It’s virtually unavoidable. The topic of social media is being discussed in almost every venue—on the news, in blogs, among analysts and experts, and likely your personal and professional networks as well. Its prevalence and adoption is sparking discussion, debate, confusion, and sometimes even controversy. The point is that it is simply not a topic or channel that can or should be ignored. Social media is bridging generational and economic gaps—connecting people in ways no other media can.
While a few dealers have taken an organized approach to building their online community, most have jumped into the mix without a plan, trying to figure it out as they go, and others are still standing on the sidelines, struggling to make sense of how they incorporate this into their overall marketing strategy. Of those who’ve not yet engaged, most intuitively know they need to, but are unsure of how to make the leap. The foundation for social media is rooted in ongoing conversation and dialogue, an overwhelming task for those already feeling strapped for time and resource. Add to that social media’s total transparency and openness and it’s no wonder so much angst exists.
Still, the channel boasts incredible power: power to influence, power to interact, power to entertain, power to cooperate…the list goes on. So, how can you harness that power?
Whether you’ve jumped in wholeheartedly, have a toe in the water, or are cautiously plotting your entry, your strategy will benefit from taking a step back and formalizing a plan. Here are the essential elements that must be incorporated into your social plunge:
1. Set your goals.Social Media is not about having the most fans, it is about building and strengthening customer relationships and building brand awareness. You must decide ahead of time what you are aiming for in these essential areas and develop some specific and measurable objectives.
2. Establish your presence.Mainstream networks like Facebook and Twitter will likely be your ‘go-tos’, but consider the host of other, more niche groups that would allow you to take your social content to a more targeted audience. Thanks to solutions like Ning, there are social networks out there for seemingly every special interest group, some of which may interest you immensely (e.g. local auto enthusiasts).
3. Collaborate with others.Internalizing the emergence of social media is absolutely critical to your organization’s success with it. The open dialogue, sharing of best practices, and sheer peer networking opportunities provided through networks like DrivingSales and LinkedIn are not ones you’ll want to let pass.
4. Manage your reputation.With the social channel comes significant noise, increasing your need to cut through the clutter, deliver clear messaging, and participate in conversations that further your goals. Part of this means taking the time to monitor the ongoing commentary surrounding your brand, including your business practices, as well as both negative and positive reviews and assuring you are in a position to respond effectively.
5. Measure your success. Bringing your efforts full circle is important, not only to understand whether you’re meeting your goals, but also to gain insight into potential adjustments and improvements. Though your metrics should certainly include “fan” and “like” growth, it should also take into account success achieved through content sharing and messaging.
Following these key steps will ensure that social media becomes more than just another communication channel. Instead, the plan and course of action prompted by these steps will help to make sure that social media becomes a method for interaction, collaboration and opportunity generation. Stop questioning whether or not you should jump into the social media fray—you should and must—and instead spend your energy planning how you will incorporate and harness its power.
As vice president of marketing for OneCommand, Lindsay Leugers is responsible for development of marketing strategies for the industry leader in relationship performance marketing. For more information call 866-855-3237 or email [email protected].
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