Things to consider when developing a social media strategy

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vía Tracy Sestili, Social Strand Media

Social media consultant Tracy Sestili knows how overwhelming social strategy can be for organizations large and small. A regular keynote speaker and writer, Sestili’s easy to implement and practical advice allows brands to leverage the power of social networks quickly and efficiently. Her social consulting firm Social Strand Media provides a full range of services that include social media goal-setting and strategy, setup, campaign management, analysis and more.

We caught up with Sestili via phone and asked her about some of the most important things to consider when developing a social media strategy that will succeed in the fast-paced, evolving space. (This conversation has been edited for length and clarity).

STR: Tracy, as a social media consultant, what common mistakes and misconceptions do you encounter from clients?

TS: You need a strategy and specific goals in social media like any other area of your business. Before doing anything else, that entails figuring out where your customers are and being there. One of the most common misconceptions I still hear is from organizations that believe only certain industries such as tech or retail need to be operating in social media. That is not at all the case. No matter what vertical you’re in, I guarantee there’s a conversation online. You’re being talked about anyway, so be there to monitor your brand and respond appropriately.

STR: Once you figure out where your target audience is, what comes next?

TS: After you’ve figured out where your customers consume relevant content, you need to tailor your message to them in a way that is appropriate for that medium. A lot of brands don’t really consider their audience or even their medium of choice and that’s a big mistake. For instance, most people utilize their cell phones to check their Facebook accounts. You need to ensure that your Facebook page content will work efficiently on peoples’ mobile devices. Never overlook the medium people are using when interacting with your content.

STR: How about organizations that think they’re ahead of the curve by setting up their social media accounts but rarely posting to them?

TS: Above all, you must be present and participate in conversation. Posting regularly is a must. Even if you don’t have anything in particular to say on any given day, you should be using your social media accounts to share relevant industry news that your followers want to know about. At the end of the day, social media is about putting a human face on your brand above all else so don’t be silent.

I often recommend many brands to tweet 5 times per day and share on Facebook once or twice. It may seem overwhelming, but by setting up goals for yourself each day, it is very manageable and shouldn’t be stressful at all.

STR: On the flipside, some brands are almost too zealous with sharing their latest product or press release. It’s a delicate balance, no?

TS: Absolutely. That’s where brands should be sharing applicable information that isn’t always specific to their product or service but is relevant to their audience. Those are things that people trust, consume and share.

STR: Brands, large and small, are understandably eager to gain more fans on their social networks and grow their audience. Are number goals the most effective when it comes to social media?

TS: Ultimately, goals are more than the sheer number of followers you have. It’s about the quality of those followers. Goals should be based off of a combination of gaining fans but just as importantly, converting them. If your overall goal is to drive more people to your website, you need a strategy that will see increases in your conversion rate- not just increases in your follower count.

STR: Goals are tough to set in social media because it doesn’t follow traditional ROI. But we’re now a few years into social media’s wide adoption- do clients have the right reference frame for social media by now?

TS: The first thing I always ask my clients is what their goals with social media are. Inevitably, non-profits want to get donations. Small businesses and startups tend to want a set number of followers and fans. Either way, the first lesson I give to them is that those aren’t really goals… those are results! You build your fan-base by having a solid strategy. Then, people will amplify your message and you’ll be successful.

STR: To attract and engage a wider audience, do so-called fan-gates, coupons and other incentives offered to people when they ‘like’ your Facebook page, actually work?

TS: Marketers have always known that coupons attract consumers. Ultimately, these incentives can be a great way to get your numbers up but you can’t count on them for conversion. A huge number of people ‘like’ a Facebook fan page because of an incentive they were offered. But just as importantly, a lot of people break up with a brand once they get that coupon.

Some people do what I refer to as the silent break-up: they continue to ‘like’ your page, but they don’t interact with it so they won’t see your updates on their newsfeed or engage with it in any meaningful way.

STR: And with Facebook’s latest round of revisions, those status updates are getting tough to follow even if you do want to keep track of them.

TS: Yes. With the latest releases that Facebook ushered in a few weeks ago, many page updates will not appear at the top of peoples’ newsfeeds anylonger. They may go entirely unnoticed, so it is more difficult to engage with your fans now. The result is that it ends up driving many brands to Facebook Ads and that, of course, costs money. If Google+ rolls out a solution for businesses, I think it may become the preferred network. But we’ll have to wait and see.

STR: Tracy, thanks for your insight today.
TS: Thank you!

Check out more interviews at Social Technology Review Interview Series.

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