Many organisations believe that ‘doing’ social media simply involves setting up a Twitter feed, Facebook Page or Instagram page and posting the odd piece of content. Such a strategy is not likely to bring any degree of success. Here are 25 success factors for implementing a successful organisational social media strategy – how does your organisation stack up?
Social Media Success Factors
Factor 1: Support from above
There is a mandate from highest level of the organisation. An organisation should not proceed with a social media strategy until the top levels of management in the organisation (CEO, MD) have ‘bought in’. The best social media strategies have top-down support and the CEO/MD plays an important transformational leadership role in creating an ‘open’ culture that lends itself to social media success. Success starts and ends with leadership.
Factor 2: Organisational culture
There is an appropriate organisational culture and commitment to social media. In addition to the CEO/MD’s mandate, it is necessary for all levels of the organisation to embrace the broad principles of social media – sharing, openness, engagement, participation, authenticity. The best social media strategies are executed in organisations where the culture aligns with these principles and where there is a high degree of staff empowerment and trust.
Factor 3: Social is a part of the wider business plan
The social media strategy integrates with the wider organisational business plan and marketing strategy. Social media should integrate with the organisation’s business plan and constitute a component of the wider marketing strategy – it is not a force unto itself. Social media efforts should help the organisation achieve its organisational objectives, and synchronise with and complement traditional media marketing activities.
Factor 4: Social uses the organisational website as the core digital asset
The social media strategy integrates with the organisation’s website. The website is the core asset of an organisation’s online presence – it is invariably the first place that people go to find information about your organisation. The organisation’s website is an ‘owned’ asset, it is not subject to changes made by third-parties, and it is readily discoverable through search engines – therefore, it should be recognised as the core component of your digital presence. Organisations should not embark upon a social media strategy if the organisation’s website is not in an optimal condition. The website should provide links to the social media assets, and the social media assets should draw visitors back to the website.
Factor 5: Know the audience
There is a clear understanding of the target audience (or audiences). It is important that the organisation has a clear understanding of the various target demographics that it is trying to influence through social media. In many cases there are multiple audience groups and these often need to be targeted differently. Indeed, social media might not be an appropriate mechanism for targeting some audience groups.
Factor 6: Understand what you want to achieve with each audience
There is a clear understanding of what the objectives are for each of the organisation’s audiences. It is important that the organisation understands what it seeks to achieve through its social media efforts. Many organisations rush head-long into social media without giving this a second thought. Is it to make more sales, to increase leads, to achieve reach for a new brand, to inform customers, to be recognised as a market leader, to capture as much consumer information as possible? A successful social media strategy has clear objectives, both quantitative and qualitative.
Factor 7: The right technologies and channels are used
It is important to choose the most appropriate channels technologies to engage with the target audience and to achieve the objectives. There are literally thousands of social media tools available to organisations – blogs, social networking sites, wikis, social bookmarking sites, community sites, crowdsourcing sites, online video, survey tools, online forums, etc. Many don’t go past Facebook and Twitter, but there are many other technologies that could be added to your organisation’s social media mix.
Factor 8: The social strategy is formalised
There is a written social media strategy document in place. Like a business plan, producing a written social media strategy is an important step because it forces the organisation to undertake detailed planning and analysis of the organisation’s social media strategy, and commits it to paper.
Factor 9: A social media policy is in place
There is a written social media usage policy in place. The devolution of content production and the immediacy of social media dictate the need for a codified social media usage policy. The policy needs to contain clear guidelines for the everyday use of social media and publishing rules for contributors, moderators and administrators. All employees that have access to or contribute to the organisation’s social media assets need to be signatories to the policy.
Factor 10: People are trained
There is a social media training regimen in place. Following on from the production of a social media usage policy, the organisation should provide appropriate training for staff to ensure that the policy is understood and adhered to. This is particularly important at induction for new staff. Staff with specific responsibilities for content production and community management need to be trained appropriately.
Factor 11: Resourcing is appropriate
There are appropriate resources allocated to the strategy. The organisation must allocate appropriate resources – manpower, time, funding for promotions, equipment (laptops, mobile broadband cards, mobile devices) – for the strategy to be successful.
Factor 12: Accountability exists
There is central coordination and accountability. An individual should be nominated to assume ultimate control and accountability for the organisation’s social media efforts. This person is responsible for governance, policy documentation, training, the execution of the strategy, and constant monitoring and analysis.
Factor 13: Devolution
There is devolved responsibility. The most successful organisational social media campaigns have multiple contributors. Content production by more than one person enables a greater volume of content, a perception of being available and accessible at all times, more authentic interaction, and a richer and more diverse range of topics and themes.
Factor 14: Content planning (with room for spontaneity)
There are regular coordination meetings to pre-plan social media content production and activities (but there is also scope for spontaneity). The best social media campaigns are highly orchestrated and thoroughly planned before they are executed. Production of a regular ‘running sheet’ or content calendar is an appropriate mechanism for coordinating social media messages, as well as integrating social media efforts with the organisation’s wider marketing strategy. At the same time, social media agents within the organisation should be empowered to be spontaneous when required.
Factor 15: A long-term view
There is a focus on sustainability and long-term results. A social media strategy must be executed in full for at least 6-12 months before it begins to achieve any significant traction. An expectation of immediate success will ultimately result in failure of the strategy. By the same token, organisations should not focus myopically on quantitative measures (eg. number of Facebook fans), but instead should attribute more value to qualitative engagement measures (eg. reach, shares, comments, retweets, mentions, subscribers, etc)
Factor 16: Fantastic content
There is compelling content. Perhaps more than anything else, compellingtext, image and video content is critical to success. If the content that is being produced is not interesting or of no value to the target audience, then there is little point being involved in social media at all. Social media specialists use the ‘what’s in it for me’ principle to good effect, they encourage fans to engage, to act on calls-to-action, to contribute their views and to redistribute the content.
Factor 17: Attention to detail
The content is well-written, keyword-rich and free of spelling and grammatical mistakes. All corporate communications – whether it be a formal letter, or a social media posts – will reflect either positively or negatively on the organisation’s brand. Poorly written social media content will have an adverse impact on the organisation. Professional imagery, quality video, well-written copy, rich with keywords and compelling titles, will reflect positively on the organisation – and will also assist with search engine optimisation.
Factor 18: Appropriate frequency
There is an appropriate frequency of content. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the appropriate frequency of content, but it is important to get this right for your particular type of organisation. As a guide, the world’s most followed blogs are updated every day with new content and most follow the golden rule ‘small contributions often’.
Factor 19: Appropriate tone and persona
There is an appropriate tone and persona adopted in social media content. Unlike traditional corporate communication, social media is typically less formal, it is couched in a more conversational tone, and it is infused with the writer’s views. A balance must be struck between formality and informality, depending on the nature of your organisation and the particular channel that is being utilised (eg. the language used on Twitter is different to that used on Facebook) . The tone must be consistent across all contributors.
Factor 20: Audience interaction
There is constant two-way conversation and engagement. One of the defining characteristics of social media is interaction – followers are able to have an active voice in the conversation. One-way broadcasting doesn’t work. Successful social media organisations engage closely with their followers, invite comments, ask questions, acknowledge feedback and suggestions, and respond openly to queries, issues and complaints without prejudice. In this way, organisations appear open, accessible and transparent.
Factor 21: Authenticity
There is ‘authentic’ communication. Above and beyond the requirement for two-way conversation is the need for all communication to be ‘authentic’. Authenticity is about admitting when you are wrong, acknowledging your weaknesses, asking for help, displaying a human side and being ‘real’, rather than hiding behind a corporate veneer. It’s about not purporting to be something that you are not.
Factor 22: Measurement
There is monitoring and analysis of key performance indicators. A social media campaign must be constantly monitored and adjusted as necessary. A set of appropriate quantitative and qualitative key performance indicators that relate to the objectives of the strategy should be identified to determine its success or otherwise, with a leaning towards the qualitative measures. Some of these KPIs might include sales referred, newsletter sign ups, search engine ranking, unique visitors, page views, bounce rates, time on site, follows/fans, mentions andunsubscribes.
Factor 23: Disaster Plan
There are contingency plans in place should something go wrong. The open nature of social media means that there is potential for things to go wrong – the inadvertent release of confidential information, ‘flaming’ by disaffected customers, theft of login details by an unhappy former staff member, ‘cybersquatters’ who purport to be your organisation on social media sites, intense media scrutiny as a result of a controversial post. Organisations must be prepared to counter these contingencies should they occur.
Factor 24: Constant learning and quest for perfection
There is constant learning about social media within the organisation. The organisation proactively looks for new and better ways to improve its social media presence. The organisation tries new things and tests the market to gauge the effectiveness of new tools, techniques and practices. Social media is a rapidly changing phenomenon – for example, Facebook was founded in 2004 and in the space of 11 years it has amassed over 1.2 billion users, an unprecedented feat for all forms of media. Instagram and Snapchat have only been around since 2010 and 2011 respectively. It is important that social media personnel are attuned to new emerging trends and the constantly changing landscape. This knowledge will allow the organisation to stay ahead of the game.
Factor 25: Pay Mr Zuckerberg
A relatively new factor (it wasn’t included in the original version of this document when it was first written): it is becoming increasingly important to bolster an organisation’s social media content with paid advertising. Organic reach is best — if you can achieve it — but most social platforms (such as Facebook) have unsurprisingly tweaked their business models to reduce the potential for organic content to reach a mass audience. In a lot of cases this content requires a ‘boost’ to achieve the desired reach. Save your advertising dollars for the very best content.