by Peter de Gosztonyi
I don’t know about you, but this entire social media wave has at times completely overwhelmed me, the pace at which this whole trend is moving and changing is breathtaking. Yet as a business owner I know that one can’t ignore this and it certainly is not going away, so you have to get on the train or you will be left at the station wondering what happened.
Being a very logical and process oriented individual (OK I admit I am an engineer) , I approached this whole social media thing in a logical, one step at a time, process. What I quickly learned that this is not a linear process, in fact at first glance, anarchy and chaos seemed to be a fitting description of the way things happen.
Of course the most frustrating part is the “all you have to do is …..” recommendations, Even the first step everyone seems to recommend of setting up a “listening post” for your organization or a Google alert for your key words is not trivial for the first timer. Unless your key words are so unique that they rarely show up, you can expect having thousands of alerts to go through on a daily basis, similarly if you are following lots of tweets and news feeds (RSS) the volume can become unmanageable. Finding and setting up a common feed can also be confusing, so a good social media adviser is a huge time saver. If you are under 30, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about, however those of the boomer era are techno immigrants – we didn’t grow up with this stuff so it is sometimes harder to comprehend why one would do certain things. I digress.
After a lot of web cruising and blog reading plus reading books by the thought leaders of our time (Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith is one of my favourites) an underlying theme actually did start to emerge – quite a relief to a logical mind. This may not be an epiphany to most people but it put everything into context for me.
Essentially your website is the focal point of your marketing efforts; consider it as the hub and social media as well as your traditional marketing as channels bringing interested people to your website. These channels include search engines, links from other sites and thousands of mentions of your organization in the mediasphere.
Of course managing these channels is a challenge and it requires discipline and time management to ensure that your day is not totally caught up in just monitoring the social media channels to the detriment of your business.
What this does mean is that the time has passed when all you needed to do was to put 90% of your efforts towards making your website work well, now you should spend 75% (leaving 25% to your website) of your marketing efforts on building communities of interest, and awareness of your organization in these different spaces that will bring interested visitors to your website. In order to retain their interest and keep them coming back you need to also build a dynamic content rich, collaborative web space.
At the moment, the common belief is that you also need a blog to build relevant content as well as a website which provides the means to convert visitors to customers. This is the foundation that needs to be in place before you really get your social media activities going.
How then do you know if your current website is capable of meeting your social media needs? Perform an audit – have a close look at your organizational objectives and tie them into what you expect your website to deliver to meet these objectives. Then you should analyze your visitor behaviour by looking at your web traffic statistics – assuming that you are not already managing your website through critical business metrics. This establishes your benchmark for comparing the impact of your social media efforts. There are also a number of other tools such as which websites are linking to yours (backlines), traffic ranking and so on which add competitive information to your arsenal.
What is interesting is that you really don’t have to toss out the old and completely redesign your website, after all a successful organization has built a lot of assets into their websites and customers recognize that value, so it is important to determine what those assets are ( e.g. content) and dispose of those that don’t bring value to your customers or you. That is why a good comprehensive audit is necessary at the onset.
The other key element is to establish effective business measures. These are based on the web statistics ( visits, duration, pages viewed etc) and other inputs ( calls, inquiries, orders, etc)but only the relevant ones are identified as key performance indicators ( KPI’s). These of course need to be linked to your overall organizational objectives. You don’t need many but you need to make sure that they are sensitive enough and relevant to identify trends and patterns so that further investigation can be taken to understand why certain trends are happening so you can take action ( the most important criteria for a metric – will it result in an action that improves your ROI).
Even if you already manage your website this way (congratulations! you would be surprised how many organizations large and small don’t) and knowing that your website will deliver once the word gets out is critical in making your marketing efforts worthwhile. That is why an audit and strategy review is an essential first step – even if you are well on your way with your social media plan, it is a smart move to ensure your website foundation can support your objectives.
If you have built a solid foundation in your website, then you can turn your efforts in bringing the right traffic to your site and keeping your visitors coming back and building that ever so important relationship.
Peter de Gosztonyi is a long time quality practitioner and web strategist. He spent many years in a customer focused environment which translates well into today’s customer driven websites. His analytic background combined with the customer comes first philosophy yields some interesting insights on what drives visitor behaviour on websites. He is currently a senior associate with Web-Insight.
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