The A-Z of social media for brands

You might be familiar with social media, but hopefully you’ll give me a pass as some of this stuff bears repeating. However I think this A-Z is going to be more useful if you’re somebody who is trying to convince your boss that adopting a social media strategy is a good idea (it is). Good luck with that!

Note that I’ve avoided writing D is for Digg, F is for Facebook, T is for Twitter. Instead I’ve looked at the more strategic areas that you’ll need to consider before giving the likes of Facebook and Twitter a green light.

Let me know what I missed. Especially for ‘X’!

The A-Z of social media for brands

A stands for AUTHENTIC. Most people, apart from some notable PR execs, have a finely-tuned bullshit radar. They can smell it coming and many are allergic to it. You must be authentic. No funny business, no hidden clauses, nothing untoward.

B stands for BENCHMARK. You need to take a snapshop of where you’re at, before fully launching yourself into social media. Otherwise you’ll have no clue about ROI. A benchmarking exercise can help you define a social media strategy. Find the gaps, and figure out what you need to do. Use our social media templates to help you.

C stands for CUSTOMER SERVICE. You’d better believe it. The problem most wayward greedheads make with social media is that they think it’s all about free marketing. It isn’t. It is about service. I’ll come onto Zappos later but I love their mantra: “We are a customer service company that happens to be in the business of selling shoes.” Smart. Zappos generates three quarters of its $1bn annual sales from existing customers. Go figure, as they say…

D stands for DISTRIBUTE. Why? Because social media should not be ‘owned’ by one person, but spread throughout an organisation. Your people are your best asset, truly. They’re closer to your products, brands, customers and issues. Encourage them to get involved, and share the workload.

E stands for ENGAGE. We know that an engaged customer is a far more valuable one. They’ll tell you what you need to know. They’ll tend to buy from you again, and more frequently. And they’ll be more likely to refer your brand to their friends. Customer engagement and social media go hand in hand.

F stands for FEEDS. You can use feeds to power your social media presence, as we do on Twitter (which sucks in headlines from our blog via Twitterfeed). You should also use them to monitor your key brand terms online.

G stands for GOOGLEJUICE. Some people aren’t sure about the effects of social media on search. They doubt social media can have any tangible effect on search results. Take it from me: they’re wrong. Why? Because articles featured prominently on social media sites are likely to be picked up elsewhere (good for traffic, great for inbound links). Consider what happens when one of your stories hits the Digg frontpage: sure, you pull in big traffic from Digg itself, but you also tend to accumulate links from dozens of other sites.

H stands for HONESTY. This follows on from A. No pulling the wool please. The days of old school PR spin are coming to a close, and if you’re active on these networks then it’s best to hold up your hands and admit errors or lapse of judgement, as and when they arise. It happens. We’re HUMAN, after all.

I stands for INTERACT. Well what else was it going to be? If you try firing out one-way messages on the social media sites then you’ll soon know about it. You must get involved with your audience, your community, your user base, your fans. Make sure they know they’re being listened to, and they’ll participate more often. The flipside is that if you IGNORE them they will pay little interest / take it personally / move on.

J stands for JOIN. There’s no point standing on the sidelines, and hey, you need those social media profiles, even if you’re not immediately planning on using them. Take the lead. Sign up. And make sure you do plenty of reading and research before you jump in. Line up your ducks, then start shooting. There are tools than can help you check whether your brand names are available on the social sites.

K stands for KILLER CONTENT. If there’s one thing that works, it is quality content. Cream rises to the top. Five years ago it was all about Google, but now it’s about recommendations, referrals and retweets (all of which can underpin your Google rankings). Make the most of it. Content remains king.

L stands for LISTEN. As mentioned in F you need some feeds set up to track what’s being said about your brands online. There are various free tools to let you monitor your reputation, the needs of your customers, and what’s being said about your competitors. You also need to listen to people at an individual level, and to respond to them. Social sites help people to cosy up to your brand, and if you’re actively encouraging that (by being there) then it’s best not to kick them out of bed when they want some attention.

M stands for MEASURE. Because how else are you going to know if this whole social media malarkey works. I wrote a post called ’10 ways to measure social media success’, which will help you see the bigger picture. Measuring the detail is one thing, but it is worth considering how a social media strategy can improve your overall business at a macro level.

N stands for NETWORK. Let’s step back for a moment and remember that sites like Twitter and Digg are essentially networking sites. People are connected. This means that you can wade into the fray and seek out followers by participating in a wider conversation. Or by being retweeted. Or by actively following interesting people who say interesting things. It also means that if you get it wrong, the network effect can massively multiply your embarrassment, regardless of whether or not you’re active on these sites. Keep this in mind before you do a Ryanair.

O stands for ORGANIZE. This is about defining a strategy, and then figuring out who is going to execute it. And if you look again at D and then at R you’ll see that I don’t really believe in a single social media stakeholder. It’s a team game. At Econsultancy we encourage people to get involved if they want to. There is no social media dictator at this end.

P stands for POLICY. It could have been PARTICIPATION but that’s kind of covered under the letter E and I. So look, if you’re going to do this in a smart way then it’s best to set a few guidelines. Not rules, as such, but helpful pointers. And look at Z if you want to see the best, most concise social media / Twitter policy you’ll ever need to see.

Q stands for QUESTIONS. You can expect a bunch of them, and the bigger the brand the more questions people are going to throw at you. If they want to choose Twitter as a makeshift customer service channel then doesn’t that tell you something? Twitter might not be the best way of responding, but make sure you are LISTENING and react quickly. Questions need answers!

R stands for RETENTION. Here’s a tip for you: forget about customer acquisition, and start concentrating on your existing customers. They’re cheaper to keep hold of, and if you get it right they’ll do your marketing for you (see E). Seriously, FORGET ACQUISITION. Times are changing, and the smarter operators will be focused on keeping customers happy. And that brings us neatly onto…

S stands for SATISFACTION. Mick Jagger once sang about this and was obviously referring to customer satisfaction. It’s so important. If you don’t already measure customer satisfaction then you’d better start soon, because it’s one of the most important metrics and you should be on a constant quest to improve it. Social media can really help you keep on top of things, and can help you connect. I refer once again to the letter C, and the value of happy customers to your business.

T stands for TRAFFIC. Social media sites now account for a large chunk of our traffic. The Telegraph pulls in 75,000 unique users from these sites every day. If traffic is your thing, then a solid social media strategy will help you attract in the big numbers. T could also stand for TWITTER, since Twitter is obviously a big deal these days. If you’re new to Twitter start here, and if you’re doing it on behalf of a brand / company then aim here.

U stands for USER PROFILE. The last time I looked the world’s biggest FMCG brand was Coca Cola. And you’d imagine that such a heavyweight would have claimed user profiles on various social media sites for its key brands. Well, you’d be wrong. Make sure somebody claims these for your brand. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

V stands for VIP. By getting nearer to your customers / prospects / audience you’re going to make them feel special. Most organisations are still light years away from treating customers as individual people, but social media – and a distributed social media / customer service team – can help you to do this. Remember also to add VALUE, whether that’s sharing tips / insight as we try to do, or providing a 15% discount voucher, as a retailer might do.

W stands for WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. Because look, if you don’t, then what on earth do you expect to get from all of this? I believe that pretty much every company / brand should have a blog, with frequent updates (about their products, services, company, market, etc). These articles can provide you with lots of excellent social media fodder. Spread the word.

X stands for X RATED. To be honest X is a difficult one. But then I remembered that not everybody likes to read the word ‘fuckface’ on Twitter, much less your straight-up 68-year old CEO with churchgoing tendencies. I swear like a trooper but tend to keep the language on these sites to a minimum, especially when representing the brand. Ok, maybe you can suggest something better for the letter X.

Y stands for YOU. The minute you start freaking out about brand language and tone of voice and what the PR department might think is the minute you fail at social media. Sure, that stuff IS important, but the main thing to remember about social media is that it is a highly personal medium. As such you need to communicate, as much as possible, as a PERSON rather than as a BRAND. People form relationships with other people, as opposed to brands, which they have opinions of, and an affinity with (or otherwise). There’s a real distinction.

Z stands for ZAPPOS. The online shoe retailer is a Twitter posterboy, no two ways about it. It encourages staff to get involved with Twitter (it also uses Facebook and YouTube) and has the best Twitter policy I have yet seen: “Be real and use your best judgement.”


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