Social media has transformed how we communicate. From multi national corporations, right through to pressure groups, social media platforms have become increasingly key to integrated communications systems. However, as this blog shall explore, simply having a social media presence is not enough.
While the social media revolution has spread like wildfire in the last half decade, not all organisations have been quick on the up-take. According to a 2011 report by Professor Michael Wade 88% of 425 European firms surveyed agreed that social media was important to their business. However just 37% of them had any social media presence. This highlights a surprisingly unsavvy culture in sections of business.
If so many businesses are not using social media at all, it is not unfair to suggest that many of those that do, are not utilising platforms to their full potential. Simply having a facebook page, or a twitter account is not enough. Without segmenting your audience, a relevant and efficient communications strategy just isn’t possible. In terms of demographics, psychographics, and online behaviour, you need to know about the people you interact with. Professional communicators would not approach any other comms medium without this at the forefront of their mind. Why not with social media?
Demographic segmentation is perhaps the most obvious. Twitter tends to be used by younger people for example, and has a mixed personal and professional tone. Whereas facebook is used by a broader spectrum of age groups, and tends to be more personal than twitter. Getting the tone right is important. What you post on one platform isn’t always appropriate on another. Get it wrong, and you risk coming across as too stuffy or too laid back. Perhaps even both at once to different stakeholders.
Social media platforms generally lack bespoke segmentation functions. Google+ has made what seem to be the most significant strides into allowing for user segmentation of their audience. By allowing users to put their contacts into different ‘circles’, an organisation can more easily manage stakeholder relations. This function is limited however, in that it is a manual process. A large organisation, or an organisation dealing with an unexpected rise in contacts (e.g. during a crisis situation) may find it difficult to keep current what are, in effect, several micro databases. And as with any database, keeping it accurate is key to efficient targeted communications strategies.
Analytics tools, independent of social media platforms, have developed over the last few years. They can help organisations analyse their social media contacts, allowing for a clearer picture of how, and when, to communicate. Crowd Booster is particularly impressive, delivering bespoke mini comms plans. It includes analysis of the best time to tweet for maximum reach, and the ability to programme your account to tweet pre written messages at that time. This means that the hectic schedule of a comms professional, need not get in the way of tweeting at the times most key to getting your message across. This function is also useful if you have a global audience. If you have important stakeholders in North America, or East Asia, it is important to make sure key messages are accessible to them in terms of time zones.
It is also important to be able to segment your audience by how they interact with you. The Forrester Technographics tool is very useful for this, segmenting audiences into six categories as shown below. By gaining an understanding of not only who is in your network, and what they think, but also how they interact with social media, can give an organisation the edge when it comes to mapping a social media strategy relevant for its stakeholders. For example if your stakeholders turn out to be largely collectors, and critics, spending money developing a forum may be more successful at stakeholder engagement than relying on podcasts or blogs.
At the moment, google+ is leading the way on enabling user segmentation. But since facebook and twitter are used far more widely, utilising the third party tools, that provide more robust segmentation features, can be a great way of ensuring your social media objectives are as likely to be achieved as other elements of an integrated comms strategy.