Ok, so you’re ready to go social. You’ve done some due diligence upfront and it makes sense to your business. Regardless of which social network you’ve targeted, the 3 biggest universal factors for success are: content, content, and content. I’m talking timely, relevant, and compelling (eg., valuable or entertaining) content.
Content Development: Creating content is a resource-intensive exercise. You can’t just pull it out of your back pocket. To be effective, it needs to be well thought out. If you don’t have the means to outsource content to an external agency, look at developing a reliable pool of freelance writers, or leverage your internal SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and share the task across various people. Have an editor or gatekeeper on hand to ensure consistency of message, tone, and to ensure that the information you share complies with any internal guidelines or policies you may have.
Plan in advance: A good practice is to build out a content schedule weeks in advance of your intended publishing timeframe. As an example, I work with an agency to develop a 30-day schedule for a Corporate Facebook page, for which we’ll brainstorm a general theme. Based on the theme, we’ll identify potential content headlines and slot them into a publishing calendar. With a general framework in place, the agency goes away to write the actual content; after which we’ll meet again for review and tweaking. We normally undertake 2-3 revisions to the framework and content pieces before locking it down.
Depending on the complexity of your organization, you may have to vet your content through various groups such as legal, compliance, communications, senior management, etc. Account for the approval process into your lead time. This is often a bottleneck within many firms, so engage each group and give them a heads up on what you’re doing and what your expectations are.
Frequency: Your social media platform will dictate the frequency of your content schedule. For example, with Facebook, best practice indicates that you update content at least once a day. For Twitter, it can be as high as 5-10 times a day. Be ready for this, and plan ahead. If you don’t update your presence regularly, it’ll become stale – and fast. Once users get a whiff of something stale, they’ll likely stay away.
Response Plan: Have a social media response plan in place before you go live. What the hell is that you say? It’s a plan to deal with negative comments. Communication in the social media world is very much two-way; think of it more like dialogue than communication. Some organizations simply aren’t prepared to handle a negative post. Don’t get caught with your pants down. If you react too slowly or with the wrong tone, the situation can quickly get out of hand.
The U.S. Air Force developed a now famous blog assessment flowchart that serves as a very useful and effective paradigm for managing online comments. Here’s the link.
The gist of the paradigm is this: Categorize all online comments as good or bad. It’s up to you whether or not you want to respond to the good stuff. Focus your efforts on the bad stuff. Negative posts can be bucketed into a few key areas. If the comment is outrageous and irrelevant – remove it. If it is based on inaccurate information, step in and correct it diplomatically. If the comment is a genuine complaint, jump in quickly and offer to resolve it. My mantra has always been to “acknowledge publicly, resolve privately”. Connect with the user offline with an actual bonafide human-being, and take it from there.
Never remove negative comments or sentiments; unless they are completely irrelevant or fall within the realm of profanity or hate – rule of thumb; be as transparent as possible.
When dealing with negative sentiments, do yourself a favour and have a plan in place. Work with the appropriate entities in your organization and develop scenario-based responses. Have these at the ready and tweak them as needed. Look at these situations as an opportunity to turn them into a positive.
Believe me, you’ll be looked upon favourably if you respond quickly and with genuine sincerity. You’ll be surprised how far a personalized response can go.
Analytics: Success metrics, KPIs, whatever you want to call them, define them upfront. There are a myriad of figures one can report on. Here are some basic ones:
- # of likes or fans
- # of contributors
- # of positive customer mentions
- # of posts
- # of page views
Jeremiah Owyang, of the Altimeter Group, has put a number of more sophisticated social media metrics together in this whitepaper. An example of one of these is Audience Engagement, calculated by taking visitor comments, shares, and link backs divided by total views. I’ve typically calculated a variant of this ratio by modifying the numerator such that absolute comments are replaced exclusively by positive comments. I juxtapose this with the original definition to delineate between positive and overall engagement (the latter of which, can of course encompass both negative and positive sentiment).
Another metric I’ve found useful, and one that I developed having been in customer service for a number of years, is Call Volume Reduction. Part of my mandate at the time was to reduce operational costs and one way we could do this was by reducing the number of inbound calls to our call centre. We had estimated the cost of an agent handling a call to be about $5/call. The cost of emails was roughly $3/email, and problem resolution via Twitter was in the neighbourhood of $1/tweet. Call Volume Reduction is defined as the number of questions or issues resolved online, divided by the total number of questions/issues posted online plus total inbound call centre volume (for a specified time range – eg., 30 days).
If your goal is to drive people to your site, use your analytics software to determine the percentage of traffic from social media sources, and where possible, report on how many of these visitors completed a key conversion event.
Ok, I think that’s it for now.
So, to summarize, success begins and ends with content, so plan out your topics, publishing schedules and response plans well enough in advance. Get your analytics in order, and you’ll be in a great place to get started.