4 Quick Tips to Get Your Social Media Team Started

Social media teams are becoming more common according to Exact Target’s State of Marketing 2014 Report.

Out of 2,500 marketers surveyed for their study,  57% of respondents said they have a dedicated team to strategize, execute and steward social media initiatives.

Most brands understand that having a dedicated team is key to social marketing success. It’s also clear from the report that “one-person social media teams” are the most common (probably due to small budgets or lack of buy-in from upper management).

Of course, having a social media team of more than one person would be great. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the budget to make it happen. There are always things you can do to create social media success. However, you also have to adjust your expectations to match the level of investment in your budget and team. Whether your team is comprised of one person or more, here are 4 quick tips to get them started:

#1. Begin with a strategy

Know what you want to accomplish from social media and choose your social networks wisely. Hint: You don’t have to have a presence on ALL social networks just because that’s what everyone is doing. However you do have to be where your customers and your target audience are.

#2. Create a workflow process

Schedule some time each day for routine social media activities (e.g., listening and monitoring, posting updates, networking and so on). The more you repeat these tasks, the better you’ll get at them.

#3. Develop quality content

You’ll need to create original content on a regular basis (e.g., blog posts, images, videos, graphics, etc.). Even with a small budget, you can get other people to create high-quality content for you by using a service like Fiverr. You can also get free images from Flickr, Photopin, or Wikimedia Commons.

#4. Get the word out

Let your co-workers and customers know that you have a Facebook page or a Twitter profile. Encourage them to engage with the company on these channels.

It’s also a good idea to join an online community where you can tactfully get the word out to others (without spamming them). The more value you add to their conversations, the more receptive they will be to discovering and engaging with your online brand.

What did I miss? What other tips can you share with social media teams that are just starting out?

Blogging is Top Focus for Marketers Research Shows

Do you ever wonder what tactics, tools and strategies other social media marketers are using?

Regardless of how long you’ve been involved in social media, chances are you have some questions that you’d like answered.

Questions such as, “What are the best social management tools?” or “What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media?”

These and many more questions were answered in the 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, which surveyed over 3000 marketers with the goal of understandinghow they use social media to grow and promote their businesses.

Here are some interesting findings from the survey:

#1: Marketers Want Most to Learn About Blogging

When asked what social media platform they wanted most to master, 62% of marketers said blogging, putting it in first place slightly ahead of Google+. This answer is consistent with other studies, which show that the appetite for blogging education is growing.

An important trend to consider is that 28% of marketers now have mobile-optimized blogs. This is highly significant when you consider that the number of smartphone subscribers in the world has broken the 1 billion mark.

Key Consideration:

The power of blogging to reach huge audiences and prospective customerscannot be underestimated. If you want your voice to be heard on the social web, you need to have a blog.

If you’ve just started blogging for business, focus on consistently giving your audience helpful advice that solves their problems. If you’re not 100% sure what kind of content to offer, survey your customers and ask them to tell you. Asking your customers not only gives you valuable insights about what they find useful, but can help to promote your blog as well.

Here are more tips about blogging for business.

#2: Blogging Highly Valued by the Pros

Most marketers (49%) selected Facebook as the single most important social platform for their business, followed by LinkedIn (16%), blogging (14%) and then Twitter (12%). But for the Pros (marketers with three or more years of social media experience), blogging jumped to second place!

Similarly, a recent Technorati report on Digital Influence also indicated that 86% of influential marketers blog consistently, and a majority of them do not produce much content outside of their blogs.

Key Consideration:

Consumers are looking for “trusted digital friends” to give them advice on what to buy and where to go. Experienced marketers know that offering valuable advice on their blogs generates trust and influences consumers’ buying decisions. If youproduce compelling articles and useful advice on your blog, you’ll become a trusted source of information, and people will start to spend more time there, eventually becoming your customers.

#3: Podcasting Finally Growing Up

Marketers were asked to indicate how they plan to change their social media use in the near future. While only 5% are currently using podcasting, a significant 24% plan on getting involved this year. That’s a nearly five-fold increase!

The report shares three reasons why interest in podcasting is growing: Apple’s introduction of a dedicated podcasting mobile app, smartphone subscriptions topping the 1 billion mark, and major car manufacturers such as BMW and Ford starting to integrate podcasting technology into new cars.

Key Consideration:

Marketing expert Seth Godin says it’s not a good idea to try to sell anything to a stranger. It’s true. But when the right people connect with your voice through podcasting, they gradually become engaged and start to pay attention.

Pat Flynn often says that other than meeting face-to-face, podcasting is probably the best way to interact with your prospects. So if you’ve been thinking about breaking into podcasting, here are the technicalities of setting up, as well as some tips forbuilding a successful podcast with a loyal audience.

#4: Only 1 in 4 Marketers Able to Measure Social Media ROI

When asked to rate their agreement with the following statement, “I am able to measure the return on investment for my social media activities,” only 26% of marketers agreed! What’s interesting about this survey is that social media is clearly a core strategy for businesses, yet measuring it remains a mystery.

Key Consideration:

Research shows that for many businesses, measuring social media ROI is still too basic—focusing on likes, followers and mentions.

During Social Media Marketing World 2013, Nicole Kelly, author of How to Measure Social Media, said business executives and funders of social media campaigns are looking for real business metrics such as sales, revenue and costs. The challenge for marketers is to learn to speak their language by showing how social media fits into the sales funnel and how it impacts the bottom line. Here’s a great piece from Nicole that explains how to measure social media.

#5: Two-Thirds of Marketers Uncertain About Facebook Marketing Effectiveness

Perhaps the most surprising finding in this study was that most marketers don’t really believe in Facebook! Sure they use it, but they don’t really think it is effective. Only 37% agreed with the statement “My Facebook marketing is effective.” Specifically, 44% of B2C marketers agreed with this statement, while only 29% of B2B marketers concurred.

Key Consideration:

Make no mistake, Facebook IS an effective marketing platform and there are numerous case studies to prove this. It’s possible that some marketers who participated in this survey hadn’t actually tracked their Facebook marketing campaigns and were uncertain about their own efforts.

However, research also indicates that Facebook seems to work better for B2C than B2B. If you have a B2B brand, don’t be discouraged. Here’s some advice from Marketo, a B2B company that has been very successful on Facebook.

Other Significant Findings

Tactics and engagement are top challenges for marketers

When asked what top social media challenges they are facing today, marketers said that tactics and engagement strategies were at the top of the list. No matter what kind of company you have or what products you sell, you can improve engagement with your audience on any platform including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Here are some great tips to improve engagement.

Increased exposure and traffic top benefits of social media marketing

A significant majority (89%) of marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses, while 75% said that increased website traffic was the second major benefit. Social media is essentially a word-of-mouth tool. It’s where friends discover and share interesting ideas, including the ones on your site! Here are some tips to drive traffic to your site using social media.

More time spent on social media equals greater benefits

If you’ve ever wondered whether more time invested in social media produces better results, the answer is “yes.” According to the survey, with as little as six hours per week, 92% of marketers indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses. More than half of marketers who spent 11 hours or more per week saw improved sales. Do you think you could put a little more time into social media marketing every week?

Fascinating differences between B2B and B2C

As expected, Facebook dominated among B2C brands, though it was interesting to see LinkedIn and Facebook tie for first place among B2B brands. Only 5% of B2C marketers said LinkedIn played an important role for them. Twitter and blogging are also valuable platforms for B2B marketers. Another surprise was that B2B marketers showed zero interest in Pinterest.

Your Turn

What do you think? How does your own experience compare to these findings? Please share your comments in the box below.

3 Steps to a Social Media Content Strategy for Healthcare

Does your healthcare organization (HCO) have a social media content strategy?

Are you wondering what that involves?

I find that there is often a disconnect between social media execution and content strategy in healthcare marketing. In other words healthcare marketers understand the value of social media but they don’t always relate it to content marketing.

Social media is only a vehicle for delivering compelling stories (content) across the social web. Your audience then shares and discusses what is relevant and interesting to them.

It’s not just about having a Facebook page or Twitter profile. It’s about using those platforms to attract and persuade patients and consumers who can then make decisions that are profitable for your business.

Here’s how to develop a social media content strategy for your HCO:

#1. Content and consumers

The first step is to evaluate your content from a patient or consumer’s perspective. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want my HCO to be known for? E.g. Chiropratic services
  • What are my patients’ challenges or needs? E.g. Back-pain or back injuries
  • What kind of content format do they typically consume? E.g. blog articles and podcasts
  • How can I create interesting content that will attract them to my website? E.g. Start a blog and a weekly podcast that provides answers and solutions for back injuries; publish twice a week; and share on social media platforms where my target audience hangs out.
  • How will I know that my plan is working? By evaluating or measuring how many new patients I have gained since launching my content strategy

#2.  Patient needs and online behavior

The next step is to understand consumer online behavior and particularly what kind of experiences potential patients are looking for:

  • They hang out on different social media platforms i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Googlecommunities, Pinterest etc.
  • They consume and share content that is interesting to them e.g. content about lifestyle, healthcare, work etc.
  • They evaluate brands based on content i.e. As Clayton Christensen author of ‘It’s the Purpose Brand, Stupid’ once said, “People buy products to accomplish something”. A brand’s content needs to explain what that ‘something’ is e.g. comfort, security, self-esteem, self-confidence (remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)
  • Consumers and patients are connected on social media (where they discuss brands such as yours). Hence they are able to influence one another’s perceptions and buying decisions.

#3. The conversation opportunity

Healthcare organizations that understand consumer social media behavior are able to communicate successfully on social media platforms and thus shape consumer perception of their brands. Here’s how a conversation opportunity might present itself:

  • Research where patients are hanging out online (e.g. Google+ healthcare hangouts or Twitter communities based on conversation hashtags) and join those communities.
  • Establish a listening campaign to figure out who’s doing the talking (influencers) and what’s being said.
  • Consider how you will connect with those influencers. Will you share your own original content with them, retweet their articles, or simply reach out and say hi or ask them questions. Maybe all the above?
  • Remember to share whatever is going on in your offline world with your online community (post pictures and videos).
  • Reach out to other bloggers (guest blogging).
  • Respond quickly to feedback and comments on your blog.

 Quick wrap up

Social media is about giving consumers something interesting to talk about, not just for the sake of conversation but for the sake of growing your business. As a healthcare marketer you have to ask yourself, “What makes my brand so interesting that people will want to talk about it?” Having a content strategy means preparing a compelling message which you can then distribute through various social media channels.

Your turn: Do you have a social media content strategy for your HCO? Which of these tips do you find most or least insightful?

An Inside Look at Cigna’s Social Media

Cigna, one of the largest healthcare services companies in the nation, was one of the first companies to implement an integrated social media strategy.

By consistently making innovations to their own social media product Cigna has become a leader in healthcare social media standards.

Cigna Facebook page

Cigna uses social media to listen and respond to customers and other stakeholders

Social Media Landing Page

Cigna has several pages for their different divisions that service customers and other stakeholder interests. Cigna has developed a central page as a “landing page” for all of these different sites and pages.  According to Sarah Lindsay with Cigna,

“Cigna wants to be where our customers are. As part of our coordinated social media strategy, we recognized a communications need from our customers, media, and employees for a centralized place to find everything. The social media landing page, launched in January 2011, essentially created a directory of our social media channels to help people quickly locate, track, and engage in our latest announcements, campaigns, and events. In creating a “living” page, we also had the capability to provide a snapshot of what’s happening in that moment in Cigna’s social media community.”

By utilizing the landing page or online newsroom format, Cigna is able to maintain a centralized communication center for their customers. Read the full article at Socialmediatoday.com.

Key Takeaway

Cigna has been able to remain efficient in strategy and cost, proactive and responsive to customer wants and needs, and continues to be one of the front runners in the social media evolution. Theirs is a great example of how a healthcare company can use social media to enhance relationships. By listening to what their stakeholders are saying, Cigna has been able to raise the bar in customer communication strategy.

Over to you: What do you think of Cigna’s landing page strategy? Have you implemented this or similar social media strategy at your organization?

Smashing Social Media Strategy at UAB Medicine

From what I’ve seen in the past, medical facilities aren’t known for their social media prowess. In fact healthcare organizations are lagging behind when it comes to adaptation of social media content.

So when you come across a facility such as UAB Medicine (Birmingham, Alabama) that has not only fully embraced social media, but is actually a stellar example of social media done right, it’s time to take a closer look and investigate how they have become so successful!

The fact that they also have a social media commenting policy (below the fold) in which the rules of engagement are clearly stated is awesome because it supports, protects and enhances high-quality engagement.

UAB Website

Generally speaking, website content should do two things – engage visitors and/or convert them into customers! I love that the question, ‘What would you like to do today?’ is the first thing you see above the fold on their home page.

This does a couple of things: It pulls the visitor into the website encouraging them to answer the question (and thereby digging deeper into the website), and it keeps things relevant because a visitor will proceed to the exact page that he or she is searching for and that means little chance of bouncing around from page to page.

[Caution: UAB should be careful to ensure that there are no broken links on their site as this could easily undermine their credibility with Internet savvy patients].

UAB Blog

UAB Medicine has a blog called ‘Your Fight Cancer Blog‘ which resides in a different domain from the main site. We’ve seen that having a blog residing within the organization’s website is good for SEO since search engines tend to favor web pages that are frequently updated.

However UAB has a very dynamic blog that contains interesting articles, videos, recipes for cancer patients and other compelling content. The blog is updated about twice a week, receives occassional comments, and  is integrated to their social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). The articles on the blog are extremely valuable and usually end with a strong call to action that should steer readers back to the original website.

UAB Facebook

UAB has an engaged community of over 5,500 Facebook fans. A quick look at their Wall shows that they post mostly educational content, some pictures, and stories about how they’ve been able to help patients at their hospital.

Most of their content is ‘Liked’ but lively discussions happen when they post something about the UAB Women and Infants Services. It’s not a surprise that this topic generates more engagement since Facebook is known to be a mostly female environment.

UAB Twitter

On Twitter where they have over 2,200 followers UAB is focused on educational content, webinars and video. Their Twitter page doesn’t show a lot of engagement with followers but it does indicate that they update their page often with useful information that is being re-tweeted by their followers.

UAB YouTube

UAB’s YouTube channel is perhaps their most impressive social network as far as engagement and appeal. They have 248 subscribers and some of their videos have been viewed thousands of times! The video quality is stunning, the stories are compelling and subscribers are responding with positive comments and discussions.

Well done UAB!

UAB’s social media content is really a breath of fresh air. They appear to have a solid social media content strategy that demonstrates thought leadership, relevance, clarity, and engagement particularly in their YouTube and Blog channels. Their Twitter and Facebook networks could benefit from more conversational discussions and there shouldn’t be broken links on their website at any time. It might be helpful if UAB performed a content analysis of their site from time to time especially since they update their content regularly.

Over to you: What do you think of UAB’s social media strategy based on this brief evaluation? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Social Strategy Goals: What Do You Want To Happen?

“A strategy is all about designing an operation that will consistently deliver the superior client benefits you claim to provide.” David Maister, author of “Strategy and the Fat Smoker”.

I think one of the areas that businesses miscalculate in social media is not knowing what they want to happen in the first place.

“Every one else is starting a blog, so why not?” – sound familiar?

The problem with that approach is that there is no plan and as they say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Any business strategy must establish a tangible or measurable outcome before the heavy lifting begins.

So first things first:

Figure Out Your Objective

The most effective strategy is the one that starts with understanding what you want to accomplish.

Is the purpose of your social strategy to attract new clients or to retain old ones? If your goal is to attract new clients then you will want to promote yourself by:

  • creating blog content that is compelling, valuable, relevant and consistent;
  • sending promotional tweets about your blog, product, or service;
  • creating a Facebook page to introduce yourself to your target audience;
  • commenting on other people’s blogs.

If your goal is to retain existing customers, then you will want to be a resource to help them solve their problems. You will do this by:

  • Creating a ‘listening’ platform – create Google alerts for key words that signify pain points that your brand is able to solve; follow your customers on Twitter and use Hootsuite to listen to what they’re saying.
  • Send non-promotional tweets with links to resources that can help to solve your customers’ problems.
  • Use your Facebook page to answer questions, run contests, and provide useful information.

The idea is to invest in a strategy that is compatible with your objectives.

What Do Your Customers Want

Ideally you want what your customers want.

Keep in mind that the purpose of any business strategy is to deliver a benefit to your customers. Therefore it’s important to figure out exactly who your target customers are, to understand what their needs are and to establish what kind of social networks they currently use.

Developing a strategy doesn’t have to be complicated.

It’s simply understanding what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what outcome you want to achieve.

Social media becomes complicated when marketers abandon simple initial steps in favor of the ‘Just Do It’ approach. Thinking through your ultimate objectives may appear simplistic, but it works.

Why Content Strategy Must Precede Social Media Strategy

Imagine that you have an opportunity to pitch your business to a group of influential decision-makers in your community.

How much preparation would you need to ensure the perfect presentation? My guess is that you’d be up every night of the week (for a month) planning your message. You might even enlist the help of a speech-writer. It would never occur to you to just show up, grab the mic and say whatever comes to mind.

And yet most businesses do exactly that with social media. Given the opportunity to present their business online, they simply jump right in without having prepared an interesting message.

Social media is a space where you consistently share something valuable, compelling and relevant. The assumption of course, is that you have something valuable, compelling and relevant to say in the first place. If not you must go back to the drawing board and figure out what it is you want to say – that in a nut-shell is your content strategy.

As you think about your own content strategy, ask yourself these questions:

  • what are my customer’s challenges?
  • what are their informational (content) needs?
  • what is that niche that I want to be known for?
  • how can I create valuable, consistent, compelling and relevant content that will attract new customers and retain old ones?

The next thing you want to consider is what kind of social media platform you will use to share your content. Think about where your customers are ‘hanging out’ online. Are they part of a Lindedin group, an industry forum, Twitter, or Facebook?

In order to be relevant, you must be absolutely clear about the online space that your customers (or potential customers) currently occupy. Otherwise your message will be lost on the wrong audience. It’s like Joe Pulizzi says – you can’t market a Youtube video to a blind person.

Once you establish the correct social media platform – take it slow. Go in there and introduce yourself. Then get to know the people in that community and build some relationships – ask questions, participate and contribute to the conversation. Share your expertise when it is called for.

As you gradually integrate into that community other members will be more responsive to your content when you’re finally ready to share it. In other words, your white paper, e-book or article will be more relevant to an audience with which you’re already engaged. Remember that people prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust.

Quick recap: Social media is the space where you present and share your content. Your content constitutes consistent, valuable, compelling and relevant messages. Therefore, before you enter the social media space, make sure that you have a well-planned content strategy in order to attract and retain the audience that you want.

Over to you – What came first in your case – content or social media?

6 Principles for Planning Your Social Media Strategy

Many organizations enter the social media space without laying the proper foundation for a successful campaign.

Without proper planning, social media can be a frustrating and time-wasting experience that leaves everyone confused about the purpose and direction of their efforts.

The purpose of a social media strategy is to identify how  social media will contribute to the organization’s overall goals.

When brainstorming your social media strategy consider these 6 foundational principles:

  • Brand Outposts: Create relevant social media profiles depending on where your customers are likely to ‘hang out’ on the web e.g. Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube etc.
  • Influencers: Identify key influencers in your industry and establish relationships with them that will be mutually beneficial in the long run.
  • Conversation: Use your social media profiles to start conversations and to share interesting content and that will engage customers.
  • Social Media Community: The right kind of content (i.e. not self-promotional but that which helps to improve the lives of your audience) will attract readers and build a strong community that resonates with your ideas.
  • Reputation Management: Put the right procedures in place to listen and respond to feedback as well as policies to manage crisis situations.
  • Editorial Calendar: An editorial calendar will help to bring clarity and purpose to your content on a committed schedule.

Planning is an important part of any business initiative.  Social media marketing is no different. In order to realize its effectiveness as a strategy for brand promotion, it is important to give it serious consideration and to prepare adequately for its implementation.

If you enjoyed this article, please share, retweet or leave a comment below.