A contact of mine that I have a lot of respect for is an expert in SEO and social media in his own right, recently posted that he completely disagreed with the idea of getting your business on lots of different social media sites, and it felt a bit like a cheap shot against the very points I have been making lately – that every business desperately needs to get active in claiming their brands on a large number of social media in order to protect their brands and grow their niche market prospects. Why, I asked myself, would this person I respect not only argue against the very things I am arguing for, but why would they ignore the reasons that make this kind of effort so important?
I took a little time and thought through his article in detail, and the point he was making is that for a lot of businesses the time, effort and energy spent in developing followings and communicating to large numbers of social media just doesn’t provide a big enough ROI to make it the right decision for those businesses, so as a result they should seriously focus on just the few that offer the best platforms for what they aim to achieve. Sounds fair enough, right?
Well, as I thought about it more I realized what was happening to create the sizable gulf between our positions. We both were discussing what businesses should do without defining what businesses we were referring to.
Once I figured that out, the answer became obvious – define the stages of business that require different solutions. This is my attempt to quantify what level of social media engagement planning your business really needs.
A Level 1 business is a business that usually has less than 10 employees, generates revenues under $150,000 annually, usually is a service based business or a knowledge based business, has growth rates in the 0-10% range or less, possibly has an individual product or service, but likely does not have a suite of products or services, likely experiences irregular revenue cycles, has limited if any process automation, does not use any business intelligence products, probably does not use any sales automation or sales intelligence products, has fewer than 250 regular clients, has a social media following of 2000 people or less, is not involved in content marketing, and has about as much need for SEO as they do for multiple organ replacement. These are just general guidelines, but if the majority of those apply to your business, stick to what you do best, hire a company to monitor your online reputation, carry an insurance policy against corporate identity theft and brand piracy, trademark your brand name, and then work on maintaining a reasonable presence on the top four social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube.) You simply have neither the time, nor the driving business need to invest in deeper brand control and brand management efforts.
A Level 2 business is a Level 1 business that has a compelling event or circumstance that means you have to develop a more serious plan. Examples could be the development of a new product and the need for a more comprehensive product launch, or it could be that your growth rate is making scaling what you do more difficult, putting pressure on your available time, and creating cost and customer engagement issues. Regardless of what the trigger circumstance is, if there is a compelling reason then a Level 2 business will need to start looking seriously at what niches they want to focus on and match that up to available automation services or products that will help them reduce the time and cost impact of their social media strategy. Although you probably will still concentrate on the top 4 social media, your biggest challenges will come from the ability to generate the volume of content you need to create compelling and engaging environments for your prospects, customers and followers. Your objective will be to build a strategy that leads them from being newly connected to being engaged in your content and from there to convert into sales.
When your company gets to Level 3 some major changes have occurred, and your company profile will be quite different. In this case your revenue size and your employee size are probably quite a bit larger than a Level 1 or 2 company. I would expect that the ranges here are probably between $250,000 and $10 million in annual revenues and you will likely have between 5 and 40 staff members in your organization. You are probably using several silo-ed systems such as a CRM system with several thousand customers and prospects in it.
At this stage of the game, you’ve left the world of micro-business behind and you have fully graduated to small enterprise, and with that comes a whole new range of core responsibilities and marketing needs. Your customers now won’t be satisfied by simply having a chat with you when you’re available; they want to know that someone is actively engaged in their specific business, whether that’s building new products for them, providing your business’ services, or simply being an account manager on the other end of the phone. This means whole new levels of engagement are critical, and that engagement now truly needs to be strategically built in the niche markets where your growth strategy dictates.
This means you need to have either dedicated staff or an outsourced service to design, develop, and distribute strategically branded content across a variety of platforms and networks to reach your audiences and engage them in your brand.
So you have a business that meets or exceeds everything needed to make it a Level 3 business and you’re wondering what it takes to merit a Level 4 Social Media Engagement strategy? Fair question.
The answer is pretty straight forward. If your business is targeting international clients, manages prospects overseas or nationally, has multiple branches or brands, is growing at a rate of 25% annually or more, is engaged in multi-lingual or multi-currency support, have a marketing campaign that involves co-branding, or have developed a following of either 10,000 or more followers in any one social media or 5,000 or more in any 3 social media, then you need to do everything in your power to protect and control your brand on as many social media sites as possible, and there really is no excuse for not doing it. You will need truly expert help here on several points: content strategies, distribution, branding, data capturing, customer service optimization, and much more.
Finally you look at a level 5 business. This is a major national or international brand, a company with revenues over $300 million annually, probably over $500 million, with at least 500-1000 employees. Your role has changed to include not only social media engagement with your customers and followers, but to include your internal customers and staff members as well.
You have a fully integrated social media customer service strategy as well as a social media marketing and engagement plan, and you actively assess every new social media and social media tool for strengths and weaknesses in protecting and expanding your brand.
On those sites where you do not plan to have an active social media setting, you are still actively acquiring those branded accounts so that no one else does. Brand control is no longer optional, it is compulsory and is likely subject to regulatory requirements.
By now a social media network security plan becomes a mission critical component of your business’ risk management strategy because of the vested value of each network in supporting your brand and in nurturing your sales pipeline.
Your social media are directly integrated to advanced technologies that automate your distribution and provide you with state of the art analytics that are directly tied into your CRM customer data, and your e-commerce platforms.
So once I made that grouping of business needs, it became clear that my contact was right – there are quite a number of businesses that don’t critically need to protect their brands on all social media, and which businesses he was referring to, but it also told me who I was speaking to in my blogs. I have been speaking to the high-growth oriented Micro-businesses and larger enterprises or to those for whom celebrity status makes a real difference in their business, and that’s why there was this disconnect between what he was saying, and what I’ve been saying on this subject – we’re talking about different people with different needs. So the question for you is this – what level of Social Media Engagement Strategy does your company need?