I heard Tony Hsieh of Zappos say something in an interview a few weeks ago that made me think we might be taking all of this social media strategy stuff too seriously.
When asked about Zappos’ social media strategy, Tony said, “Just be real, and use your best judgment.” Sounds reasonable.
But what did this mean for the 50 blog posts I’d read over the last few weeks that spent a thousand words detailing how to develop your social media strategy for 2013?
Can we just delete all of those and tell ourselves (and our employees) to “just be real, and use your best judgment?”
Probably not. But I do think the “experts” tend to over-analyze stuff a lot. And I think we may all benefit from a simpler strategy that does focus more on “being real,” rather than worrying about who you are trying to be on social media.
The Zappos Way
There are two things Zappos does that makes this simple strategy work for them ~ where for others it would result in common occurrences of inappropriate and embarrassing tweets, followed by apologies and explanations. If you can do these two things, it will simplify your social media strategy, and your whole business.
1. Develop Your Core Values
As Zappos began to grow really big, they took input from all employees and boiled it down into 10 core values to define the company’s family culture. And this isn’t just one of those “look good” kind of things that hangs out on a plaque in the corporate office, or on page 84 of the employee handbook. It’s what the company actually strives to live by.
If you think you don’t need core values, or something similar, because your company is “just you,” you are wrong. Your core values are a big part of finding the unique voice that will make your company a success. They define what you stand for, who you are, how you’ll handle things in your business.
Develop your core values, and a good part of your social media strategy is in place.
2. Hire the Right People
Another thing Zappos does really well is hire people that fit in with their core values. Sometimes the right “fit” trumps what would otherwise be considered the best qualifications.
When you surround yourself with people that share your core values, they’re also going to be a fit for your social media strategy. And you’re less likely to be left explaining that your employee meant to tweet his racist comment from his personal account, rather than your company account.
Again, don’t discard this as not applying to you because you haven’t hired anyone yet. You can’t run a profitable online business without help. You’ll be hiring some type of help, soon!
What Social Media Strategy Do You Need?
Even if you’ve got your core values, and you’ve hired the right people, there are still a couple of decisions you’re going to have to make before you can “just be real, and use your best judgment.”
1. What Social Media Networks Should You Have a Presence On?
Let’s assume for a minute that you don’t have an unlimited budget to hire someone to manage Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube for you. It’s going to be impossible to have a strong presence on all of these social media networks.
Because “presence” doesn’t mean you’re broadcasting every post to every network through Hootsuite. It means you’re actually having conversations with people on your social media networks.
So you’re going to have to chose two networks to build a really strong presence on. And 1-2 others that you are pretty consistently involved with.
2. What Type of Content Should You Be Posting?
Generally, there are six types of content you can post on social media: quotes, your articles, promotions, curated content, personal updates, and customer service.
Which of these are you going to use? And will it differ depending on which social media platform you’re posting on?
What percentage of your postings will each category make up? How often will you post on each platform?
How Do You Make These Decisions?
The good news is, these decisions aren’t terribly hard to make. You go where your audience is, and you share what they are interested in.
Of course, the trick is figuring out where they are and what they want. While that’s a discussion for another day, it’s not a terribly hard thing to do if you’re willing to do a little research, spend some time hanging out in the different social media networks, and test to see what works.
In the End, It’s Not That Hard
Nothing I’ve talked about is very hard. Resist that urge to over-think your social media strategy. Don’t let anyone convince you that social media is a barrier to a more profitable business, rather than a gateway.
Figure out what the best networks are for your business, go there, and deliver what your audience wants. Be yourself, have conversations with people, and make sure you are adding value to their day.
“Just be real, and use your best judgment” isn’t too far from what you need. Unless of course you’re a jerk . . .
Let me know in the comments below if you agree. If not, what do you see as the essential elements of an effective social media strategy?