This article is cross-posted at TheeMailGuide.com
You’ve heard it before, “Conversations about your brand are happening…with or without you.” Whether or not you have integrated social media into your company’s marketing platform, your organization is already “in” social media. So what is holding you back from actively participating in this medium?
I was recently approached by a company discouraged with its lack of success in social media. I asked the marketing staff to describe their strategy. Their response was, “We set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog. We post daily and have 1,200 fans on Facebook, but discovered many are hiding our posts.” Unfortunately, this is a common mistake made by businesses exploring social media. While those are some of the tools needed to implement a strategy, it’s not a strategy. Jumping into social media without having a clearly defined plan is an exercise in frustration. Developing a comprehensive strategy is the first key to success and is composed of defining several elements:
Define Your Goals. Your strategy is the path to achieve your goals; so set your objectives first. Do you want to expand your customer base, drive sales, build brand awareness, educate consumers, increase brand loyalty, gain insight into your customer, gather product development input or feedback, etc.? Don’t try to do all of these things at once. Choose a few viable and sustainable goals for your first year.
Define Your Brand. The social platform offers you an in-depth opportunity to tell your story. Who are you? What is your mission? What do you care about? Most importantly, what do you want to resonate with your audience?
Define Your Audience. Before you can engage your audience, you need to understand who it is. Gather the demographics: age, gender, ethnicity, and income. Where are your current and potential customers geographically? How are they using social media? What are they currently talking about and to whom are they listening?
Define Your Community. Your audience is part of a larger community. This is not just which social networks they are using, but with whom they are interacting within those networks. Who are the influential players within the community? Who are the authorities relevant to your industry and which blogs are the most read? How are your competitors involved in the community? What is important to the community? How will you reach out to other experts within the community?
Define Your Commitment. Interactive marketing is a long-term commitment which involves virtually every department within an organization. From marketing, public relations, and corporate social responsibility to IT, product development and customer service, internal collaboration will be essential to a successful social media campaign. Do you have the full support of upper management? Have you discussed the initiative internally with all departments? What is your time and financial allocation to this platform?
Define Your Voice. If you were selling children’s products, you wouldn’t hire the Marlboro Man to be the face of your company in a television commercial. The same consideration needs to be given to who will be executing your social media strategy. Your “voice” will be representing your brand, amplified across the web, in a medium which requires both professionalism and personal engagement. Will you outsource or execute internally? What qualifications will you require? There are a lot of self-proclaimed social media gurus out there and having a Facebook page with thousands of “friends” doesn’t make someone an expert.
Define Your Success. Establishing business performance metrics is essential. What metrics and benchmarks will you use to qualify and quantify success? There are many ways to evaluate social media performance: customer impressions, ROI, increased sales, influence, and engagement.
Whether you are new to social media or have ventured in with little success, proper planning is as critical as execution. Employing social media marketing is a long-term commitment. Developing a strategy by defining these elements prior to participation will save you a lot of time, frustration and financial resources.
In future posts I will delve into each of these fundamentals, as well as how to implement a social media strategy. I welcome your feedback. Have I missed anything? What are some of the elements you include in your social media strategy?