Social Media Strategy: Choose your Channel

I began this series in June by asking if your business had a social media strategy. I didn't intend to be condescending, but I'm still in awe every day of how many large companies are being misguided when it comes to this marketing option.

(Editor's note: Catch up with part 2 on setting measurable goals and part 3 on using Facebook for local marketing.)

Now I could write a long article about which channels are best and how you should gain traction by integrating several different resources online, but bottom line... if you're a franchisee it doesn't matter. Your franchisor should be worrying about overall branding. Your role is to focus on local-store marketing - just in a different way than you have before.

The majority of the North American population is using Facebook as their channel of choice, so why reinvent the wheel? You're probably thinking, "Really, Erica? That's all you've got for us?" And my answer is YES!

If you're just getting started or still getting your feet wet, stop and focus on where the customers are. You have to be present where your audience is, no matter what you think is best for your company. Consumers dictate the perception and they have opted for Facebook. Think about these facts:

  • The average social media user spends more than an hour a day on Facebook.
  • 50 percent of Americans now use Facebook, compared with 13 percent who use Twitter; and fewer than 1 percent use a location-based service like foursquare or Gowalla.
  • Here is a quick visual for Facebook versus Twitter as it applies to the scale of your audience:

Company

Facebook Fans

Twitter Followers

Applebee's

1,408,513

11,670

Starbucks

25,089,908

1,687,324

Taco Bell

7,500,484

140,319

The numbers speak for themselves. Your core most likely lies on Facebook, so focus your energy there. If you want to branch out or your agency is telling you to try a "Tweetup" or to host a "check in" scavenger hunt, be very cautious of these suggestions if you don't have a solid core audience around those channels. My professional advice is be great at one thing before you try to conquer many different styles of communication. Consider any online channel (other than your website) as a complement to your core focus.

The key to Facebook success is the quality of your conversations, not the content. Sure the content of your posts is important, but think of social media like dating, not marketing. If you're willing to ask questions, show interest in your customers, and communicate back with comments in a timely manner, you will be successful.

Facebook is meant to be about real-time engagement. The mindset is no different than when a customer is sitting in your business and posing a question to one of your employees. Do they ignore the customer's question? Of course not. So allow your customers to drive the majority of conversation on Facebook, while you are there to earn a second date with them. Those conversations turn into search engine optimization (SEO) juice.

A fact that amazes me is that, in 2011, Facebook topped Google for weekly search traffic in the U.S. This means that even the consumers who don't know you have a Facebook Page might find you based on your Facebook Page. Facebook content is searchable, and Facebook Pages function just like a website when you're not logged into Facebook.

If you were to choose another channel, the direction and efforts of your team should be dictated based on your goals and time allotment. Yes, Twitter serves a purpose, but it might not fit your goals. Unless you're trying to point people to other online resources, blog articles, or special offers, Twitter might not be the best spot for your business to participate in, but you can listen there for buzz about your brand. You also need the bandwidth to respond almost 24/7 and understand the conversational style. Twitter is very different than Facebook.

YouTube is another option. It can have an impact, but people share videos based on funny or relevant information. They don't tell their friends to "Like" a YouTube channel for the monthly TV commercial that is uploaded there. Don't waste your time watching your YouTube comments daily if you're rarely going to participate in that style of conversation.

A one-off social channel to consider is review sites such as Yelp, Citysearch and Urbanspoon. These are based on local-store marketing and you should watch over and potentially respond to customers when they comment about their experience. Keep in mind these don't have the viral impact a Facebook community supplies, but it still shows you're listening and attentive.

No matter which channel you decide to participate in, be ready to respond, not react. If you cannot actively participate in conversations in a timely manner, don't join. If you want to find success in social media, make sure you give your fans a reason to come back for a second date - and bring along their friends to see how caring you really are.

Erica McClenny is director of enterprise engagement at Expion, a social media management and application company that helps businesses connect with customers through social media. Her passion lies in educating executives about the functions and nuances of social media channels, while collaborating with marketing and IT departments to build successful strategies. Contact her at emcclenny@expion.com or learn more about Expion solutions at www.expion.com.

Published: September 21st, 2011

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