Having spent the last year presenting the topic of social media marketing to a variety of professional trade associations, I’ve had the opportunity to see how various individuals, companies and industries respond to the concept. Unfortunately, the most common reaction to many of the ideas covered in my presentations (i.e. concepts like Twitter and LinkedIn profile optimization), is a blank stare.

As such, I decided it was time to develop a methodology for explaining and implementing a social media marketing campaign that even my grandmother could understand. After a little brainstorming and a few discussions with the team, I developed the “2MCE” process, which is a simple but effective way to understand and leverage the value of social media marketing, as outlined below.

Monitor & Measure

The first step in the 2MCE process is to Monitor & Measure. As with any marketing or communications strategy, it is always best to get a feel for your audience and the tools before you developing an overall campaign strategy. For starters, create Google Alerts for your branded terms, so you can be notified the moment something on the Internet related to your business is published. You can also use search engines to conduct real-time research (i.e. Google, BlogPulse and Technorati). More advanced marketers may opt to customize Yahoo! Pipes RSS feeds or pay for social media monitoring services (i.e. BuzzMetrics, Cymphony, Radian6). The bottom line is that you need to build your overall strategies based on where your customers live online, and agree on a set of metrics and benchmarks to measure volume and sentiment of conversations over time.

Create & Communicate

Once you’ve developed an overall social media strategy and set up monitoring and measurement (aka Web analytics), it’s time to reach out. When creating content for social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flicker, Twitter, etc.) try to ensure the content is timely, relevant, unique and valuable. Once the content is published, make sure that it is properly optimized, syndicated and promoted to your target audiences within those communities and beyond. When creating a Fan Page on Facebook, be sure to utilize FBML and the API to create interesting custom applications that get shared virally. On LinkedIn, create and manage a Group. On Google and Yahoo!, create gadgets and widgets respectively. Tools like HootSuite improve profile management for Twitter, while Hellotxt helps syndicate profile “updates” across multiple profiles (including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook). If you’ve created a blog, make sure to promote posts (via search engine optimization, tagging and RSS syndication).

Engage & Empower

Last but most importantly, now that you have a foundation including monitoring, measurement, optimized profiles and valuable content, it’s time to engage with your constituents and empower them to become evangelists for your brand. One of the most powerful forms of generating awareness and credibility within your industry is to engage in knowledge expert communities like LinkedIn Q&A and Yahoo! Answers. Similarly, participating actively in related online communities and threaded forums can create a level of connectivity with customers and prospects ad dollars can’t buy. Furthermore, Twitter and blogs can be more than one-way communications vehicles.  By monitoring the blogosphere and Twittersphere for relevant conversations, you can comment, reply and generally engage your audience on their terms, and bring them back to your site or profiles to continue the conversation and nurture the relationship.

By following the 2MCE processes, you can ensure your social media marketing efforts are focused and relevant. Don’t get distracted by specific tools, platforms or technology. Focus on the fundamentals and look forward to improving your bottom line. Of course Anvil Media, Inc., a search engine and social media marketing (SEM) agency is here to help develop, implement and manage your social media marketing strategy.

Author: Kent Lewis is President and Founder of Anvil Media and Formic Media, search engine and social media marketing agencies for companies ranging from Fortune 500 to local businesses.