Most of us are familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social networking sites. There has been quite a bit of coverage on how to use them, but how should an online merchant create an overall social media strategy?
First, Determine Your Goals
The first step to any social media strategy is first to determine the goals you want to achieve. Every company will have its own particular social media goals, but some to consider are: building awareness, increasing sales, educating customers, or generating leads.
Know Your Comfort Level
Now that you have goals in mind, it’s important to ask and answer some questions. Are you ready to truly interact with your customers? Can you handle negative feedback? How will you incorporate social media into your employees’ responsibilities? How will you measure if it’s working? How long will you try your strategy? Are you willing to experiment and take risks? It’s important to answer these in advance because social media revolves around two-way conversations. You need to be prepared to listen and act on what your customers say.
Locate the Best Social Networks for Your Business
To understand how your customers may already be using social media, it’s vital to see what they’re already talking about, especially if it’s about your company or products. Listen to not only what your customers say, but also where and when they say it, and to whom. This will help you determine what social networks will be the most useful to
To monitor what’s being said and finding where customers are, ecommerce companies should at least be using Google search for their name and their product names. While Google doesn’t index all the social networks, you’ll at least get an overall feel. Also, consider using a site like Find a Social Network and checking main social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, using the search function on those specific sites.
Train Employees, and Yourself
Decide who at your business will be responsible for interacting with customers. If your company is going to enter the conversation, your customers will expect a response – and results. Make sure you’re prepared to actually deal with feedback and implement changes. If customers don’t see anything happening, they’ll likely hesitate to contribute in the future. Set some ground rules so employees know how to engage in online conversations.
Just Do It
Once you’ve established the appropriate social networks for your business, start talking with your customers. Engage them. Have conversations. Offer advice. Help them out where you can. Social media shouldn’t be a broadcast medium. Think about forming personal relationships with individuals. Figure out whom they are and what they have to say. Remember, social media is a great resource for connecting with individual customers. Many people won’t take the time to leave a comment on a site, but they will have a conversation on a social network where they’re already spending time. You should get some good feedback and ideas, but people want results. If you’re going to capitalize on social media, you need to figure out how to implement suggestions your customers have – and then tell them about it so they can see how they’ve helped.
Measure Social Media Effectiveness
Measuring social media strategies is a bit different than other strategies. It’s frequently difficult to connect a social media campaign directly to an increase in revenue, but usually you’ll see results that you can contribute to your efforts. If you have a specific goal in mind, it will be much easier to figure out ways to measure how well you’re
moving towards it. Also take into account reputation management or how you’ve changed how your customers view your company. Social media is also an excellent research tool, as mentioned above, so you’re sure to get insight that you could not have otherwise found.
Worth the Effort?
While social media strategies usually do not require an enormous budget, they do require time and effort. But the potential payoff can be enormous. Your customers will appreciate that you are listening and acting on their suggestions, and you’ll get feedback and relationships that would not otherwise be possible.