I am often approached by suppliers (mainly hotels) telling me that they have opened a twitter account, started a blog or set up a Facebook fan page but nothing is happening.
“What should I do?” they say. “I joined all the social networks but there is nothing there!”
From these discussions I have developed five steps for a supplier on how to plan, set up and execute a social media strategy.
I have previously covered trend driving social media adoption, but in this post I want to provide more detailed advice on implementing a social media strategy.
[By social media I mean online/interactive user generated content sites where there is no substantive restriction on who can create, share or contribute to content. Includes social media sites, forums, blogs and even comment sections in mainstream media]
Part One: Decide who it is you want to talk to and what you want to say
The assumed first step is to jump straight in, sign up for each and every social network and wait for the customers to come pouring in. This is a bad move.
The correct first step is to do the opposite, to stay clear of any proactive social media interaction until such time as you have decided who you want to talk to and what it is you want to say.
Jumping straight in without this ground work could result in one of these outcomes:
- Nothing happening and no one cares – you sit there with no followers or friends and no means for building a following.
- Too much happens and angry customers take over. There is a danger that a poorly monitored or executed social media strategy can leave open a chance for disgruntled consumers to become the dominant content providers. Most extreme example of this is the take over of the Nestlé’s Facebook page by Greenpeace in protest of Nestlé’s use of palm oil from endangered forest areas.
There are number of different angles that can be taken in deciding what to say and who to talk to. The angle chosen needs to be based on the brand identity and vision of the supplier.
Who you want to talk to:
- In deciding who you want to talk to, there are different classes of customers – existing customers, new customers, loyal customers, suppliers and more. Decide which of these groups you want to talk to is critical before executing a strategy.
What you want to say:
- Similarly there are options in deciding what it is you want to say. Do you want to push a message around your price, service, location, facilities or expertise? Are you trying to communicate to people during their consumption of the service, before or afterwards?
It is possible but very very hard to cover all of these in one social media plan. The best approach is to pick the combination of these options that best suit your product. Here are some (hypothetical) examples of different angles that different suppliers could take:
- A Budget Hotel: deciding on an approach of targeting new customers on rate and cleanliness. Therefore will look to talk to customers about the deal value and the certainty of the product;
- Adventure tour company: targeting their social media activity at existing customers that have already bought. Helping those customers prepare so that they get the most out of the experience and soliciting feedback and testimonials to help attract new customers;
- A hotel near an event location: targeting loyal customers with information and discussion about events at a location and their knowledge of the location rather than the hotel itself;
- An airline with a large leisure network: targeting new customers with general holiday information for their home market. Driving discussion around generic holiday options rather than their on board product; or
- A winter cruise tour company: identifying that consumer information about the destination is the most critical element rather than the specifics of the product. Building up a body of content about a location first rather than the product.
Social media distribution and usage is vastly different to traditional web retail and marketing.
To simply take a deal distribution approach or a join and hope approach will be a certain path to an unsuccessful strategy.
Before you do anything in social media take time to decide the customers you are targeting and what you want to say.