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Social media strategy: Stop fiddling at the edges and grow up

It’s been a long time since social media took its first steps. It’s something of a strapping, ever-hungry adolescent these days. Yet many companies still feed it the content equivalent of baby food instead of realising it’s time to take social (or your teenager) seriously.

A recent survey found that 56 per cent of social media marketers still focus on engagement metrics to support their strategy. Despite this, 61 per cent claimed that measuring ROI was the real challenge with only some nine per cent able to quantify the revenue driven by social.

If you want your social strategy to grow up and start delivering a better return, these are my three social 'parenting' tips:

Grow beyond the basics

While engagement with audiences and customers has its place, it inherently doesn’t plan for business value. Ask yourself how much engagement is improving business. Vanity metrics like ‘followers’ and ‘likes’ don’t really tell you much about your audience and their purchasing journey.

The more mature your social media marketing is, the less you should think about social media. Instead, focus on integration with other channels, and use wider metrics such as those from your website and online activity, alongside pipeline and brand metrics that align to other activities.

Keeping your social media ‘at home in a bubble’ is doing you no favours. It needs to experience (and expand into) the wider world if you are ever going to prove it has value.

Regular attention and relentless pursuit of the goal

It is easy to fall into the trap of just getting posts out on social.  The focus moves away from value, and becomes a task-oriented monotony of having to find a post for every day. The result is piecemeal content, with no themes or clear purpose. Worse still, last minute content is squashed into timelines any old how as a blatant afterthought.

The curse of so many social profiles is the meandering nothingness of content. Your audiences really couldn’t care less that you, the brand, think it is ‘happy Friday’. Really, they don’t care.

Yes, be active on social, but be active with purpose. Drive your content.  No one would just broadcast any old message on TV or plaster billboards with it. Social should be structured and thoughtful. Align content to messaging and messaging to context, so that real-time events like ‘happy Friday’ are wholly relevant to your brand. Let your posts embody your company personality and don’t let yourself be dragged into the banal.

Social, like a teenager, needs regular and consistent attention. You must be truly engaged through all the homework, not just during the exams.

Who’s in charge?

At the heart of managing all this is planning. Even the best behaved teenager needs rules. And your social estate needs its own set of rules (not ones made up by everyone else).

It’s not good enough to have a social media plan that tacks on to everyone else’s plan. Brand, PR, partnerships, B2B, and products all want a bit of social. I’ve seen some spectacular company feeds that show fun consumer content side-by-side with financial results and detailed technical specs. Social can end up being one big funnel for every other department. Exactly what message does it give your audience?

Think about your message hierarchy. Do you want to build brand or push products or do both (and with what balance); and which platforms will you do it on? Be a bossy social marketer, and be clear with the other elements of your marketing team about what fits with your social strategy and online brand.

After all, just as with a child who is growing up, you get back what you put in. Social will keep on growing up, no matter how much you pretend it isn’t.

Katy Howell is chief executive officer of Immediate Future.

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