Most marketers already understand that the biggest benefit to adding social media to their marketing strategy is that a brand can join its customers where they meet and exchange information. One billion people are talking to each other on Facebook. They’re discussing everything from the movie they saw last night to the horrible customer service person they just dealt with on the phone. Brands can sit back and let their customers control conversations related to their product or service – or they can join the discussion and become an active participant in the shaping of their brand’s image.
If you’re a marketer who hasn’t implemented a social media strategy (yes, they do exist), the first thing you’ll want to do is develop a written strategy. By developing a strategy, you’ll avoid common pitfalls down the road.
To develop an effective social media strategy, you’ll need to address these 9 questions:
1. Who is your target market?
This seems like an easy task, but you’d be surprised how many new business owners don’t know who their target market is. Spend time giving this some serious thought. If you already know your target market, think about additional markets you can tap into. For example: You currently sell women’s shoes. Have you ever thought about developing a specific strategy that targets African American women? Once you’ve determined your target market, do you know which social networks they use? Establish a strategy for approaching your target market without coming off as a pushy salesperson.
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2. Who are you?
Do you really understand what your organization does? Do you understand how your organization’s product or service benefits the consumer? I’ve trained a lot of marketers at the senior level who didn’t comprehend the full scope of their organization’s products and services. A marketer can’t successfully promote something he doesn’t understand.
3. What are you trying to accomplish?
There’s a reason you decided to use social media as part of your marketing strategy: what is it? Are you trying to launch a new product? Are you trying to increase sales? Are you trying to build brand awareness? Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, set specific and measurable goals that will help you determine the success of your social media campaign.
4. Who will create, implement and manage your campaign?
Some organizations are large enough to afford a social media team that consists of marketing professionals on all levels. The executive level person develops the strategy, the senior manager implements the strategy and the entry-level person manages the day-to-day tasks of posting updates and responding to community members. Some organizations outsource one, or all, of these tasks to a third party. Regardless of who you choose, those people (or that third party) must have extensive knowledge of social media and must be passionate about building and maintaining relationships.
5. What tools will you use?
There are hundreds of social media tools on the market – many of which are free to use. Some of the tools you might want to consider using are blogs, your own website, video sharing websites, social media press releases, content management and tracking tools, apps developed for your smart phone or tablet, and content curation tools.
6. Where will your content come from?
The one concern I hear often from business owners struggling with their social media campaign is “I sit at my computer and try to figure out what to post on my business page, but I always draw a blank.” The main reason these business owners sit staring at a blank screen is because they didn’t establish a social media strategy before they added social media to their marketing strategy. If they had, deciding what to post on their business page would be simple.
I always advise business owners and marketers to establish a content marketing strategy as an addendum to their social media strategy. This content strategy will include a plan for developing content and it will include a content calendar. Your content should be a good mix of your own content (blogs, pictures, videos, promotional items) and other people’s content (OPC). Before you post any content, you should always ask yourself: will my community find this content useful, informative or entertaining?
7. What milestones will you establish?
Establish time-frames for accomplishing short-term (3 – 6 months) and long-term (1 year) goals. Consider timing your milestones with product launches or major corporate initiatives.
8. How will you measure your progress?
Measuring your progress is extremely important, especially since you probably have a boss you have to answer to. Besides having a boss who will want to know exactly how the company’s social media strategy is progressing, you’ll want to know your progress so you can build on the activities that are working well and discard any tasks that are wasting time and money.
Use Bit.ly or a similar URL shortener to track clicks on links you’ve posted on your social networks. Tracking tools, like Bit.ly, will help you track how often your content is shared and these tools will help you monitor the level of engagement with your content.
You’ll also want to track any leads generated by your social media activity. And of course, you’ll want to track any revenue related to your social media activity. Tracking other conversions, like the growth of your e-newsletter, will provide you with a clear picture of the success (or failure) of your social media strategy.
9. How will you manage your brand’s reputation?
Assign a person to assume the responsibility of monitoring the social media sphere for mentions of your company’s name. That person should also watch for mentions of any key executives at your organization. There are dozens of social monitoring tools that will help you stay alert. If a problem arises, your brand manager should put out that fire quickly. She should respond to questions, comments and complaints from your social community.
Brands that take the time to write a solid social media strategy will develop a great relationship with their social community. Those brands will also avoid common pitfalls that damage a brand’s reputation. By establishing an effective content strategy, brands will generate content that gets their community engaged and keeps them returning to the brand’s web properties time and time again. A successfully implemented social media strategy will turn a brand’s community members into brand evangelists who, by default, sell the brand’s products or services to their friends and family.
Did we miss any important questions marketers should consider while developing their social media strategy? If we did, sound off in the comments!