Consulting room: Look before you leap

Applying sound strategy to social media

Bang Australia's Simon Steele

Bang Australia's Simon Steele

It probably won’t surprise you to know that companies in Australia are using social media as a core part of their business strategy in greater numbers every day. This includes Dell, Coca-Cola, V Australia and Toyota to name a just a few high profile organisations.

Aside from the opportunities to enhance customer relationships and corporate reputation, businesses are keen to monitor sentiment about themselves in real time. But perhaps most importantly of all, companies must become comfortable with social media because that is where the audience, and business opportunity, now resides. According to comScore, three out of four Australians visited a social networking site in November 2009, while Australia has the second highest social media penetration in the Asia-Pacific region at 89.6 per cent.

But there is almost as much confusion in the IT channel about how to use social media as there is enthusiasm for embracing it. Creating compelling online content does not come naturally to every business, which only furthers the case for some careful strategic planning before you embark on your social media activities. Content, as always, is king. Do customers really want to read random tweets or blog entries from their trusted IT partner about creating a perfect BBQ marinade – or are they looking for meaningful, valuable exchanges that help them operate their businesses? You’d think that would be a foregone conclusion right?

Let’s start with some strategic essentials. The first key question is what avenue should you go down? You may decide to choose one or even several tools available including a Twitter or Facebook presence, perhaps creating a corporate blog, or a YouTube video channel, or even setting up (or joining and engaging with) a networking group on a platform like LinkedIn.

Whichever approach suits, two considerations are essential: first your social media strategy should be central, not peripheral, to your overall business and communications plans. It’s not an add on, it’s the nucleus and as such deserves appropriate resources and energy. Secondly, you really want to consider a simple audit on who is doing what in your space, making sure that whatever you decide on is somehow different and / or complimentary – and therefore more relevant and interesting.

You’ll want to develop a brand foundation for your business which involves: analysing your target audience and their needs and wants. This process should also establish the style and tone of your online activities so your presence is pitch perfect.

The next step is content, and it’s a big one. What are you going to say? Are you going to focus on product, technical or services/consultative information? Who is going to say it? Do you have a social media guru in house with expertise and communications flair, or are you going to hire someone or work with an agency? As we touched on earlier, unless you have dedicated resources (read a person or a team) to create quality content, you should not embark on social media activities because your online presence must be regularly monitored and updated without fail. You’ll also need a communications plan. Nothing exhaustive, just a simple schedule of content delivery that identifies the topics you want to get involved in. Make sure your social media activities tie in to your upcoming vendor marketing campaigns that, as well as buying directions, also include clear options for your target audience to join your blog or follow your twitter account. Decide how often you’ll add information or articles to your online presence (e.g. weekly, fortnightly) and stick to it. The last point for now is ensuring you put a contact management strategy in place before you start. This is simply making sure that when customers or prospects get in touch – you follow up, you track the contact and you add details about that interaction into your data base. In other words, it’s about effectively managing your leads as they progress through the customer buying journey.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone. But getting your social media strategy right will definitely reap rewards, so think long and hard about the strategy component first, then look at your in-house resources and talk to a professional services agency about what exactly they can bring to the table.

Bang Australia is one of the country’s leading IT business to business communications specialists. You can contact Simon Steele, Bang’s Strategic Director on (02) 9512 0112.

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