finger-pushing-facebook-button-10079116With more than 500 million tweets sent each day around the world and 300 million LinkedIn users, it’s no wonder businesses use these communication platforms. They do it to meet a variety of goals; developing their brand and its awareness, improving customer service, showing they are subject matter experts in their field and increasing sales. ‘Best in class’ users are being even more creative, using social media in areas such as market research to test new product ideas and to improve internal communications and staff morale.

However recent research shows that, in reality, it’s rare for businesses to get a return from their social media activities. Indeed a survey of 1,700 companies by the Harvard Business School showed that only 12% feel they are using social media effectively. A total of 43% of businesses surveyed said they are ineffective at using social media and another 45% felt they are ‘getting there’.

Although there is a great amount of information available on how to build and carry out a social media strategy, the pitfalls of companies who try and fail are all too common:

  1. Not being ready – failing to understand social media platforms and their purpose, having poorly defined goals for their strategy or not studying what ‘best in class’ users are doing
  2. Poor understanding of the target audience – lacking an appreciation of the kind of users they wish to attract and the reasons their followers are using social media
  3. Lack of cohesive recruitment and content strategy – not having a coordinated approach and plan covering who will be recruited to the community and when, alongside the content that will be shared
  4. Being impatient – giving up too soon. Social media involves building participation and observing what works; all too often companies don’t commit for long enough to see the results
  5. Lack of measurement – struggling to link social media investment back to the bottom line.

So, how can an organisation develop a successful social media strategy that avoids these pitfalls? The question was tackled by Larry Webber in his book ‘Marketing to the Social Web’. Webber identifies a series of steps that need to be carried out thoroughly for success to follow:

  1. Observe – start to understand social media and the blogosphere
  2. Recruit and listen – think about who to communicate with and what kind of community this implies
  3. Evaluate Platforms – what are the best social media platforms to use?
  4. Engage – develop content and get people talking
  5. Measure – how to measure progress and success?
  6. Promote – how to further promote our community and materials?
  7. Improve – how to learn from experiences and improve going forward?

In the forthcoming blogs in this series we will discuss our experiences using this model and look forward to receiving your comments and ideas.

 Image from: Free Digital Photos.net