Social media strategy is a lot like doing crossword puzzles for a living, and even the basics have elements of a puzzle because you have to know a lot about some things and something about everything. I have sat in on several strategy meetings for brands of all sizes and the biggest thing that I am noticing is that they are not prepared to have the meeting. Yes, brainstorming is important, cool ideas are great, and sure, you should invite the interns for their opinion on Facebook, but there are other components to a strategy meeting that can help to set you up for success. Here are a few basics to gather before you talk social media strategy:
- Your own industry. This is the easy part. Every time I meet with a client, they usually know all about their own industry—competitors, traffic, conversion rates, etc. You should have a basic knowledge of your website traffic over the last year and who is sending you traffic (found in Google Analytics). Pull out the top ten and have a brief description of their sites or the article that's sending traffic at the meeting. A good outside opinion on what your visitors are experiencing when they come to your site (what's confusing, is it inviting, are they getting enough information from your company). Ask someone who doesn't work with you to spend a few minutes looking at your site, Twitter, etc.
- Your competitors. You probably know who your top competitors in the area are and it’s important that you have a good look at their sites as well as their social channels (Twitter, Facebook, blog, mobile apps). You should also think big. Look at the brands at the very top of the country or the world and have a good list of notes on their sites as well. You might be surprised at what your development or web team can do to get some of those pieces on your site. Ex. if you are a local coffee shop, it definitely makes sense to look at Starbucks’ success—it’s great for getting your team excited and thinking big.
- A little bit about everything. This is somewhat harder because the direct tie to your own industry is not as obvious, and after working day in and day out in your own workplace, it might even feel surprising that there are industries outside your own. Yet your audience certainly is aware of other businesses and activities outside your industry. When developing online strategy, it’s important to know that the share-of-wallet brands are only a click away.This can actually be a fun part of the meeting because it’s also the time to talk about things you read about that were really cool. For example, how can we incorporate Groupon? Or, if you saw all the press about Quora lately, maybe you want to see if there’s some way to use that. Have everyone on the team come to the meeting with the coolest online item they've seen in your industry and in general. It doesn't have to be over the top, it can simply be, "Hey, I like the new video tab that so and so has on their Facebook page."
Next, before the meeting, write a list about your audience. What other sites might they be visiting and what are their Twitter feeds, blogs, and other communication like? Notice the comments on their sites, blogs, etc. Are they all complaining about one thing? Asking a certain question over and over? Write down things that pop out at you as either really neat or really an obstacle to having a good experience there.
Now, armed with all of this good stuff you’re ready to have a conversation about what you should be offering online. Aim to "keep up with the Jones" by having the basics that your industry has online, and then surpass them by taking a look at what the brands with millions of dollars are doing.
Have a great meeting!
Caitlin McCabe is the CEO and Founder of Real Bullets Branding, an agency that specializes in brand advocate strategy, where she works with brands, products and business groups across the country to help them build successful (and manageable) online marketing strategies. She is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.