Marketing in the 21st century is a complex process. As such, it requires careful planning and forethought to be successful. If not approached with a strategy and a plan, social media marketing can easily become an overpriced ‘graveyard’. To make your presence on social platforms more productive and profitable, remember to always “social with a plan”. Take the time to research ideal post times, audience considerations, and competitor benchmarking before diving into any campaigns. With the right strategies, you can ensure your content won’t be doomed to meet its death at the ever growing Social Media Graveyard.
For many, social media – in all its forms – is a steady diet of information, entertainment and interaction. It is the ultimate snack bar for informavores, serving up tasty bit-sized nuggets to tempt, tantalize, follow and consume. Therefore, it’s blatantly obvious when a part of the snack bar closes.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it when that happens. Little frustrates me more than stumbling upon a social media gravesite: the dead remnants of a poorly thought out social campaign. You’ve seen it, too, I’m sure.
You find a Facebook page with outdated information, or a blog that hasn’t been updated in weeks (or months). How about that YouTube account, with nothing more than the fantastic videos you watched last year? Or the worst part – they have liked their own post… I cringe, but move on.
You see, I’m not just a social media marketer; I’m also a consumer. As a consumer, I want to use social with a plan, make sure I use it efficiently, and I want my favorite companies to use it in ways that help.
Yet, many business owners – both big and small – embark upon this adventure without understanding how to use the platforms. This is a dangerous mistake. Your time and money are at stake here; you need to use them wisely. If you expect to use social media to your advantage—and not end up part of an online cemetery, you have to start with a well thought out strategy.
The Social Cemetery of Dead Campaigns
How does it happen – the death of a campaign, that is? Have you ever wondered what happened to the people behind the accounts you come across? Or, like many, did you just shrug and go on? This is an important question, because their stories teach lessons that could keep you from making the same mistakes if you only pay attention.
The average story goes something like this:
Joe heard from his friend Tom that Twitter was a good platform to bring in business. “How does it work?” he asks.
“You just go out there and talk to people.”
So Joe grabs himself a Twitter account, then tries to do what Tom suggests. He pours himself into trying to find people to connect with and talk to. He obsesses over follower numbers, finds out about Klout and obsesses some more. He posts religiously, checking back often to see if he got some kind of response.
Four months later, Joe is frustrated. He’s had few reaction, has less than 50 followers and little ROI for the time put in. He calls Tom back. “It’s not working.”
“Huh… Try Facebook.”
Joe lets his Twitter account die a painful death and turns to Facebook. He tries harder than before to connect and talk to people. Again, no ROI.
“Have you heard about Quora?”
Joe is a quick, simple example. For many, however, it isn’t far off the mark. So what did Joe do wrong? If you’re a regular reader, you should be able to say the first part with me… He didn’t have a plan. Therefore, Joe is doing the well-trodden walk of shame, shuffling his feet into Never Should Have Socialized Land… but not so fast. How about asking things like:
What do you want social media to do for you?
You wouldn’t plan a vacation by boarding the next available Air France or Delta, would you? Your time and money are too valuable to throw away without an idea of where you want to go and what you plan to do. Incorporating social media into your marketing program is no different.
What results do you want to see from social plan? Think beyond just driving traffic to your site:
- Do you want to build your brand recognition? What/how are you going to build your brand? Write your steps out; understand what it takes to promote and market that aspect of your campaign.
- Are you hoping to interact with your customers and colleagues on a more personal level? What platforms are you doing this in? Do you have a time line set aside to accomplish this? Think this down to the most mundane action in order to grasp the time it will take.
- Would you like to promote your products and services? Here is where the fun begins: how, why, where, to whom? Do you know? Have you really assessed your market and your product? Are people talking? Do you have recommendations? These are all things that will connect the dots when outlined from the onset of your campaign
- Is your goal to expand and educate your customer base? How will you do that? Is it data base driven? Does your hosting provider even accommodate your needs? Are you using social networks? How many hours and what tools will you use to automate? Will you automate?
You have to know the answer to the “results” question first, and every decision you make thereafter must be based on how it will help you reach your goal(s). Define one or two goals, as well as a length of time to reach them*.
*Hint: most goals will take at least 6 months to achieve with any type of strong ROI.
Where are you starting from?
At this point I’m not sure how much we like Joe. You see, he didn’t take the time to mark where he was at in terms of traffic, conversions and so on. We’ve said it before; you have to have baseline metrics.You have to set down your starting point, your zero if you will, before starting any campaign, so you have a data-based way of tracking results. You can use several metrics to track your social media plan’s success once you know what your goals are*.
The metrics you track depend on the goals you set. For example, if your goal is to increase positive brand recognition, you might track:
- The number of times someone asks you a question
- Engagement on your blog or site once you start posting on social platforms
- Do you have recommendations readily available online.
- Are you active in social networks or do you simply have 24 Twitter followers and under 200 Facebook fans?
- Referrals (rather than gaining customers through normal marketing channels). For example, maybe you have a widget you are giving away.
- The number of mentions – but here, you have to pay attention to what they’re actually saying. Figure a ratio between positive/negative/neutral mentions. Do you know what tools are available out there?
Hint: Setting goals gives you a baseline to see what is working for you and what is not.
What social platform will best meet your needs?
For most people, the term social media conjures thoughts of Facebook and Twitter. Yet, the reality is that social media plan is more broadly defined, and encompasses outlets like blogs, video sharing, wikis, and much more. Some of these outlets will work for you, and some of them won’t.
For example, if your goal is to build your brand, consider where that might best be accomplished. Depending on your writing manpower or what you are willing to invest in regards to a content driven campaign, blogging is one of the strongest and long lasting methods for achieving a recognizable brand. Write your own content and opening the blog up to readers’ comments. This also lets you interact with potential clients and customers. Get up close and personal to what people are actually saying.
Yet, you also need to consider the time necessary for such an endeavor. As I mentioned, creating a content-centric campaign around blogging is not easy – unless you’re an unusually prolific writer – takes a considerable amount of time. Keep in mind, you do have the option to hire a full time writer, but that’s dependent on how committed you are to your business. As well, you have to stick to whatever schedule you start. If you start posting twice a week, keep posting twice a week.
If your goal is to promote special features and discounts, you might use venues such as:
- Twitter, to announce current company promotions. Make sure you schedule several posts in a day, write them differently, and make sure you can track them through one of the many Twitter analytic tools.
- eNewsletter, to share the latest company news. Use a service that allows you analytic access.
- Facebook, to share special, month-long discounts. Visit your Insights to see what’s happening and which posts receive the most feedback.
- YouTube, to showcase exciting new product lines. Allow your users to post video responses; get maximum participation.
Take the time to explore the world of social media, and choose what makes the most sense for your company and your goals*.
* Hint: If your goal is to increase authority only, you need to check your ego at the door and have a secondary goal. Why? If you are truly an authority (simply because you are good at what you do and know your industry), your knowledge will show. It’s especially a given when you are humble about your craft and your business. It will show in your blogs, in your answers to questions and in how you deal with people about your topic on a whole. “Building authority” should never be a loan goal.
What goal /result is most important to your business?
I’m sure you’ll agree, one of the top reasons most businesses fail with their social media plan is trying to do too much without a focus. When this happens, you cannot offer your best to the world, the public doesn’t respond, and social media is written off as a failure. You don’t have to be one of these people.
Go back to your goals and decide what is most important*. Then determine what you can realistically do on your own. If you only have an hour each day to devote to reading and responding to comments, then that’s all you can do. -And you should certainly use that hour if it is an important part of reaching your goals.
If you can’t do it yourself, consider outsourcing tasks to qualified people. More on that in another blog, but you can start doing some preliminary work on your own. Use tools when you can, such as Hootsuite analytics, to get a good start on your campaign.
At the same time, don’t waste your energy on anything that does not move you in the direction of reaching your goals.
* Hint: Many start with the goal of “bringing traffic”. Not only is this goal a generic one, but it is also a waste of time. By redefining it as “bringing quality traffic”, you provide yourself with a stronger set of base metrics, as well as steps to reach that goal.
Ask yourself, “What is quality traffic?” For you, quality traffic could be individuals who subscribe to your blog. Quality traffic could be those who convert to customers, individuals who visit more than one or two pages and so on. I would even suggestion you become an observer of your followers and find the connection that matters to them. The point is, if your goal is to bring traffic to your site, you have to further define what you want that traffic to do once they get there and incorporate it into your campaign.
In conclusion, no matter what your goals may be, you have to promote and engage your audience. In the world of social media, these are often the same concepts. The approach may be different in the various platforms, but the more you interact with your audience, the more you promote your work. As you promote your work, you open the doors for more interaction with your audience. Be the one the go to when they have a question.
As you develop your social plan for your marketing strategy, remember flexibility is important. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments as you experiment with what works for you and what doesn’t. No campaign, whether it’s a marketing, social media, SEO or content development campaign, is written in stone. That’s the beauty of working online today. It’s evolutionary, don’t you think? Go ahead, don’t be shy, tell me all about it…