October 2, 2015

5 steps for a stronger social media strategy in 2016

We’re headed for another new year, and 2016 promises to step up the social-media game once more

Post by Adi Englander

adi-englanderApple will be launching its latest operating system, iOS 9, in September. Google has updated its algorithm to give far more priority to mobile search results. And pretty much every popular social media channel will be offering not only advertising by instant purchase options by the time 2016 rolls around.

There’s no better time than now to anticipate and prepare for the trends of tomorrow.

So here’s your 5-step guide to ramp up your social media strategy for 2016.

1. Audit

To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.

Auditing your existing content, especially if you don’t currently have a great grasp on social, can be a tedious process. But it is well worth it in the end.

Start by identifying your key players. What channels are you on? Who has access to them? What type of content have you been posting? What has been the reaction from fans, both quantitative and qualitative?

All of these auditing questions can be answered with tools like SocialMention and Warble Alerts. Investing in them is key.

Another key is tapping into your business’ existing resources – both online and off – to find out what collateral you can convert to valuable social media content. Do you take a lot of product and client photos? Could you use one of your best customers as a case study? Have you hosted any events that show off your helpful, human side?

You’ll be surprised with the treasures that mask themselves as clutter in your file room.

2. Aim

Social is one of the most powerful weapons in your marketing arsenal. It’s a great tool for public relations, advertising, customer service, market research, and now, even sales.

You can do a lot with social. But, the reality is, if you just keep shooting everywhere without aiming, you’ll end up with a lot of wasted bullets and little to show for it.

Setting specific, ROI-driven goals is essential. Otherwise, you’ll end up using vanity metrics such as likes, retweets, pins, and bare clicks to determine success.

Identifying your ideal buyer and outlining the digital buying path they are likely to take are nonnegotiable. Once you have these nailed down, carefully consider how your social media efforts can ignite, fuel, or augment that path. Don’t be pushy, but don’t distract your audience with pointless, shiny objects either.

While lots of social media campaigns can be fun and might even get you a lot of attention, if they don’t come from the right audience or contribute to your bottom line, in the end, they’re worthless.

Spend your time wisely and make sure you are consistently aiming in the right direction.

3. Personalize

Personalization isn’t just about using names and customizing content, it’s about being relatable. People go on social media to talk to their friends, so that’s what you want to be … a friend.

For example, the Whole Foods’ Facebook page positions itself like a relative coming over for dinner. Charmin’s Twitter account is that buddy from college who likes to make butt jokes. Marriott’s Instagram is the location-independent entrepreneur who’s always sharing pics of her worldly exploits. These are all large brands that have found a way to appeal to real people on a personal level and be the “friend” fans want to see in their timeline.

How do you achieve this kind of personalization?

Simple. Be human. Talk to your audience as if they are your friends by sharing your secret tips, being genuinely helpful, and never being afraid get opinionated or take a stand on matters that your ideal customers feel passionate about.

This may well alienate some folks; but the fans who share your stance will be that much more loyal.

4. Automate

Marketing automation is a big thing in 2015, and it will be even bigger in 2016 as marketers learn to balance automation with real-time content and apply the human touch.

Striking this balance between automation and personalization means selecting the right tools.

Coordinating your social media with email is one area that benefits significantly from automation. The use of action-based autoresponders such as those triggered by social media mentions, shares, likes, follows, and (again) purchases can help businesses grow relationships, retain customers, and maximize sales. Forcing individual employees do the same job would be ridiculously expensive and time consuming with little to no added benefit.

Rather than opting for one big tool that does everything, seek out smaller tools that focus on one area and do it well. For example, there are many great tools out there for social media management, but if you’re a B2B business, Oktopost, with its campaign planning features and funnel analytics tracking, will cater much better to your needs.

In other words, link your aim with your automation and only invest in the tools that forward your actual goals.

5. Adjust

Making changes now is good, but to be truly effective, you have to prepare your organization to change even faster in the future to keep up with demands and trends.

Marketers have to start being agile and adaptive to current events, like Oreo famously did during the famous Super Bowl blackout in 2012. But as Andrew Lisa puts it, “When a social media marketing plan is shackled to a rigid, time-of-day-scheduled tweeting system, that kind of spontaneity is simply not possible.”

Spontaneity, however, doesn’t just happen. Ironically, you have to plan for it. The Oreo team already had their social media platforms and team in place to capitalize on the opportunity quickly when it presented itself. For businesses, that means discussing where the line is drawn for social media content, and giving social media managers direct access to the gatekeepers to prevent the red tape and lengthy response time.

And remember, it doesn’t have to be a big event. Sometimes a simple act for one customer can give you goodwill for life. Just ask Morton’s Steakhouse, who delivered a steak to a guy at an airport two hours away, just because of a simple tweet.

Don’t wait, start now

It’s easy to get intimidated by the sheer volume of brands vying for attention on social media, but that shouldn’t stop you from making your own strides now and in 2016.

In fact, 2016 can be your year … if you choose to make it so. And if you start to capitalize on these trends now, you can beat everyone else to the punch.

Adi Englander is a social media expert with a thing for startups and innovation. She has a knack for leveraging various social media platforms and tools to help businesses reach out and engage with their customers.

Adi Englander is a freelance writer and social media expert who writes for Gerris digital, a full-service digital strategy firm in the Washington, DC, area.

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