While I’d be the first to admit I think social media offers some incredible advantages to business, such as:
- listening to what your customer say about your brand
- enabling consumers to tell your brand’s story to others
- reducing calls to the customer support
- soliciting ideas for new or improved products
- generating excitement about your brand
as well as a host of other benefits, it will not “fix” your brand if it isn’t built on a solid strategic foundation.
Having just invested a fortune on fixing our house’s foundation in earthquake prone California, I can painfully relate to the need for getting your foundation right. With a house, you can put as much money as you like making it look fantastic on both the exterior and interior. But unless it’s based on a solid foundation, it’s only a matter of time before you’re going to get cracks in the walls, floors and ceiling and discover all that expensive effort was for naught.
It’s no different in social media. I’ve developed a two-day seminar focused on how to successfully utilize social media for a brand.
The first thing we focus on is the importance of confirming the brand’s overall mission (i.e. why are we in business?) and objective (what’s the brand trying to achieve in the next 3 to 5 years?) we begin to develop the brand’s social media gameplan. In addition to the overall mission and objective of the business, we also take the time to clarify the brand’s target audience, positioning, key benefit, reason to believe and brand persona.
Only after all of these critical issues have been verified or clarified does it make any sense to talk about how a brand is going to take advantage of social media. It’s recently been popular to talk about a brand’s “Facebook strategy” or “Twitter strategy”. Unfortunately, that’s putting marketing tactics ahead of your brand’s strategy.
Bigger social media questions need to be addressed first such as:
- What are your target’s social media habits (i.e. fish where the fish are, not where you wish they were)?
- What are your primary goals you want to achieve from your social media activities?
- How are you going to measure success for these goals (there’s a preponderance of social media metrics to select from but you need to do this before, not after, your brand’s social media plans are underway)?
- How are your social media plans going to align with and complement the rest of your marketing program?
- Is your organization prepared to put the appropriate amount of resources behind the on-going social media program (rather than just getting it launched)? This would include the entire organization (i.e. HR, legal, product development, customer support, etc), not just the marketing team.
- Who’s responsible for the on-going management and cost of your social media program?
Only after you’ve addressed all these issues does it make sense to begin work on the specific strategy and plans your brand wants to develop for a specific social media platform such as Facebook and Twitter (just two possible options among the myriad of other choices you might select).
There’s still a lot of buzz and excitement related to social media in the U.S. (which will probably peak anytime now), but keep in mind it’s critical that for social media to have any real lasting benefit to your brand, you’ve got to make sure it’s based on a solid strategic foundation.
Otherwise, social media is just going to gloss over fundamental strategic weaknesses that have been the demise of brands no longer around. Making sure your brand has a solid strategic grounding is just like a homeowner who has to fix the foundation: even though no one will see it and it’s expensive both in time and money, it’s definitely worth it (and in fact is essential) in the long run in terms of getting a great return on your investment.