What is the core strategic framework for a corporate social media strategy? One of the core objectives of this blog is to cut through the forest of information and sites to clearly identify the trees you need to focus on. This post will set out the online structure that can form the genesis of a social media strategy. In the second post of this two part blog post, I will discuss the underlying media and content strategy that works in parallel with this ecosystem.
Lets look at this structure, starting with your home web site.
Home Web site
Your own website – personal or corporate – should be at the centre of everything you do. There is one very strong reason for this. You own the website and therefore you completely control its contents and direction. Leading on from this, your home website is the central foundation of your online brand and this is the core of your strategy – building your on line brand value.
You will need to register your own domain – a .com or .co.uk (for uk based companies and individuals) is probably best and you will need to get this hosted. I use GoDaddy.com but other hosting agents exist too.
The core tenet of this strategy is that everywhere else you go and establish a presence in the online world, you aim to bring your contacts and your customers back to your home website – where you own them. From here you can engage with them and in due course monetise them.
This is the clear market winner (at the moment) in the professional online network. While it is a “social” network, it is better thought of at THE business network. This is where you ought to be able to find most of your suppliers, customers and competitors and where by connecting with them you can expand your reach and increase your presence of mind engagement.
This is not the place to set out a detailed Linked IN strategy but it is important that you set out as complete a profile as you feel comfortable with as it is important to be findable. Just as important make sure you have links back to your home web site and other key touch points including your blog – when you set it up.
This is where the conversations take place but Twitter is already so much more than that. Again, a complex strategy needs to be evaluated and implemented but there is much to learn easily. Firstly follow your friends, customers, competitors, suppliers, industry guru’s and websites relevant to your industry. The key reason for doing this is to listen and to learn from them. What is going on. What is Hot and what is Not. Twitter has become one of the best educational tools available for business.
The next step is to build a base of people following you where you can entertain and educate, share and connect with a growing base. This is not a platform for selling but you can make your network aware of news announcements and new posts of blogs, podcasts and vidcasts to keep them up to date with your business developments.
I am still learning how to use Facebook more effectively for business. However with reportedly 600m people now on the platform, you cannot afford to ignore it. It is possible to set up pages for your company and to promote these using links and connections to your website, twitter and (I think) Linked IN. The key point is to first establish the presence and then learn how to use applications which widen the scope of your connectivity and productivity on the platform.
It is important to understand with Facebook that its Terms and Conditions enable Facebook to take ownership of all the content you post on your pages. This is one of the main reasons NOT to make Facebook your home site on the web but to use it just like any other satellite site to your own home web site.
This is the home of video content. It has significant reach and is one of the leading search engines in its own right. Again any posts should have links back to your home website. Furthermore as the search engines cannot search the video content per se, it is important to label and tag your videos to make them visible to the search engine bots.
It is also important not to underestimate the impact video content has and to therefore regard it as an important element of your social media strategy. The downside is that professional and complex video productions are expensive but you will see from visiting the site that many videos are shot with hand held cameras by amateurs. I think some post production work is worthwhile but it is possible to find a happy medium between cost and the message.
Niche Network – Ning
While you may not want to spread yourself, your company or your resources too thinly, if you are operating in a niche market, it may be worthwhile hosting or joining a niche community to address this market – and thereby increase your engagement with the market.
A good example of this is Jay Berkowitz’s Internet Marketing Club (I am a member but do not derive any financial benefits from the community). Jay has built this on the Ning network platform and has exceeded 1,000 members in less than six months.
I have left Geo Location to last because I do not think this aspect of the strategy is applicable to all businesses. The leading communities are Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places. If you are a retail business with a strong “bricks and mortar” element to your customer appeal, Geo Location communities can attract business by offering customers benefits to “check in” – which they can only do when they are on your premises. As well as the gaming element which is fun – becoming the “Mayor” of a location on Foursquare for instance (achieved by being the most frequent checkin within a defined period of time) – discounts and coupons can be made available on your mobile phone or directly to the Mayor as long as they hold the title.
In a broader sense, letting your communities know that you are going to be visiting a particular location or checking in at a trade conference gives you an additional dimension through which to reach out to your audience.
For more thoughts and considerations about content I can strongly recommend (no disclosure required) Scott Scanlon’s podcast Defining New Media Marketing. He is currently (17th Jan 2011) broadcasting a series on new media content which I have been enjoying and which I believe will help you engage with Social Media by challenging the thinking behind Content – you can find him on itunes or here at his podcast page
If you like this post, please let me know and/or RT. Any comments on any aspects of the post are always welcome.