When people ask me what I think ‘UX’ means, my response is generally pretty consistent: “UX is the synthesis of business requirements, content requirements, and users insights.”
In this post, I’ll explain why UX is the key to being successful in social media.
First, lets examine the 4 most common objectives of social media.
1. Get a user to buy something
Although I really don’t think social commerce is going to catch on, I think social media is great for creating buzz around an offer. So, if you want someone to actually buy something, you should probably have a trackable offer. (i.e. a promo code, coupon, etc.)
2. Get a user to think something
In order to think something, users need to be convinced to think that way. Generally, users don’t want to spend any time being convinced, however most social media campaigns try to convince users to think something. (i.e. We want users to think ProGlide blades last a long time.) In order to achieve this objective, brands need to create engaging content, geared toward their users and proactively seek out conversations with users about relevant content their posting.
3. Get a user to tell you something
All you have to do is ask. Users like talking through social media channels. If you’d like to know something about them, just ask. There are a TON of really slick tools out there to help monitor what users are already saying about you - so really, all you have to do is listen, and probe when you need more clarification.
4. Get a user to share something
There are three guidelines when trying to achieve this objective: 1. Create content users want to share 2. Remove barriers to sharing 3. Ensure users know exactly whats being shared. - There are a dozen other guidelines I generally work into a social governance document (i.e. ask users to share, don’t create unsharable content, utilize different channels for different content, share others content. ect) but those are the big 3.
Understanding that these common objectives are at the heart of at least 80% of social media campaigns will help me explain how UX is the key to achieving these goals through social media channels. Remember, UX is the synthesis of content requirements, business requirements, and user insights.
I’m not saying that a single UX professional will be able to single-handedly craft an ongoing social media strategy, but I do feel that the following elements fall under the umbrella of UX strategy:
1. Content Strategy: I personally love content strategy, but don’t get asked to participate in its definition very often. This is definitely something that a UX professional would need to be asked to participate in, as its generally a big job. A good content strategy will help define how many channels you’ll be using, how you’ll be communicating, what memes you’ll be using, how frequently you’ll be communicating, segmentation, internationalization, etc. I think a good content strategy should be the force that unites digital strategy, social strategy and search strategy.
2. Requirements Gathering: Is probably the most important first-step in achieving an effective social strategy. This will, not only help determine what the goals and KPI’s of the strategy are, but it will also help educate clients & correct any preconceived ideas.
3. User Research: I’m not sure why brands find comfort in buying research from other companies, but the best form of user research (in my experience) to inform a social strategy are focus groups and card-sorts. Focus groups will help determine what your users are really interested in, and card sorts (or something similar) will help you determine communications strategy.
And the real key is taking these elements of strategy & synthesizing them into an actionable design specification document that outlines user flows, ecosystem design, and rough layouts.
This might seem straightforward to most of you, but it really is surprising how infrequently UX strategists are asked to participate in social media campaign design. I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with a very well known PR company that positions itself as a social media strategy authority. Not only did they not conduct any user research, they didn’t spend any time on content strategy. Their approach was to ‘ride-the-wave’ of content that social channels create, and simply add more content when available. They created a half-assed social media governance document that was obviously mostly ripped off from another client (as there were places within the document where the find-and-replace missed another clients name). So, not only did they not care about overall UX & message fragmentation, across channels - they only examined social media from a community manager perspective. This means they’ve come up with a competent way of listening & posting updates to selected social networks, however they haven’t thought about what content is the most effective, what tools are available on each channel, and how to integrate messages across channels. The biggest miss was the lack of mobile-centric communications.
If you want to elevate your social strategy & tactics - Please consult a UX professional. He may not be able to answer all the question-marks, but he’ll be able to help you define which questions need to be answered, and should be able to help evaluate the answer. He’ll also be able to synthesize the content, requirements and insights into a succinct social media plan.
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