Social media for business is at the other extreme of social media for personal reasons. It is important to start with a strong purpose and there is a need for proper planning before execution of a social media strategy. Most times, businesses spend millions of dollars on research and find themselves trapped in tactics while they forget the strategy element of their plans. There are many other companies that are wary of embracing uncertainty and would rather use a social media strategy with intelligence. There is no need of guess work as with customers’ voice at every level, decisions are more certain to yield better results. Whatever the case, an increasing number of companies including multinationals are using social media to reach out to customers, who are now internet savvy and use the online medium to research before making a purchase. A recent eMarketer report states that 40% of small businesses that sell on Facebook say it is their sole sales channel.

Turn into Social Media Champions

In the Study Marketers Benchmarks 2011 report Focus Research marketers researched and found that the most important marketing investment was Social Media monitoring tools. Engaging and engaged social media presence helps convince a customer that the product/service is reputable. Companies, on the other hand, should know that social media is not about logos but it is all about people. Copying and pasting marketing lingo on to various social media platforms with a clear message to promote the product or brand is not going to work.

The first step is to determine how your target audience uses social media. To do that, you can use the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder (see below) and gain insights about how your target audience defined by age, gender and location use social media. It turns out, as most companies are now realising that social listening or the data collection component is key to identification and evaluation of gaps in a social media strategy.

The next step is to create engaging content across social media platforms. A recent Social Media Marketing report states that the top5 social media networks/tools used by marketers are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and YouTube, in that order. The report also stresses on the need to plan social media time on these platforms effectively. For a business person seeking social media help, the most common questions, which might arise, are:

How often should you post?
What are the most important components of a social media plan?
How do you deal with brand mentions or complaints online?
Can you automate/outsource social media activities?
It is important to remember that there is much more to be learned from online conversations. Also, it takes time and commitment to find threads related to your brand or company and respond to them in a manner such that you can protect your brand reputation with real-time responses.

Actionable Social Data

Collecting and actioning data in any sphere of business is viewed as a difficult task. Most often, companies are overloaded with meaningless data and find it overwhelming to measure everything and garner actionable insights. With social media data, it is vital to keep data collection trim and actionable to deliver business results.

Blueocean’s recent case study about a niche automobile giant (we will share the case study soon in this blog), the data was gathered from 250 million sources, which include blogs, forums, social networking sites, video sharing sites and image sharing sites on the basis of requests defined by a combination of keywords and needs. The data then ran through a layer of text mining for cleansing. We then performed qualitative and quantitative analysis of the results to identify the trends in discussions threads. The case study determined that blogs and Facebook were the top carriers of conversation and also noticed that a majority of the discussions hovered around product, innovation & design of the brand.

Measure Using Social Intelligence

As a digital marketer or a business owner who understands the value of social media, you’ve probably done your research and laid out a strategy based on that. However, do you know who your consumers are and the top domains, where their users are active? If you do, are you using that data to make meaningful changes to your social media outreach? It is important to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not, to help weed out activities which are not beneficial and concentrate on what works for your brand.

Social intelligence will help provide valuable market place insights, generate more business exposure, and aid lead conversion. In an increasingly online business environment, social intelligence is gaining more importance and the important observations and opportunities from these social streams and conversations are drawing mid and large size business to the social media sphere. Nearly 65% of marketers in the Social Media Marketing Report found social media to be a helpful tool in understanding the marketplace. Of those with at least 1 year of experience, 70% or more found benefit.

Social Media Outsourcing

The main social media tasks which are outsourced are design/development, analytics, content creation, monitoring, research, strategy, status updates and community management. These are the main issues which plague marketers, hence, they choose to outsource to a company which has expertise in development and implementation of a social media strategy. The 2011 Social Media Marketing Report reported that 28% of marketers outsourced social media duties, a figure which had doubled from 2010. However, social media outsourcing remains underutilized. Although 90% of marketers place high value on social media, it is surprising that only 28% of businesses outsource social media marketing. It is important for businesses to understand that this could turn out to be a great way to free up time and bring in creative opinion to handle social media.

Have you performed a social media intelligence analysis to plot your social media strategy? Share your thoughts with me.

Also see the reports mentioned in the post.

eMarketer Report

Study Marketers Benchmarks 2011

Forrester Social Technographics Ladder

Social Media Marketing Industry

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