Communication. It’s one of those things we all take for granted. The ability to communicate is typically too easy and so immediate that we take it a bit for granted and thus actually miss opportunities because we are not using it as wisely as we should be.
How many of you were around before cell phones came into existence? I was, and let me tell you the ability to communicate was very, very different. I had to send written letters in the mail and by the time I received one back I had forgotten what I had written in my original letter to prompt the response. I remember my first car, a ’74 Chevy Nova, stalling on the side of the road and I had to go knock on the closest house’s door to ask to use their phone.
Now the world looks and feels a whole lot different when it comes to technology and how it is used as a tool to communicate with one another. Information is coming at us so fast that Twitter needed to be created so we could talk about it even faster (although their limit on the amount of characters is well…limiting).
One of the technologies in today’s 24/7, always “on” world, I adore the most is the ability to see the person I’m communicating with. It makes it seem like we are in the same room and is ideal for being able to show people what I’m talking about to support my messaging. Remember me telling you I’m a visual learner? Well, using communication platforms like Zoom, Webinar Jam or Facetime allows me to learn (and teach) visually quite seamlessly.
Now onto the maze that is social media. It is a really big deal. I’m sure you’ve heard that before but, be honest, are you overwhelmed by how fast it’s moving and evolving? I feel your pain. The good news is that it closes the gap on having to wait for anything. The bad news is since everything posts in real time, it’s tough to take back comments or posts if you were in a reactive mood. Too many people see what you put out on the Internet even if something that you posted causes you regret gets deleted.
Regardless of how you feel about it, social media is here to stay and, in branding, if you want to make money you need to know where your customer is and hang out in the same sandbox they’re hanging out in. That means if your audience is on Facebook, you need to be on Facebook. If they are on Twitter, you need to be on Twitter, and so on.
Social media really is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing and communication strategy toolbox. If you know what you are doing, you can create a strong personal connection with your prospective customers. But, you need a plan—one built on a clear and well-developed strategy. Suffice it to say, you need to build a social media strategy into your marketing plan. Try to think about the following as you put one together.
Listen. Try to locate where your customers are hanging out and assess their social activities. Try to find small, focused audiences that align with your messages.
Plan. Define your social media objectives based upon your business plan. Determine how your brand’s strength can be extended online.
Strategize. What will be your engagement process, and how often will you post? How do you plan to create relationships with consumers online? Who on your team will be leading this effort?
I also want to spotlight LinkedIn because I have found it’s one of the most effective business tools for personal brand exposure. The nice thing about LinkedIn is that it is designed for business professionals, so there are rules of engagement. LinkedIn is more pragmatic in its information delivery; whereas, some of the other social media platforms allows for more free-flow personal opinion.
LinkedIn is one of the most important social media platforms you should manage on a regular basis. It’s your “professional” version of all social platforms, so it is paramount that it is updated regularly and reflects you as a business professional.
Don’t forget to build your business page, as well. If you own a business, the two will go hand in hand, so be mindful of how you brand that page. Focus on what’s relevant for the company and of value to the audience.
So how do you incorporate all of the above to build a rock solid communications strategy? I’ll tell you how.
- Understand your goals.
- Create measurable objectives
- Characterize your customer. Identify their persona(s).
- Look at your competition.
- Develop your messages based upon your differentiators and positioning.
Once you do those things, choose the most appropriate communication channels for your business. Remember, not all social media platforms are the same—and you need to not only pick the ones where your audience hangs out, you need to understand their engagement.
There isn’t a cookie-cutter process for making this choice. It takes thought. It takes a strategic point of view, which is why I’m always so shocked when I hear major corporations utilize interns or support staff to run their social media execution. The challenge is that, since it’s happening in real time, you need to respond quickly or you could miss your window of opportunity. Responding in real time requires experience and sound judgment because social media is permanent and when something is misstated or misinterpreted or simply wrong, damage control may be necessary.
How many of you remember the 2013 Super Bowl? If you do, you may remember the power went out and the entire stadium was in the dark. In real time, the marketing team behind Oreo cookies posted a Tweet that was seen and heard around the world. Someone in their camp created a designed post that read, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.”
It was one of the most impressive examples of how social media should, and has, worked. It’s in these glorious moments that magic happens, but you have to be at the ready to see it, respond to it, or better yet, originate it.
Finally, build a content strategy that covers the platforms you want to cover. Your list will be commensurate with your overall communication plan. Some of the areas to focus on are:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Print media and direct mail
- Public Relations
Your plan should deliver engaging material and needs to align with your overall messaging. Consider the subject matter. It should only be product or service related.
Remember, your overall communication strategy should revolve around wanting to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Post things that entertain, educate, and inform in each area of your expertise.