Social media presents a tremendous challenge as well as a major opportunity for small and medium size businesses, as well as a particular challenge for a franchise business.
The local franchisee must find a way to both integrate with the franchisor’s brand message while establishing its own unique and locally relevant presence.
There is often a skewed understanding of exactly what social media is and exactly how it can or should be used. In order to properly evaluate the opportunities that social media presents, it is important to break it into two distinct segments. At Aviatech, we refer to these segments as “organic” and “paid” social media, and each segment requires its own strategy and execution plans while being made to work together. By breaking the overall social strategies into these two distinct segments, it allows them to be given the unique individual attention that each requires.
Organic Media: Finding Your Voice
When tackling the challenge of organic media the first question to be asked is “what value can I offer on social media?” This runs counterintuitive to the natural instincts of marketers who always want to ask what can the medium do for me and what is the ROI I can expect. However it is critical to make this shift in thinking in order to effectively develop a social strategy that can deliver in line with the core value of social media, which is the ability to establish a two way relationship and a communication channel with your customers. These relationships are where the ROI of social media will truly be derived, as the closer you get to your customer base the more valuable those customers will become. Once this shift in mentality is made it becomes possible to move beyond the quagmire that is promotional, self-serving content and shift into offering compelling content that your audience will appreciate. Now this is an interesting idea in and of itself, considering what your audience will “appreciate”; however it is an important thought since you are asking your audience to stop interacting with their true social connections — their friends and their family — and to instead spend time with your brand.
How do you effectively make this request? By offering something that they will appreciate and find valuable, and in exchange they will associate this experience with you and your brand, therefore positively impacting their opinion of you and their natural recall of your brand. An organic content strategy should always strive to follow the traditional 80/20 rule, where only 20 per cent of all content is promotional and sales related. Any more than this and you run the risk of alienating your audience and diluting your social value. If you manage to effectively follow this guideline you will see the times that you do push a promotional message actually delivers an effective impact as you will have an engaged and tuned in audience. One of the best questions to ask when posting content you believe falls within the 80 per cent is; “is this interesting, would I want to read this or would I appreciate seeing this on another brand’s profile?” If you cannot find the objective value in your own content then it may be worth reconsidering its value to your audience.
One philosophy that we push heavily at Aviatech when formulating a content strategy is organization, consistency and expectation setting. By emphasizing these we are focusing on developing a program where the potential user can quickly and easily see the value and set their expectation of what value they can receive by connecting with a given social profile. The reason this is important is the social landscape suffers from a problem of overcrowding from endless business profiles to choose from and sift through, so finding a way to demonstrate a true value becomes a major challenge. One of the ways Aviatech addresses this challenge is by making the decision to connect as easy as possible for our target audience. By organizing a content strategy in such a way that it can be quickly digested upon the initial visit increases the likelihood of a customer wanting to connect. People like to know what they are getting, and they appreciate not having to work for that knowledge. Many social content executions can be very robust and follow best practice guidelines well, however if they are disorganized and fragmented they are working against themselves. This organization concept is not one that is widespread, as it is a problem that even the largest brands often suffer from, however if it is successfully addressed it can have a tremendously positive impact. By organizing all content to develop a “voice” and to maintain a consistent schedule such as a “Photo Fridays” or “Trivia Mondays” you can establish a consistent relationship with your audience and they will have a reason and understanding of when they should return to your profile and what they can expect when they do return to it.
Franchisees have a particular advantage when implementing these strategies, as they have the benefit of being able to leverage large brand recognition while still tapping into locally relevant information and building their content strategies around their communities. This not only offers valuable content, establishes a “voice” and purpose to the profile, but also delivers relevance to your target audience as it reaches the people most likely to patronize your business. Post photos of the community, call out major events such as fairs and parades, congratulate local school achievements, tap into the community and make your business a part of it. Implementing more dynamic content that will not only draw your audience in more but also connect you with the community you serve and lead to greater recall and loyalty amongst the customer base. People like to support businesses they trust and feel a connection to.
Paid Media: Building Your Mountain Top
Now that you have prepared to place your brand within the social landscape and figured out the value you are able to offer your audience, it comes time to build the platform to deliver your message. The first and most important thing to understand when formulating a social media strategy is that no effectively executed plan operates under a “if you build it they will come” mentality. If you are truly going to extract the maximum benefits from your social efforts, it is critical to support those efforts with a paid strategy. Your social activity is only as valuable as the people who are exposed to it, and with the vast landscape of social profiles out there, breaking through the clutter can be nearly impossible and doing so within your target audience only increases the difficulty. This is where targeted and highly strategized paid platforms can help deliver the mountain top to shout your message from.
There are many cost related mediums that can help build your audience and it is important to make sure any of the methods you choose to employ are utilized strategically. Each of the major platforms typically have their own built-in ad platforms, with the most prominent being Facebook Ads, Twitter Promoted Tweets & Accounts, and LinkedIn Ads. Each can be effective at exposing you to your audience, but each must be employed with a clear strategy in the same way your profiles and content are. It is easy to try to self-navigate the interfaces of these platforms as they are designed to be self-serve; however they are not designed to expose the many intricacies that go into making them work at their most efficient. This knowledge is derived from a lot of trial and error and industry experience. Some primary tips that will assist in the beginning is to not look at these ad platforms the same way you would say, Google AdWords; you are not trying to find what people are looking for at that moment, you are trying to identify the people who would have the most interest in your message and grab their attention at a time when they are not likely thinking about anything related to you.
With this is mind, you must consider the philosophy behind why your consumers would find value in your message and cater to that. Try to develop a good model of your target consumer and establish your ad targeting around that model. Try to frame your message in a way that fits the platform you are promoting on. If it is Facebook make it social in nature and use imagery that includes people; if it is Twitter make it a message that is easily sharable and include a hashtag for tracking. The more thought and consideration you put into your paid promotions, the more valuable your social media presence will become. Consider your social media identity as a long term investment. The audience might not be ready to buy right now, but when they are, they will be more likely to remember the brands they have spent time engaging with online and have associated with an experience they appreciate.
Paid strategies can also be used as a way to offer value in your social media presence through things like sweepstakes, contests, giveaways, special deals and more. Everybody likes to win and get things for free, and that carries over perfectly within social media. Few tactics can prove as effective as this when done right. It is important to note that many of the major platforms have strict rules in place with what they allow for running these types of programs on their platform, the most prominent of these being Facebook, which strictly prohibits contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways directly on profiles. This is a rule that is often broken by many brands but should not be ignored. There are cost effective ways to offer these while still following the platform guidelines, and doing things the right way will always yield greater benefit.
Conclusion: Social Media is an Investment in Your Business
In closing, social media requires time, focus, resources, and most of all a clear strategy to deliver its true value. It is not easy and it is not free; these are misconceptions. You must make a commitment and you must be involved to truly derive benefits from this medium. However when utilized properly, it can be the most effective tool available to build better, stronger, and more valuable relationships with your customers and there may be no better way to make your company a better company; When that happens, ROI follows.
Kelly Maguire, Senior Director of Media Kelly Maguire brings strategic insights and leading edge thinking to maximize impact of all the agency’s social media campaigns, increasing their clients’ visibility and engagement. His deep understanding and passion for social media and web 2.0 provides a unique and valuable tool in producing winning plans and developing cutting edge digital strategies.
Since joining Aviatech in 2010, Kelly has played a leading role in adding new services to the agency’s core capabilities, including the development of awardwinning advergames and sweepstakes initiatives, digital PR, and paid social advertising. He has overseen the implementation of new technologies to help streamline departmental operations, and supervised a departmental expansion as it grew by more than 50 per cent. Kelly has also contributed to the agency’s thought leadership with published articles and appearances at seminars and client conferences.
Kelly’s former positions include Strategist at Omnicom network OMD, the world’s top global media brand, where he was involved in developing the emerging media department; and Senior Program Manager at Performics while owned by Google, where he interfaced directly with all major social networking sites. His work with Facebook directly impacted the introduction of cutting edge applications to their ad platform. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from DePaul University of Chicago.