Approach Social Media Marketing Like Everything Else

Source: stock.xchngIt’s always so interesting to see and hear about the different approaches brands have taken to enter the social space. Sometimes the approach just comes out of nowhere. “Jimmy created a Facebook Page for us, so I guess it’s time to engage with our consumers!”

Oh boy… Brands that decide to hold their breath and jump right in often find themselves lost and in a situation that lacks direction, doesn’t generate results and requires a great deal of time and resources.

There’s nothing wrong with taking risks, but there is something wrong with taking risks without practicing risk management. Every time a brand executes a marketing tactic, it’s a risk, but for some reason when it comes to social media, planning is all too often thrown out the window.

The truth is social media planning starts with the same pieces of the puzzle that any marketing effort starts with: clear objectives and sound strategies, which come from a clear vision and lead to sound tactics.

As with any marketing effort, you want to make sure that:

  • Measurable goals are in place
  • Everyone understands the goals
  • Each department is on the same page and clear on roles and responsibilities
  • The end goal is clear and focused with alignment on timing, ownership and deliverables

Each piece builds on the piece before it, and if you skip one, something's not going to be quite right. Alright…let’s get started at the beginning.

The Vision

Social media offers attributes that no other media out there can. It also requires a different kind of attention and attitude. Determine what the purpose of social media is to your organization at the very beginning. Why social media? What will it help the organization be better at? Hopefully, there are some good answers, but feel free to be a little “out there” with lofty expectations. This is your vision, after all.

The Objectives

I’ve talked in the past about objectives a lot. These allow you to align on what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

The objectives need to be very specific (who are you targeting and what action is trying to be achieved), measurable (specific with numbers) and based on what the business can truly achieve within a specified time frame (put a date on this). The more specific the objectives, the easier success and ROI will be evaluated.

Objectives should also relate to overall short- and long-term objectives for the business as a whole. Social media can help with those! They shouldn’t be separate social media objectives only.

For example, “We will increase the number of customers referred to us by 15% by December 31.”

The Strategies

So you have the objectives in place. Now, you get to figure out how they’ll be achieved, but we’re not getting tactical here. We're simply talking about our general approach to achieving the objective(s). For example, with the objective above, the strategy might be, “Get our customers to share their product experiences with their social graphs.”

The Tactics (It’s Time to Do)

Now comes the fun the part—actually bringing the pieces together and doing something. Too often, this is the first thing brands jump to doing, which after seeing all of the upfront work that should be done, it’s not surprising to discover that those brands don’t see a great deal of success.

The tactics take your strategies and turn them into action. Tactics to help with the strategy above might be:

  • Start a social media referral program, encouraging consumers to write an honest, open review of our product by incentivizing them with a discount on an upcoming purchase.
  • Hold a photo contest with an application on our Facebook Page based on votes that allows consumers to post photos of themselves using our product in unique ways and solicit votes from their Facebook friends.

Start from the Beginning

Alright… please, forgive the lame examples.

The point is don’t jump into the deep end before you’re ready to swim. Get started at the shallow end and work your way there. Social media is no different than any other marketing effort. It requires planning with measurable objectives and clear strategies in place. The tactics are fun, but they’re a whole lot more effective with the upfront work completed first.