Developing Social Strategies For Clients: Thinking Beyond Facebook

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Developing a solid social media strategy for a client of your firm isn’t easy. Unfortunately, when the term “social media” comes up in a meeting with a prospect, the reaction is all too often “yes – we tried Facebook, spent a lot of money, built a pretty page, got 1,000 likes, and now we’re done.”

I’ve found that it’s valuable to think about social media in a more holistic, integrated way. Yes, FB is important but thinking in this way is more about looking at the big picture, which includes a firm’s entire portfolio of online presences, including existing promotional web properties, outbound marketing efforts (both paid and unpaid), and trying to fit the pieces together. “Social Media” in this context doesn’t signify a single activity on a single platform, but a business mindset that seeks to make a company “social” using whatever mechanisms make the most sense.

Many business successes have resulted from this kind of social-mindedness. Years ago, before the Web, Apple distinguished its products by providing the best technical documentation. In the 1990s Dell crawled out of the mail-order PC gutter by being the first to offer a 24/7 tech support line backed up by a guarantee of free onsite tech support, and became a global PC powerhouse. Providing this kind of service-based outreach was expensive for each company, providing no short term ROI, but was an essential step required to become a favored brand.

A service-based social media strategy is based on the simple idea that your users, customers, and prospects have moment to moment informational needs that will, in most cases, only be frustrated, not satisfied, by being served sales collateral. These people need help – not a pitch.

There’s nothing wrong with using your social media properties to serve up games, contests, coupons, and other fun, but the core of your effort should be based on the value of serious, unglamorous service.

The components of such an effort are:

1. An online document repository containing online tutorials, help files, and a Wiki. Such a repository may contain other long-form content such as whitepapers, technical specification sheets, and monographs. This body of long-form content is what you will be referencing from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, et al.

2. A forum area in which users may converse with your representatives publicly. Many businesses choose to do this on Facebook but there is nothing that Facebook does in terms of conversational management that cannot be replicated on one’s own site.

3. A publishing and monitoring mechanism to post updates to all relevant social media platforms and monitor conversational streams in which ones products, services, or brand are mentioned. Hootsuite is a popular tool for doing this.

In my experience, the battle to convince firms to become more “social” is often easily won. Every business wants to be more “social.” But the far tougher fight is to convince these people that it will be worth their while to build out their libraries of user-centric data. Doing so isn’t cheap because good writers aren’t cheap, and it’s sometimes cheaper for an agency to step in to handle the document production chores and/or social media management. Nor are all the benefits of being “more social” immediately realizable.

But they’re certainly real. Just ask Apple and Dell.

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