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Social media marketing: A strategic action sheet

1st Apr 2010
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What are the main strategic social media marketing considerations you should keep in mind, and what questions should you ask yourself before implementing or improving your existing strategy?

Social media has been part of any internet user's life for the last five years, with services popping up and falling down at an astonishing pace. For marketers it is often overwhelming. The good news: it does not have to be.
If you don’t focus on the channels and the trends too much but look at your business goals and what your customers want, developing a social media marketing strategy is easier than you think. In the end, social media marketing is engagement marketing, and as a marketer you know what that is.
Social media marketing is like every other form of marketing: it requires strategy, planning, resources, measuring, etc. Planning, business objectives and strategy are key in social media marketing. In this first guide, we offer you a checklist of some things to consider.
Make the decision and gather a team
The first step in starting a social media strategy is… deciding to do it! Immediately many questions arise: what do you want to achieve, how can you achieve it and how can you calculate and forecast the impact. Start by gathering a team with managers from several divisions: sales, marketing, customer service, legal, finance, IT, whatever you choose.
Get support from senior management and involve them as well. Hire a consultant or expert that has proven his expertise and/ or involve your agency if it knows what social media marketing is all about.
Define the goals and decide how you will measure them
The first task of the team will be to define the business goals you want to serve with social media marketing. Improving customer loyalty and/or brand reputation, increasing sales, getting new prospects, getting more traffic, whatever suits your business. These goals should be clear.
Have a yardstick for what you define as a failure and a success. Define metrics and Key Performance Indicators. Define how you will measure ROI, not by the number of connections but by value, customer satisfaction and the bottom line: $$$.
Social media marketing should be measured, just like every other form of marketing. Defining the right Key Performance Indicators and choosing the proper tools to measure both efficiency and ROI are crucial.
Create a strategy before you begin
Before you jump in and start spending, you should know your strategy. Just because you see plenty of potential clients on Facebook doesn't mean you should start immediately. In this instance, rushing into your marketing campaign can damage your business. A clear strategy before you begin will define your success ratio.
That’s the second task of the team. In this process, you will define the ways to achieve your goals, make a plan, look at the resources you need and compose other teams or invite other people that have to make it happen.
Plan and prepare
You want to plan to engage customers, prospects, and communities online. Plan the different steps you will need to get your social media marketing going. Think about your social media hubs, monitor your brand reputation, create content, choose social media voices, outline how you will participate and how your employees will participate in social media marketing.
Some customers will be happy, some angry, some will be curious; if your employees have a clear strategy and plan in front of them, they can handle most situations with ease. If you set up a rule for handling both happy and unhappy customers, you can focus on other important tasks.
Define the resources
Will you ask employees to help? How much time and money can you spend on this? Do you plan to outsource some of your social marketing tasks? Many companies think social media marketing is cheap. Grabbing a Twitter handle, setting up a blog or creating a presence on a social networking site can be completely free and social media marketing can be 'cheap', but if you want to do it well there are more investments to make than time and tools.
You will have to invest in people, processes and resources to monitor the conversations, respond to them, create valuable content, participate, analyse the impact of your marketing efforts and integrate the social media in your overall marketing processes and strategies.
Have an integrated approach
Look at your customers and prospects as real people and have a holistic view. But also look at your social media marketing strategy from a holistic perspective. Social media marketing is not an island in the marketing and communications ocean. And social media marketing certainly is not a “threat” to others forms of marketing.
On the contrary, it is a proven fact that social media strengthen and enhance other forms of marketing and vice versa. So include your email marketing, search engine marketing and all other possible forms of marketing and think about all possible crossfertilisations that create value for your customers and your company.
Don't forget brand awareness
Typically, brand awareness comes down to relevance, context, resonance, and accessibility. How will you help customers with your product or service? How will you get to customers via social networks? How will you build a presence on social networks? And how easy will it be for those online to find your brand?
These are the basic questions on building awareness for you, your company, and your brand. Remember: everything you do has an impact on your brand and your company consists of real people. Be proud of them and show them. Have a face and voices.
Involve your employees and support your entire company
Depending on the type of company you have, different departments may be interested in utilizing what you've learned to define the brand in more ways online. It's your job to educate them so the brand can continue to grow beyond the one marketing campaign. Start by explaining the goals you would like to achieve and how.
Another aspect of the social media marketing plan is drafting a social media policy that is open and flexible, serves as a guideline for your employees (don’t make it too restrictive) but also encourages your employees to "join the conversation". Provide training opportunities, teach people how to deal with criticism.
Monitoring social media is prominent in whether you succeed or not.
You need to be in the know when it comes to your company brand: who's saying what, who's buying, who's impressed, who's not pleased. Reputation management is often one of the main purposes companies use social media marketing for.
But it goes beyond branding because you want to build relationships and conversations with people, not just 'connections'. Remember: voices, eyes and ears…
To conclude: test, learn, measure and improve
To be successful in social media marketing you need to:
  • Have an integrated, holistic and crosschannel marketing strategy
  • Be, work and think customer-centric
  • Understand that people decide where and how they get in touch with you
  • See that the sales process is shifting from 'selling' to 'buying'
  • Understand that social media marketing strengthens other forms of marketing
  • Look at marketing as a dialogue
  • Drop the broadcasting mentality
  • Know that all social media are different and have a different way of interaction
  • Define the right metrics and Key Performance Indicators to measure success
  • Prepare your employees
  • Understand the role that social media can play in all parts of the customer life cycle
  • Speak the language your customers speak
  • Think in terms of value, relationships and conversations
  • Be committed
  • Reach out to your customers
  • Move from connections to relationships
Social media marketing is not one activity. In the following guides we will tackle various types of social media marketing. Some of them work in the short-term but most of them generated the best results in the long run.
Social media marketing requires an ongoing effort and commitment to share stories, build relationships and create value. It also requires as a will to learn and improve as you go. But shouldn't that be the case with marketing in general?

This article is adapted from 'Developing a social media strategy' - to download this guide you can click here or send an email to [email protected].

Replies (3)

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By iGiedrius
01st Apr 2010 18:19

A really well thought through post, thanks for sharing your insights.

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By nigelburke
06th Apr 2010 03:02

Finally an easy to understand plan of action for social media!

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By wecandobiz
08th Apr 2010 10:40

Good article.

A couple of things to add:

First off, think about where you are going to focus your social media activities.  Just because a website has lots of users -- Facebook, for example -- it doesn't mean you'll see success there.  You need to factor in not only where your target audience is, but where they'll be prepared to ENGAGE with you.  Let me pick up that Facebook example again: most people are on Facebook to share with friends and family; they don't use Facebook with a suit on.  So if you are a B2B brand you're unlikley to get them becoming a fan, as they are on the site in a different context.  Brands they'd like their friends to see them supporting are the ones that succeed on Facebook: Mini, Apple, Prada etc.  Pushing a profile out of the context in which your customers see you will most likely not work.

My second piece of advice is that a social media strategy could encompass winning customers and better serving existing ones, but you should use different channels for each.  If you discover both prospects and your existing custoomers are on Twitter, for example, create two Twitter accounts to better serve each audience.  Don't mix your Customer Services queue up with the queue for the check out!  You won't want to let prospects see you discussing product issues with your existing base; or let existing customers see what you're offering new ones that they missed out on.

Feel welcome to follow me on Twitter for other tips and hints:

Ian Hendry



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