Much has been written about the question of what kind of content a brand should use to curate their online presence. Should a company give fan-only discounts, focus on customer service issues, hold contests, talk about like-minded interests, feature property photos? Well, the answer in short is, yes.

Social media is a complicated, multi-headed, non-linear beast. And although there is no “right” combination, or exact answer for any brand, a well-informed social media marketer can achieve some pretty impressive things, through a series of strategies involving acquisition, retention, monitoring, and a good ol’ fashion “go-get-em” attitude. So, in the spirit of sharing, I’ll be doing a 4-part series (starting with this) to help get any social media strategy up and running. And for those with existing strategies, it will hopefully help you put the cherry on top.

(Now that the series is complete: Here’s the quick links to access all four parts: Part 1: Strategy, Part 2: Unique Content Curation, Part 3: Fan Acquisition, and finally, Part 4: Monitoring . Enjoy!)

OVERALL STRATEGY

There is an analogy that comes to mind when trying to sum up social media strategies and it comes directly from the title itself — “Social Networking.” Real-life networking is not a process of walking up to someone at a tradeshow and saying “I can take 20% off your next purchase” followed by “BUY NOW!” and then repeat it over and over indefinitely… that is, quite obviously, obnoxious.

Networking is a much more subtle process of introducing yourself, letting people know who you are, getting to know them, making connections between yourselves, and only after building that rapport do you explain how you can benefit them, offer your services, or hand them a business card and remind them to think of you the next time they need said services.

Think about this: You want them to be your fans so that when you want to advertise, or get out a certain message, or to send reminders so you remain “top of mind” — the fan base is there to speak to. But what do they have to gain? If you are offering discounts/specials, that might be one thing, but just like our pushy networking tactics, you can’t continually pound people with offers or it becomes intrusive and inhibits the inherent, natural flow of social media conversation. So what else can you offer?

This is where it’s important to introduce a word that we’ll use many times– curation. Your online presence, your persona, is the sum of the content you post, like, and share, all wrapped up in how you say it. So it’s important to figure out what kind of personality you want to portray and to do so with consistency.

For example, if you are a brand that caters more to a late 20s demo and “hip” is your thing, you can focus your posts on music, fashion and gizmos. You can share content from like-minded brands (Rolling Stone, Geekologie, Nylon Mag, etc), or even host events and upload photo galleries of the events.

Or, if you are a more business-oriented hotel brand, try posting funny business cliché’s, or sharing content from Wired, Business Insider, etc. Post polls about favorite tools for business, or host networking events and publicize via social media. The net result of this is that over time, your potential clients will have a  better, deeper understanding of your brand and how it connects to them in more than just room size, location, bed placement and price per night.

Why is this important? Simple…  a purchase, or a decision to stay with you, is one part line-listed benefits, and one part feeling. In such an undifferentiated marketplace as hotels, there are a large number of other hotels have A, B, and C qualifications to suit the needs of a potential guest. Ofte times, at the time of purchase, the consumer will have several similar hotel options, within close proximity of one another, for very similar prices — at which point the decision will be made based on emotion rather than technicality. And that differentiator just might be “who” you are, “what” your interests are, and whether or not they feel a connection to you.

And since you’re going through all this trouble to create and maintain a social persona, it would be a shame to not tell people about it, right? Sure, you’re going to entice people to find it via PPC ads, contests, word-of-mouth, but don’t forget to promote it via non-social channels as well. It seems so simple, but it’s often forgotten. You have a website? You’re already running ads? Business cards? In-room cards? POP displays? Elevator posters? Key cards? Are you a part of any local organizations? Everything and anything IRL (In Real Life) can lead to more views online. Take advantage of every last one of them.

As I’ve said before, social media is extremely non-linear… and the only way to truly draw people to a singular space that you want them in is to throw your net far and wide (print, talk, web banners, events, forum involvement, etc…) and leave as many pathways as possible that lead back to that singular point.

This alone could be considered a strategy, but the truth is, we’ve only begun to break the surface. We’ve yet to delve into the fine art of fan acquisition, the finer details of content curation, and the ever exciting, and ever-changing science of monitoring.

To continue your Social Media Journey, check out Part 2: Unique Content