In my column last month (Social media strategy increases odds for success, April 1, 2013), I wrote about how imperative it is to have a plan for your social endeavors. Many business owners and marketers approach me to ask, “Should I be on Facebook? Should I be using LinkedIn?” It’s never a simple answer because there are many factors that go into the decision to use a particular social tool. Choosing to use a platform for the wrong reasons can doom your plan so I’d like to expand on how one makes that decision.
First, I ask if they have their goals established and then I inquire about their audience. In order to know which tools are appropriate for your objectives, you must know whom you are trying to reach with your marketing message. An accounting company that serves the wine industry will need to take a different communication approach than one that works exclusively with retail.
Each organization I’ve worked with has approximately three targets or types people they are trying to reach. It’s important for you to not only identify those targets, but to create a mockup of who they are and their needs so that you can speak directly to them. Here are some questions to ask to help you get to know your potential and current customers better.
WHO is your audience?
Consider their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education level, career path, family status, language, religious observance, stage in life, as well as generational placement. Remember, your audience is multi-layered incorporating several factors at once.
WHAT do they want to hear from you?
We tend to write what we personally want to hear. Step outside of yourself and think about what’s important to them, what information they will find valuable. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients and customers what they want from you. They will be pleased that you care and you will gain necessary insight.
WHEN do they want to hear your message?
Time is a big concept. Think about time of day as well as month, your business seasons, and placement on the yearly calendar. As an example, wedding industry vendors will need to start communicating with their bridal clients 9-15 months before their weddings, which tend to be in the summer. Those that target young families will want to recognize that 4-8pm is a very quiet time on social networks due to the end of the work day, picking up children, dinner, and bedtime. Investigate time in all aspects.
WHERE are they?
This question isn’t so much about physical location, though this is something you must consider, it’s about where they “live” on the Internet. By now you’ll recognize one of my favorite resources of statistical data is Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project (www.pewinternet.org). Once you’ve answered the Who question, you’ll be able to navigate to Pew and learn more about where your audience likes to spend their time in social spaces. With easy to understand data and clear graphs, you’ll quickly learn where on the web you and your brand should be spending your time.
WHY are you there again?
After you have gone through the exercise of answering each of these important questions, you will be best served by reiterating your overall goals. Your goals for social media use should be in line with your organization’s mission and now you have plenty of information with which to clarify your direction.
A few things to consider – increased sales or donations are a metric of performance, not a true goal. Your organization’s mission may be stated as such, “…to provide great products/services/experiences.” Your social media plan should reflect that position. Social media is about people, communication, and relationships. When approached from this mindset, rather than one of pure finance, is when it works best. Monetary gain is a side benefit of having open communication with your audience.
In my article about strategy, I mentioned the need to make adjustments. Even with statistical data from Pew Internet, www.alexa.com, or www.comscore.com, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be changes with your audience preference. Historically, they may have preferred Twitter but today they may move on to something else. Recognize that even if all signs point to using a particular tool, you will have to measure and observe your performance and the engagement of your audience to determine if, in fact, you have chosen the right tool.
You and I both know that if you don’t respect and understand your audience, they will find someone that will.
Kerry Rego 707-520-4572, firstname.lastname@example.org, kerryregoconsulting.com) is a social media trainer, technology consultant and keynote speaker in Santa Rosa. She is the author of What You Don’t Know About Social Media Can Hurt You: Take Control of Your Online Reputation.