While there is a large number of strategic options, depending on the target market, a few basic principles apply to all scenarios.
Faced with the success of social networks, it may be very tempting to mindlessly follow the trend, because the competition is already there or because you’ve been won over by the options offered by these new media. This is the biggest mistake you can make. Slapdash, inconsistent or untimely communication can seriously undermine a company’s reputation. Any online marketing operation must be well thought-out and adapted to the company’s target market, its communication goals and the resources at its disposal, as well as being subject to a checklist:
- Are you happy with your main website? Your company’s main website is your business card. It is the very heart of your online presence and your whole strategy should be aimed at increasing traffic to the website. Is it ready for a large number of visits? Is it ergonomic, pleasant and easy to visit and up to date? Is it optimized for compatibility with social networks?
- What are the goals of your online communication? Identify your online marketing goals carefully. Do you want to raise your profile, develop an online store, share your expertise, meet business partners, optimize customer service or increase traffic to your website?
- Who is your target audience? Determine your target audience. What is your market? Who are your buyers, your customers? On which platforms are they present? What is the best way of reaching them? What can you offer that the competition does not?
- Do you have sufficient human and technical resources? Make sure you have the resources to successfully carry out your plans. Social media requires a sustained presence and a high level of responsiveness. Do you have people with the necessary skills? What content can you reasonably produce and how often?
- Which platforms should you use? Carefully select the social networks most appropriate to your goals and requirements and to the resources at your disposal. Where is your target market? Which tools will help you best achieve your goals?
- How will you evaluate the impact of your strategy? Think about regularly measuring the results of your online marketing. Determine evaluation processes and criteria and adapt your actions accordingly.
These points must be carefully thought-out and set down in writing with a view to developing a precise policy for the company’s use of social networks. These guidelines will also clarify how the company's online image is conceived (objectives, choice of social networks, method of communicating, target audience, etc.), as well as the conduct to be adopted by employees (who is authorized to communicate on the company’s behalf and how? What are the rules in matters of confidentiality? etc.). The company’s whole online strategy must be consistent. For this, it may be wise to use an online marketing expert who will help determine the best solutions depending on the situation.
Sources: Réseaux sociaux et entreprise: les bonnes pratiques, Christine Balagué and David Fayon, Pearson, 2011; Le marketing en ligne, Jon Reed and Christine Balagué, Pearson, 2011.