Last week, I read a brilliant post by Jim Ducharme titled, “EMAIL: What’s in a name?” where he defined the word email. I loved the acronym approach he took as it really got me thinking about what’s behind my baby, social media. In contemplating the realities of my everyday job and my personal testaments, I’ve come up with my own list. Without further ado, here’s my take on defining social media:

S – Speediness

Yes, that’s right. Not strategy (you’ll find that elsewhere). If your company is going to invest in social media, you need to address the immediacy in responding to others. Don’t wait days after a question is posted, or after a contest has concluded to make respond. As mobile technology continues to grow, the requirement for propinquity will grow. Note that I don’t relate speediness to thoughtless replies, but as a way to connect with your fans/followers/subscribers with real-time communication.

O – Optimization

Wait for it… Strategy, is key to develop a cohesive social media plan. Whether you’re holding a Twitter contest, or asking your subscribers to SWYN your latest email promotion, you must be able to answer the question WIIFM (from the end user). To build an effective social media presence, it’s imperative that you are continually reviewing your plan/strategy to optimize your results.

C – Credibility

Social networking sites are excellent tools for spreading your marketing message (duh), but getting potential consumers to devote trust in you is much more important. Trust = ROI. Transparency within a community is a great way to build trust, thus optimizing your efforts. Companies that succeed at social media are successful at removing barriers, humanizing their brand and creating value. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are relationships.

I – Integration

This has been top of mind for many of us for awhile now and could be an entire post in it of itself. We should all know by now that integrating your email marketing program with your social media is a great way to promote across channels. Using social calls to action in email is a great way to grow your reach and give subscribers/fans/followers the choice of how they prefer to communicate with you. The essential things to remember in integrating the two are:

1) Make sharing easy

2) Repurpose content

3) Find a consistent voice/tone

4) Highlight activity in 1 channel to another (Ex. Notify email subscribers of contests/giveaways going on in your social communities)

A – Awareness

Social media is a fundamental way to build your brand. Unlike most other channels, social media allows for real-time conversations to occur. Following, “Liking”, RT’ing, Sharing, etc. are social gestures to the world that an individual endorses an idea, brand, or product. Word-of-mouth marketing is and should be the most powerful way to endorse awareness of your brand in online marketing. When positive, WOM marketing increases credibility and decreases risk. Additionally, make certain you’re attentive of what’s being said about your brand. Being conscious of what’s going on around you will allow you to pick up the slack and immediately tackle any outstanding issues.

L – Loyalty

As stated above, social media tools are essential for building brand awareness. While these may not be as easily tracked as direct marketing channels with quantifiable data (such as ROI, or LTV), it’s an unambiguous gauge for assessing brand recognition and loyalty. Social media aids in cultivating brand visibility and conversations with existing and potential customers. Loyalty programs have not become obsolete, they’re simply evolving with the evolution of social media. It’s vital to incorporate promotions for each social channel and cross promote.

 

M – Measurement

Using social media effectively, specifically for business, isn’t merely a popularity game. There’s a myriad of (free and paid) tools that can provide you with the ability to track your reach and effectiveness. By building profiles of your subscribers/fans/followers, you can measure engagement in each channel using the metrics appropriate to it and then compare the channels using an index. Taking this a step further, you could perform list hygiene and re-engagement efforts based off lapsed engagement by channel. Define your KPI’s before you start number crunching. Defining what exactly you want to measure is most important and correlate these metrics with the goals of your organization. After all, you cannot improve what is not measured and monitored.

E – Engagement

Come on, you knew this had to be one… Think of social communities as brand communities. Conversation is a 2-way street. Don’t hard sell on every post/message. Create compelling, valuable content and let the content itself do the marketing. Ask questions. Elicit feedback. Find a conversational tone. Ultimately, social media isn’t about you, it’s about learning and connecting with your existing and potential customers.

D – Dedication

The investment that you have to make in social media is time and effort. We know that quality is greater than quantity and it will take time to get here. Patience is imperative. Social media will only work for your business if you continue to be involved on an ongoing and indefinite basis. Whether you have a dedicated team in-house, or you’ve outsourced a firm, there has to be resources allocated to it. To be successful, you must invest time to create, manage and grow your online presence. The more you work social media, the better it’ll work for your business.

I – Influence

Influence is market-dependent, but there’s a scheme to each market. You won’t be able to influence your customers, if you don’t let them influence you. Asking for feedback will help guide you to building a more unified social media program. Identifying influencers is a vital piece of the puzzle. Start with identifying the people (or types of people) that have influence over potential buyers. Ask yourself: Who are they? Where can we find them? How are they influenced? By finding influencers and treating them as such, you’ll gain additional creditability, voice and trust.

A – Accessibility

Social media is increasingly becoming an additional customer service avenue for companies. Though this isn’t the sole reason they participate in social media (thankfully), they’re lending a helping hand to customers with questions, issues and concerns. By making yourself easily accessible, you’re cutting through the noise and assisting in smoother communications. The mobile world is continually changing the pace in which we can reach our audience and it’s going to challenge our ability to bridge the gap of convenience. Manage expectations of your customers by being readily accessible. Beat your competition here.

So there you have it. I could’ve done multiple words for each letter, but stuck to my guns and chose the word that I best feel describes the essence of social media. What letter(s) would you change?