Your Brand on Social Media: A Project Plan That Gets You Seen Online

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“Social media waits for no one.”

-Aaron Lee, named a Top 5 Social Media Influencer

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There are about 3.17 billion people using the internet, and half of them are on Facebook. Each day, 500 million tweets are sent out. Every second, two new people join LinkedIn. The continued growth of social media has proven to marketers that it's here to stay. So if you want to be seen by all those people, this project plan needs a solid foundation.

But the sheer size and speed of social media can overwhelm many growing startups, especially those with key personnel that didn't first regularly use social media on an individual level. Regarding the size, many brands believe they can simply take the "spray and pray" approach. In other words, that if they blast their message out there it will miraculously land among their targeted audience. Regarding the speed, some companies wonder if they are too late to the game to start building a presence.

The research continues to prove social media's effectiveness for growing companies. According to the Twitter Small Business Blog, 85% of Twitter users felt more connected to a brand after they followed it on Twitter. However, the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found that 91% of the 3700 marketers surveyed are still unsure of how best to engage their audience with social media.

If you're new to the game or among that 91%, it's not too late.

To go beyond the research and into real-world application, I asked three social media marketing experts 3 simple questions. These questions should help you develop a plan to get seen on social. Here are their bios followed by their insights:

Austin Graff is the social media manager at Honest Tea, America’s leading organic bottled iced tea company. Austin leads their social media and influencer marketing campaigns, including their most recent which was named one of the top three social media campaigns in 2015 by Forbes. Prior to Honest Tea, Austin managed digital and social media marketing for International Justice Mission (IJM) where he built and led IJM’s social media presence of more than 500,000 fans across 7 platforms.

Sheridan Marfil is VP of All Things Digital at Voto Latino, a nonprofit organization that empowers American Latino millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community. Sheridan leads the digital team and drives Voto Latino’s strategy for web, email and social media. Previously, she worked as the digital media producer for the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, which champions vaccines as a cost-effective way to save children's lives around the world.

Matt Navarra is the Social Media Director for global technology news publisher, The Next Web. As of September 2015, The Next Web receives over 10 million monthly visitors. Matt leads their presence on Twitter (1.62 million followers) and Facebook (over 608,000 likes).

(1) What key lesson should growing companies heed as they develop their social media strategy?

Austin: It’s all about human connection. Since it’s 2015, it’s easy to get allured by the latest technology and platform (and there is a place for that), but every social media platform was created because and for human relationships. You can have the coolest piece of technology on social or the most beautiful photo, but if it doesn’t connect to the audience, it will fail. Know your audience and what they connect with and create your strategy around that.

Sheridan: When crafting a holistic and clear social media strategy for your company, I think it’s important to do your research. Figure out who your target audience is and where they like to play. Also, where are your competitors? Take the time to determine what social media sites you need to be on and assess if you have the resources to feed it with great content that will engage your followers. After you do this initial homework, come up with your strategy and tactics for those sites.

Matt: It's important for companies just embarking on developing a social media presence to never lose focus of what their brand personality is. They should be clear on what that brand personality on social is, and keep to it. Companies also need to stick to the basics -- be social! It is not a broadcast medium. Their fans and followers will expect to engage with them, so they should nurture a community by replying to customers and being responsive to their comments and requests.

(2) Many view social media as primarily a quick way to push out a company's message. But how do use social media as a way to build brand loyalty over time?

Austin: Because it’s all about connection, we should see social media as a relationship. What do you do with friends? You spend time with them, you talk to them, you invest in them. In the same way, you can talk to and invest in your followers. That builds brand loyalty. Favorite their tweets, join in their conversations, retweet them. Over time, they will feel known and heard and will go to bat for you. That’s a powerful thing for a brand.

Sheridan: I touched a little bit on engaging with your followers when coming up with a great social media plan. I can’t stress enough that you should set aside the time to read comments and mentions and respond swiftly and accordingly. Social Habit found that almost half of social media customers want a response to their inquiries within an hour! Getting personal with your fans online will help paint the story of your brand or company as being people-focused, and this will help build loyalty.

Matt: Building brand loyalty takes time on social. Companies should not expect to have explosive follower growth and/or engagement in the early days (unless they use social advertising products!). Customer service in the digital world needs to be fast and accurate. Customers will be more loyal to a brand that delivers first class social customer service, sells great products/services and, where possible, is fun to engage with.

(3) What is the most common social media mistake made by brand's today?

Austin: Being self-centered. Again, social media is about relationships. Be who you are on social. No one wants a friend who talks about themselves all the time. Interact with your fans. Speak their language. Go where they are. Be a good friend to them and they will pay you back with loyalty.

Sheridan: I really think brand’s try to create their own shareable content without thinking through how it could be misconstrued or doing adequate research beforehand. There are plenty of examples. A couple of presidential candidates recently solicited town hall questions on Twitter with #Ask [insert candidate name]. People tweeted in questions about dinosaurs, the meaning of life, etc., and real questions about the issues were buried in the fray. And then there's the American Apparel example, where they shared an image of what they thought were fireworks exploding on July 4th. It was actually the Challenger explosion.

Matt: Brands using social media platforms are fighting for eyeballs and customer dollars 24/7/365. Often, they try and jump on topical or trending social moments with a joke or 'fun' response in an effort to gain visibility and brand kudos. However, far too often, they hit 'tweet' before they think. They then find themselves in the middle of a PR recovery exercise that can tarnish much of the positive sentiment they have worked hard to develop up to that point. 

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What was the first thing you did to get comfortable using social media? Once you were comfortable, what was your first moment of social media success?

-Photo: alphaspirit/Shutterstock

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