Due to coronavirus crisis and accompanying drop in physical human contact, social media marketing by businesses has increased. But for social media marketing to be effective, even beyond the crisis, one needs an elaborate plan. Social media can serve as a robust business enabler. It has the benefit of speedy communication, easily reaches targeted stakeholders and provides a level of interactivity of different channels. This can produce impressive results in disseminating personal, authentic and direct messages. It also provides an opportunity to receive instant feedback which can actually get augmented by free interconnected discussions by the various stakeholders. When well utilized, the advantages of social media cannot be exaggerated.
However, social media can turn out to be a disaster for business, for precisely the same reasons above that make it splendid. Its potential to spread adverse information is unequalled. It can facilitate fast, fire wrecking spirals of negativity in a manner that makes hard to control related consequences, especially for the business’ reputation. In any case, if passively or negatively handled, it will not offer any tangible benefits and yet it will remain open as an avenue for potential adverse publications against an entity. When engaged for business therefore, and intended to make significant contribution to the strategy of an entity, social media marketing and other related initiatives should follow a systematic plan, like any other strategic endeavours.
For starters, a business should put in place both a social media communication plan as well as a social media response strategy. This serves to manage the style in which communication is generated by the business to maximise positive impact on stakeholders. It also helps to have a thought through process of addressing complaints forwarded through social media, as well as genuine and malicious communication from some stakeholders and third parties. To run a social media campaign for business with vague ideas in the heads of promoters is a recipe for disaster. This often gets to manifest when there is a crisis arising from adverse media publications for the business to deal with. The ensuing fire fighting in trying to address the issue can result in the business starting to offer responses that may inflict more harm to the business’ reputation. On the other hand, a pre-thought approach offers a chance to form logic based responses, regardless of whether hurtful publications such as social media posts or articles are genuine or malicious.
A clear social media strategy also helps a business to aim every individual post as well as period-long campaigns towards same objectives. It removes the possibility of making haphazard posts that do not really speak to strategic objectives. Building brand awareness can hardly be achieved through ad-hoc, disjointed social media posts. This is besides the likelihood that such uncoordinated posts can set in motion avalanches of equally arbitrary and hurtful reactions from the general public, existing or past and prospective customers and other stakeholders. When such happens, the business is most likely as unprepared to respond because the initial social media post was not carefully thought through.
Without a clear plan, you cannot measure the impact of a social media program on your business. In terms of developing capacity to grow and improve, social media activity therefore gets as ordinary for a business as for an individual who runs their social media platforms as purely a social pastime. Yes, you may achieve some benefits and yet you cannot easily tell what exactly they are or how you could improve them. It thus nearly impossible to maximise the benefit of a business social media programme without a clear strategy on the same.
It is common for businesses to lack consistency regarding social media drives. They thus publish occasional, random posts. With this approach, the business most likely does not exactly know what to post or when to post it. The business is under threat of failing to grow a social media following, or even sustaining the one it has. There is a level of disengagement that can translate to disinterest of targeted audiences in the business’ social media communication.
To be able to rise from one level to another; to implement bigger and better social media campaigns for business, things should be mapped out. A relevant plan should be implemented as deliberately as any other strategic activity. Resources should be assigned to ensure careful, well-thought social media posts and articles and their timing of publication. Business executives should interest themselves in monitoring how social media plans are being implemented, even if this activity is outsourced. It is, after all, how we implement all key aspects of business. Social media deployment for business should not be different, as to be implemented in laissez-faire fashion.
Raymond is a Chartered Risk Analyst and risk management consultant