The last 5 to 10 years have been crazy, even chaotic for Internet partly due to the creation of Social Networks. During this time, we have been witness and taken an active role in the creation of sites and platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr and others. Some of these sites have been very successful; others had their prime time but today are just a shadow of what they used to be, like MySpace. Most of us 10 years ago didn’t have a clue of what was coming and how this would change our lives and the way we do business.
Facebook reports that they have over 750 million active users and that on any given day, 50% of those people connect to the site (Source: Facebook). This is certainly an amazing figure and shows why Social Networks are so important today. For the same reason is that each day we see more and more businesses and organizations go into Social Networks. Most organizations go into these networks because it’s a trend, they’re “free” and it’s an easy way to connect with clients. All these arguments are valid, but at the same time, with so many companies going into this arena the question becomes how can you succeed in social networks?
Some companies have been very successful in Social Networks almost by accident. For example, they created a funny video that became an instantaneous hit and it went viral. However this is an example of the exception, not the rule. Too many companies have presence in Social Networks that is not exceptional and they are just “one more”. In other words, there presence does not excel. They might have a good number of followers, but the truth is that they are not doing as well as they could do. To answer the previous question, this generally happens because companies don’t have a business strategy for their social network presence (and more broadly, their Internet presence).
If your company is the owner of one of the “Big Brands”, such as Coke, Disney or even Juan Valdez Coffee (sorry, as a Colombian once in a while I have to include this example) building presence in Social Networks is usually easier. This is true because these brands are on peoples’ top of mind and they have, from the physical world, a plethora of fans. However, most companies don’t have this big asset, so they have to work on strategies to be successful. I’m not saying that the Big Brand companies don’t need a strategy; all I’m saying is that their recognition makes their job easier.
So one of the aspects a company has to take into account is that they need a defined strategy for their Social Networking efforts. To start they must answer the 5 Ws and the H: Why, When, Where, Which, What and How. It’s also very important to understand how their presence, for instance in Facebook, is going to help the business objectives. Some business objectives could be to increase the number of customers, sales levels (directly or indirectly), customer satisfaction, complain levels and others. You have to define this clearly and these objectives have to be aligned with the organization’s business objectives and strategies.
The next step is defining how this presence is going to respond to this objective. Sometimes it’s very simple; other times it requires a great deal of creativity. If one of the objectives is to reduce customer complains, then open your Social Networks to receive complains. In fact, ask users to tell their experience, good or bad. Although opening for bad comments can be a Pandora’s Box, I’ve seen great results with companies that used to be cold and unresponsive. This type of strategy shows that companies are still made up of humans, making mistakes and showing humility. This is greatly appreciated in Social Networks.
There are too many strategies for Social Networks to include them on this article. You can research over the Internet and see some very successful strategies. The point is that you should never have a presence on any of these networks without a defined strategy. You will probably have to test several strategies to see what works and what doesn’t. You should also have in place metrics to see how successful the strategy has been.
If you’re still having doubts, I recommend you hire an expert on this area. I do this type of work, so if you want my advice, please feel free to contact me. Social Networking can bring positive aspects to your company; however a poorly executed strategy, or no strategy, can bring you many headaches.
Image taken from Flickr.com