Digital change has long since arrived in corporate communications. Companies are using more and more online channels to adequately address their target groups, and social media offers a multitude of opportunities here. But what exactly is social media, what behaviours and assumptions often prevent its effective use in corporate communications and what does a promising social media management have to look like?
Definition of Social Media
The term social media in singular describes the phenomenon in which users interact with each other via virtual application platforms of today’s web or other technical developments, thereby creating their own content (so-called user-generated content) and exchanging it with each other.
The term social media in the plural encompasses the associated digital communication services and technologies in order to enable the above-mentioned interaction between users. Social media can be synonymously described as social media, social (application) platforms, social media channels or platforms as well as the social web.
What prevents effective use?
Assumption: Social media does not incur any costs. Yes, it does. There are the costs for the purchase of image rights; due to decreasing organic reach, there are costs for the advertising of contributions; the costs for legal and strategic advice; the training of employees who operate social media; the planning and creation of content; professional design … to name just a few of the cost blocks. Social media must be included in a company’s communications budget.
Assumption: Social media brings quick success. Unfortunately not. Because the number of likes is stagnating, the contributions are not clicked or shared, there are numerous orphaned company appearances. Because countless companies are struggling for attention on the Social Web, and at the same time users are becoming more and more selective. In order to be well received by the target group, suitable contributions must be developed, implemented, tested and optimised. This takes time, is subject to a constant cycle and can take years.
Assumption: Social media is simple. “The intern should do social media, he’s young and knows his way around the net.” Many companies believe this. Social Media is only simple if you follow the basic rules. If you want to successfully use social media channels, you have to know your target groups well; research topics; deal with image formats; create editorial plans; produce or have produced texts, photos and videos; define processes and responsibilities and so on. All this requires a great deal of know-how, either in-house or from external service providers.
Assumption: Social media replaces classic advertising. Although many practical examples confirm that social media is an effective marketing instrument, it is not solo, but in cross-media campaigns that exploit the full marketing potential. Interested parties and customers have many touchpoints in different channels at the Customer Journey. Social media is one of many.
Success through systematic social media management
A promising social media management comprises the following coordinated steps: listening, defining, selecting, organising, merging, regulating, planning and implementing, moderating, de-escalating, controlling and analysing.
In social media, companies should learn as much as possible about themselves and the context in which they operate. The more a company knows about its market, consumer tastes, successes and failures of its competitors and topics of conversation, the better it can determine its strategy. However, the Social Web is highly dynamic, which is why listening within the framework of systematic social media monitoring is a continuous task. In monitoring, the company identifies, observes and analyses the content created by users on the Internet. In order to cope with the wealth of data, the company decides which social media platforms are to be monitored and orients itself to the respective strategy.
The objectives to be achieved through social media are to be defined and the target groups to be addressed. Frequent goals are: the increase of brand awareness, a stronger binding of the target groups to the company, the increase of traffic on the corporate website and a better search engine ranking, the establishment and development of relationships with influencers, etc.
The social media channels are selected based on the objectives and definition of the target groups. Information about which users are active on which social media platforms can be researched on the Internet.
The responsibilities of social media activities in the company are defined here. This step is closely linked to the definition of objectives, as objectives must always be based on existing resources such as budget and staff.
Goals, target groups, the associated channel selection, responsibilities are brought together, i.e. the individual elements are summarised in a clear social media architecture. Social media governance also creates a framework for all social media participants to ensure that social media activities are carried out safely and in a coordinated manner.
Planning and implementing
The agenda is drawn up, the mix of measures determined. It is a matter of setting up and expanding the individual presences, planning and developing the content, drawing up editorial plans and selecting tools that can be helpful during implementation.
The company interacts with users, enters into dialogue, thereby building a lively community and cultivating relationships. The prerequisite for this is relevant content for the individual target groups.
The emerging criticism must be dealt with in the best possible way. Emerging crises must therefore be de-escalated at an early stage and the necessary activities taken. Possible de-escalation scenarios can already be designed preventively.
Controlling and analysing
Now it is a matter of checking whether the objectives have been achieved. For this purpose, suitable key figures must be selected, monitored and analysed. Control and analysis are the basis for optimizing social media management; it is a recurring process that can be set in motion at the end or earlier.
Undirected and unplanned activities on social media are likely to cost companies more than they bring real benefits. However, not every company has the know-how and capacity to implement each of the above aspects, especially as they can only be roughly outlined and at most serve as a guideline. A company that wants to operate social media seriously and effectively should either develop its own in-house social media expertise or seek support from external specialists.
Claudia Treml, Auren Deutschland; based on and quoted from: *Alexander Decker: “Der Social-Media-Zyklus”, Ed.: Springer Gabler