advocates feel comfortable with and are aligned with your corporate values and business goals.
6. No Audience Research
In my consultancy, I frequently see companies who have jumped onto every social network without a plan or before determining if their target market is active there. I believe that if companies stop and consider who they want to reach, they will have a better idea of how and where to find them.
7. No Collaboration
The biggest mistake a large enterprise can make when creating a social media strategy is to have that strategy live in one department. Customers don’t build relationships with the Marketing or PR departments – they build a relationship with the brand as a whole.
Many businesses approach social media through one silo, not taking into account the entire business. We get feedback on every aspect of our business in an instant – and oftentimes that feedback spans many departments. In order to create a better customer experience, silos need to come down and departments need to work more collaboratively with one another.
It is also the only way to scale social engagement. The only way to effectively engage in real time is to have an “all hands on deck” approach. Taking care of customers is the low hanging fruit of social media engagement and should be Step 1 for every business.