And a strategy for ‘using social media’ is the same. It misses the bigger picture. That is, that social media is just one type of channel through which a modern company can choose to engage with its clients and networks. Call it ‘online engagement’, ‘PR with a purpose’ or ‘Coining it in with Comms’ – but it is vital to step back and think about the endgame of all that customer engagement.
This is how you might start:
1. Start with your company’s goals and vision statement. Don’t have them? Well, there’ll be somewhere on the server (and if they don’t exist then engaging with customers online is the least of your worries). Identify aspects of the vision and direction that relate to customer liaison and client relationships.
2. Who are your customers? No, really… who the heck are they? Not sure? Then you’ve got some homework to do. User surveys, focus groups, chats down the pub and with your colleagues. Where do they hang out? What do they read? Are they even online? If so, where and and how often? Find out everything you can about the people who pay your wages. Why not develop some personas while you’re at it.
3. Make connections between the vision statement, the company goals – and those all important customers. Identify all the ways in which the company aims to impact on their lives. Persuading them to buy shiny stuff? Working with them to teach them stuff? Whatever you do to make a buck, you need to know what customer liasion looks like, for your company, when it’s successful.
But, hang on. Isn’t this about working with them online? Where’s the ‘online’ bit?
There is no point planning an online strategy without knowing your company direction, your customers – and how you can work with them successfully. Once you’ve done that, then…
4. Identify the online and offline channels that can be used to touch your customers’ lives most successfully and in a way that suits them. No point having a Facebook book page for people who don’t use social media – but a great idea to use Twitter to reach techno-savvy clients.
5. By the time you’re at step 5, the devil is in the detail. You’ll need to plan timeframes (so you need to know what’s realistically possible). You need resources (but how long will it all take? and how much will it cost?). You need to choose ways to monitor, listen, evaluate and plan again (and is there software to do this for me)?
And we haven’t even got to the part that’ll make your CEO think all this is a good idea.
Watch this space for Part 2 of this post – where I’ll unpack No. 5, with some useful links that I’ve found really helpful.
So, what are you waiting for? Time to get started on steps 1-4.