As more and more of us realise the importance of developing an online strategy, an obvious question pops up: Where to start? And as with any business strategy processes, it’s important to get a clear idea of where you are, where you want to go and how you intend getting there.
Flourishing in this environment requires an adaptable, flexible and responsive strategy that continually monitors and measures reactions to campaigns outcomes in a manner that allows the brand team to respond accordingly and timeously.
Here are five key considerations in developing and managing your online strategy:
1. Start at the beginning
The departure point for developing an online strategy is to conduct a full audit of your brand’s online presence and reputation. Such a study needs to consider your positioning in relation to competitors, why that differentiation exists and what it tells you about the business environment you’re engaging in.
By understanding people’s sentiments and the factors that influence their massively positive or negative views, it’s possible to decide on an action plan: Do we use marketing and communications to correct and direct perception, or is this an operational change that the business needs to address before we can proceed with any effectiveness?
2. Join the right kind of conversation
Consumer sentiment is all-important in the business realm, which significantly heightens the need to participate in and steer the types of conversations that are influential and meaningful. By understanding what drives that influence and knowing how you’re positioned in relation to your competitors, it’s possible to target your efforts at the audiences and conversations that hold greatest sway with the right people buying into your brand.
3. Choose your platform
Unchecked, a brand’s online reputation can go from hero to zero, or vice versa, and is largely driven by what the business does at its core: At a business strategy, brand/marketing/communications strategy or implementation level. The viral nature of influence and reputation is both a threat and an opportunity, which demands that brands understand where and how they can best manage on and offline messages around their brands — irrespective whether they are driven by the brand, press or consumers.
4. Know who is driving conversations
The strength of online platforms is the ability to draw qualitative data on who is saying what, how that is perceived in the market and what it means to the audience. By defining who your audience is and who the influencers are within that audience, you should be able to adapt your strategy based on real intelligence to define and engage your target market — irrespective whether this activity will take place on or offline.
5. Understand the spikes and troughs
Brand management is never plain sailing. With analytical and measurement tools, brands can however gain insight into what is driving dramatic increases in the volume of conversation, the associated sentiment and track their performance against their competitors. Understanding what’s causing the various outliers should be fed back into the strategic process and either repeated to increase impact or managed to reduce risk.
Measurement of online conversations is fast becoming a critical business activity — not only does it provide insight on how to improve digital strategies but it provides almost instantaneous feedback to the business on where issues lie, provides input on what can be done to solve them and identifies future business strategies to better meet people’s needs.