A business reaching international audiences depends on idea sharing and connectivity for its continued success. Today, social media is increasing audience engagement even further. In fact, the key to a successful social media strategy is effective engagement. With social media's importance continuing to rise, understanding the key concepts will help give your business an edge in this increasingly connected climate. Following is a complete and global guide to navigating social media strategy.

How to Identify Your Target Audience

A common problem when developing a social media strategy is determining a specific target audience and understanding how best to communicate with them. Creating a buyer persona is an example of an interpretive approach that will help determine your intended audience. Once you have secured your target market you can begin observing their social media activity. It is important to note which platforms are most popular with who you are targeting. By understanding the user base of popular platforms, you are more likely to offer value to the consumer as well as increase brand exposure. It is more cost effective to target a specific buyer rather than simply directing information toward a general group. Further, being more specific in the initial stages will better prepare you for expansion in the future. You also must be cognizant of your business objectives, as it is likely they will be best achieved on different platforms. For example, Facebook or Twitter may be better suited to handle consumer service type engagements, while Youtube may be best for informational videos on core values. 

How to Engage Them

In order to set up a strategy for effective engagement, those responsible for engaging users need to be fully trained on social media protocol. Spending on social media is predicted to double over the next five years; however, surveyed CMOs were not confident in their ability to handle social media challenges. Marketers understand the importance of social media, but more training is required to ensure successful implementation of these efforts. An effective strategy creates content that both provides value and drives engagement. Examples of engaging content could be interactive graphics, surveys, contests, a series of Q&As, links to other sites, or a blog series. The best strategies personalize content for each platform. Aside from producing valuable content, listening to the consumer's feedback is just as important. Take time to understand what consumers are saying about your brand—use this information to continue improving your strategy. Google searches, analytics tools within social networks, and secondary research methods can all help to identify consumer feedback and trends.

How to Retain Them

Once you have outlined an initial strategy, engagement must be maintained. A key component of perpetuating engagement is understanding the organization's goals and how social media efforts are helping to achieve them. With purpose in mind, it is easier to track the progress of strategy components and redirect them if necessary. Delivering fresh content to users will promote engagement. Social media is flexible and constantly changing—your approach should be too. To be effective, a strategy should consist of measurable objectives: focus on goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Realistic and specific expectations will help to propel your business forward. It is equally important to observe your competition since their marketing wins and losses are essentially learning opportunities for your own approach. If competitors are sparking engagement through LinkedIn, explore options for representing your brand on the platform. If consumers are providing negative feedback on Facebook ads, consider shifting your approach to include more positively regarded sites. Lastly, it is crucial that senior decision makers understand the importance of social media to the brand's success. If executives are on board with social media strategy, company assets can be directed to ensure employees are provided with the training and tools necessary to be successful. Management might even consider investing in a social media monitoring service to help identify trends, detail customer engagement, and organize collected data.

How to Globalize

There are many aspects that can affect a business's ability to expand globally—ranging from the desired country's level of technological advancement to the understanding of local cultures. The internet has played a major role in building networks in local and global environments. However, expansion is limited due to areas not having access to advanced technologies such as high bandwidth speed. This occurrence creates a disconnect between regions and available media. Another aspect of global media strategy is the tendency for local events to gain attention from an international audience. If networks are unavailable and local events are never exposed online, it can keep a society from advancement. Good or bad, one incident could exponentially increase the reachability of your brand. Companies need to plan for both circumstances, so preparation is key. The overarching theme of global social media is that its unmatched connectivity has created copious opportunities where the internet can create a make or break situation for your company. Those planning to globalize should anticipate this fast-paced and connected environment, and dedicate a team to social media strategy.

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