Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A Beginner's Social Media Strategy

I say 'for beginners' as I don't feel particularly qualified to discuss it in much detail (as you'll soon see), and this is more an explanation of my background and experience so far.

A few years ago, I set up my own website; you may have seen me refer to it previously. It was set up entirely as an exercise in website-building and tagging - it's all hard-coded HTML. It's tagged with Google Analytics, and I've been monitoring traffic to it since then, doing a little SEO and making changes (and hopefully improvements) to the content here and there. As analysts, we're usually charged with analysing, understanding and reporting stats, and then generating recommendations from them; we're not usually given a logon to a CMS and given free run of a website. By building my own website, I got to play both sides (and realised how time-consuming content generation and site maintenance can be). Better still, I've even been running A/B/C tests on it, and finding out how easy it is to set up (providing you've got multiple content ready to serve).

Anyway, with time, I moved from focussing on the website to a blog. Blogs are, for this JavaScript beginner, much easier than HTML websites, especially when I can't use server-side includes. So, even with a WYSIWYG HTML editor, blog posts are much easier than HTML pages. Once again I found out how to tag my blog by putting javascript includes in my posts and inserting GA tags in my posts, and I've monitored the traffic. I also discovered how many analysts there are out there who are reading this blog (it's not a huge number, but compared to the single digits I was experiencing before I started writing about web analytics, it's a significant uplift). The blog has an 'about me' page which includes my Facebook and Twitter details, so that people can follow me, and I post updates about my blog on Twitter or Facebook or both, and occasionally on the Yahoo Web Analytics forum.

All of which means that I've built up a cyclical path between my social media accounts (where you can find links to my blog) and my blog (which explains how to follow me on social media).

That's not a strategy, that's just a circle. Which brings me to one key question: What am I actually trying to achieve with all this online presence?

Am I trying to get Twitter followers? Am I doing this for my ego, or for PR, or something like that? Maybe, but probably not.  Am I trying to get Facebook friends? No - I've got enough friends (and I've met 99% of them in person) and I've successfully tracked down my best friends from primary school, high school and university. Am I trying to get more people to read my blog? Now then - that seems more likely. What I'm trying to do is to share what I know about various subjects (maths, chemistry, chess, web analytics) and hopefully build up an online reputation as a reliable source of useful, accurate information - to be regarded as a specialist in my field (and possibly even, one day, an expert).

People aren't going to get that level of knowledge about me from my Twitter feed (which, even with my best intentions, is very clouded up with links to miscellaneous stuff I find interesting). They are most certainly not going to get that from my Facebook updates, which are much more personal and include family updates, photos from days out and the like, and are very much about my views and opinions and general chatter. Hopefully, though, my peers and friends will read my blog, where I write my more considered opinions and views, and share what I hope will be useful insights into areas that specifically interest me - as I said, Chess, maths, chemistry and web analytics. The blog also has a Google Analytics goal set up - visitor views the About Me page - and this means that my social media strategy not only has an aim (to get people to read the blog) but a specific goal (find out more about me and my professional skills and experience).

I could go on and build KPIs about blog traffic levels and so on, and on to Twitter followers (excluding the spam accounts) but these will be secondary to getting people to view my profile page on my blog. I can THEN use analytics to tell me which blog post they read before reading my profile, and also where they came from... and then write more blogs on similar topics and post links on similar sources.

And that, in a nutshell, is my social media strategy. I can't say that it's scalable to a company level, but I think the main points (which are probably covered elsewhere) are:

What am I actually trying to achieve with all this online presence (answer in English words)?
What is my actual aim?
What does this look like as an online event (in page terms)? Make this an online 'goal' or 'event' in analytics package.
What type of visitor carries out a success event? Which social media site did they come from?
How do I get more of them? What sort of content do they look at?

I'm not sure if this is a social media strategy, or just a reiteration of a normal online strategy. Like I said, I'm a beginner on social media strategies (despite having a blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts for years) so I'm open to other suggestions!

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