Developing an Effective Social Media Strategy
29 July 2015
In the previous article of this Executive Series, we discussed the importance of digital transformation. Singapore Post has built our company-wide transformation on three key pillars: customers, connectivity and consistency. In this article, we’ll discuss how to activate these pillars by developing an effective social media strategy.
The State of Social Media in Asia Pacific
In 2015, Asia Pacific accounted for more than 52% of the world’s social media users, a testament to the region’s growing position in the global social media landscape. Social channels have thus emerged as very important avenues for brands to connect with their customers and build unique brand experiences. It has also become an essential part of any contemporary marketing mix – advertising spend on these platforms are projected to reach USD $5.9 billion across Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea by 2019. Increased mobile usage is a key driver of social media growth in Asia Pacific, with over 900 million people accessing social media via mobile devices. This number is expected to surpass 1 billion by the fourth quarter of 2015. However, before jumping on the social media bandwagon, brands must first understand the demands of the online social space in order to leverage social media effectively for larger business goals. This all starts with developing an effective social media strategy.
The Foundations of an Effective Social Media Strategy
SingPost’s digital transformation is founded on 3 guiding principles – customers, connectivity and consistency. These pillars help us stay relevant to our evolving customer base and adapt to the ever-changing competitive landscape. Brands should understand that social media efforts are fundamentally customer-driven initiatives. As such, customer centricity should be at the core of any social media strategy. In embracing one of our key values of the Total Customer, our social media channels have played a pivotal role in helping us curate brand experiences that are relevant and engaging to the customer. Companies can make their brands accessible by creating multiple touch-points across relevant social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The platforms a brand chooses should be where their customers are most actively engaged. In 2015, there were 1.69 billion social accounts accessed via mobile devices. When thinking about customer experience, companies cannot limit their brands to traditional desktop and laptop experiences; it is critical that they focus on mobile platforms as that where the end customers are increasingly active. Most importantly, there needs to be top-management buy-in and commitment to the journey from the start to the end. Many companies make the mistake of valuing social media as a little more than a tacked-on marketing initiative; having social media as a key thrust can go a long way in serving broader business goals. By integrating social media as an essential part of the business, executives can then provide a clear, strong vision and objectives that cascade to the rest of the organization to effect change. This internal alignment in objectives will also ensure a greater degree of consistency across both online and offline branding across all customer touch points.
Steps to Building Your Social Media Strategy
With a strong understanding of what your objectives are, you can begin developing a social media strategy that strengthens customer relationships and increases brand awareness. Every social media strategy is unique but below are some key steps to get you started on developing your own strategy:
Setting clear and specific business objectives will effectively guide your social media efforts in the long run. As such, your organization should only focus on one or two social media goals so that subsequent messaging is clear and consistent. These objectives should serve larger business goals based on your short-term and long-term plans as a company. Mapping out clear objectives at this stage will also ensure you have a clear direction across both online and offline branding efforts.
In other words, where does your organization stand in social media performance? How do you fare against your competitors in terms of social media efforts? Most importantly, what are consumer sentiments online? These are fundamental questions in addressing the gaps in your pre-exisiting social media strategy. In your observations of your competitors, you may also derive learnings from their failures and successes in their social media strategy.
With clear business goals in mind, you can craft key messages to be conveyed to your target audience and articulate these messages into initiatives that are relevant to them. However, you need to be creative in developing a unique voice for your brand in order to stand out from the the noise in social media. Construct a content calendar that allows you to deliver engaging content and value-adding initiatives on a regular basis. You will also need to select appropriate social channels or medium to reach your target audiences effectively.
Planning a successful social media strategy is largely based on how well one monitors and measures the social media strategy’s performance. Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and clear metrics are crucial in tracking and assessing your social media performance systematically. But beyond simply collecting raw social media data, it is critical to understand the figures through careful analysis to generate useful insights. This will allow you to determine what next steps to pursue in order to achieve the objectives you have set from the beginning.
After assessing your social media performance, your company needs to be ready to make necessary improvements to your social media strategy. Be prepared to test, adjust and iterate based on key learnings about your brand and consumers. Don’t worry about getting your social media recipe perfect in one go; consider the fluid nature of social media, it is a fast-changing environment and your strategy should be flexible enough to allow for both short-term and long-term improvements and adjustments. Instead of making sweeping changes to your social strategy, identify and address specific areas of weakness on individual platforms. Social media is still largely considered a new area for many brands and retailers. With that in mind, companies should be ready to experiment, explore and adjust their social media strategies as the landscape demands.
Key Factors to Social Media Success
There is no one-size-fits-all solution towards social media success – businesses need to formulate their own strategies that suit their business goals, customers and resources. This is particularly important in Asia Pacific’s diverse social media landscape, where localization of social media efforts is pivotal to staying relevant to customers. Here are some best practices to guide your social media strategy:
Being consistent with how your company creates and posts content and manages your social media pages often reflects a degree of quality and commitment to your branding. While brands can customize content on various channels for their different audiences, brand messaging should not only be aligned with your branding offline, but also across all social media platforms. Being consistent in the principles and values your company espouses will work towards stronger brand recall among potential and existing customers. Furthermore, consistency should also apply to other factors such as tone, timing and frequency in the effective execution of your social media strategy.
Consumers utilize their smartphones extensively for search, social interactions, and media consumption. In fact, customers engage with brands on social media up to 10% more often on their mobile devices than on their PCs. This is why brands need to prioritize consumer engagement during their mobile moments. This can be done by optimizing customer touch-points to be more mobile-friendly. A good example of this is to segment your content into short, compartmentalized sections in order to improve readability on smaller screens. Another method is to optimize your website across multiple devices to ensure your content’s usability over a variety of devices. Ensure the best experience for different users by testing your sites across different model desktops, tablets and smartphones.
As a way of extending your organization’s social media reach, utilize a combination of paid and earned advertising. For SingPost, we make use of paid social media ads but rely just as much on encouraging users to share their positive experiences with our brand. Overall, this helps create a more open channel for customers to give feedback and increases engagement as well.
Your content should provide more than just detailed information on products and services. Instead, your content should also work towards deepening the relationship of your audience with your brand. In the case of SingPost, our Knowledge Centre features blog posts from relevant stakeholders within the company – thought leaders – who create content specifically targeted at B2B customers. Supply your audience with content that is not only relevant to your products and services, but utilizes expertise that provides value to your followers and customers.
Social media provides brands with a way of interacting with users throughout the entire consumer experience, from pre-purchase all the way to after-sale. This allows your company to better serve existing customers by connecting with them through social media platforms they prefer. Since any customer experience on social media is immediately shareable, feedback can go a long way towards reinforcing or weakening your brand’s positive reputation. Track and Monitor Social Media Performance Regularly – Utilize listening and tracking technologies that properly monitor your social media performance. This might require various social media tracking tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Crowdbooster or Rival IQ. Nonetheless, the key is harnessing that data into information that will improve your strategy based on your established key performance indicators.
The growing influence of social media has made it an essential platform for organizations to connect with their customers. However, success in the social space demands more than just raw social media presence. It requires the internalization and commitment to a properly developed social media strategy. With a consistent, connected and consumer-centric social media strategy, your brand can take another key step towards digital transformation.
- Asia Pacific Social Media Advertising Spending Forecast (Forrester)
- Boost Contextual Reach with Content Marketing with Mobile (Forrester)
Dr Bernard Leong
Head of Digital Services at Singapore Post Ltd
Dr Bernard Leong is the Head of Digital Services for Singapore Post Pte Ltd, overseeing the Group’s digital, mobile & social media strategy, along products and innovation across the organization. When not donning his corporate hat, Dr Leong plays a key role in the Southeast Asia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, serving as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD Business School and mentor for JFDI.Asia, the region’s leading startup incubator.