Creating A Social Media Marketing Strategy

medium_5688645738Another eleven-week term wrapped up for my students and I last week. As we reflected on all the topics we have covered in all three social media marketing related courses I teach, a common theme emerged. Almost all the work we did in our final project within the concluding course was dictated by set goals and long-term objectives. As with any business, students first began setting goals and objectives that accurately addressed our vision and mission. With this information, they began to brainstorm about specific tactics that we could use to accomplish short-term goals and choose metrics best suited to measure performance. All of the short-term work students did also fell in line with the long term goals of the project set by myself, the instructor/creator.

The ‘campaign’ was very short in length, but it definitely gave them the opportunity to not only strategize, but also blog, utilize Google Analytics, experiment with Hootsuite, explore video use in social media, and use best practices covered in previous classes for Twitter/Facebook community management, and more. Each facet of this project directly relates to initial goals and objectives. The first few weeks were a bit chaotic, as they are every term, but once business objectives were clearly defined, the social strategy fell into place. Similar to a real world scenario, if objectives and goals are too broad/ not specific enough, or not measurable, the rest of the plan will not fall into place as easily or effectively. In a few weeks I will have another group of eager graduate students ready to set their short-term goals and continue the fun.

This month we visit concept #10 and #11 from my series 15 Social Media Concepts to Make you a More Marketable Social Media Professional:

Concept 10: You must identify and understand your business-related goals. All content on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile, YouTube channel, etc., has to support your business-related goals.

Concept 11: As a social media professional, you must have the patience to go the distance. Social strategies are not short term. Long-term goals with specific objectives must be identified first, followed by specific tactics in place.

Before undertaking any type of social media initiative, an organization must begin with identifying objectives and then coordinating social media activities that address those objectives specifically. Most readers would choose to utilize social media to ‘increase sales’ armed only with an arsenal of tactics such as start a contest on Facebook, develop a blog with postings weekly; set up related Twitter feed. These actions in and of themselves are fine and could very well increase sales. However, what about the long term?

A viable social media strategy should start with these basic questions:

Who? Who is your target audience? Understand your target in terms of not only demographics, psychographics, and interests, but also influencers. Consider your targets behavior while on social media, do they create content, share content, or simply view content? The better you know your target, the easier it is to coordinate social media efforts to achieve desired results.
What? What are your primary goal/objectives? These could be building brand awareness, building online credibility, providing education about your brand; increase sales. Or maybe you want to generate a specific number of qualified leads. By setting quantifiable goals from the get-go, you will be better prepared to prioritize efforts and determine where time is best spent. Again, these tie back in to the overall organizational objectives.
When? When will you evaluate the social strategy, and how will you evaluate it? Often organizations have no real set time-frame in which to assess objectives to ascertain if they are on target or if plans need to be re-evaluated or possibly revamped. You must evaluate periodically to know if you are reaching goals and if efforts are producing results.
Where? Where is your target audience online, how can you reach them? There are the mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter, but do not forget to investigate niche sites that may be more tailored to your needs, each business is unique and may have various networks that are more effective than others. The State of Inbound Marketing Report found different industries experience different customer acquisition results with different social platforms. For example, Retailers reported success with Facebook, however Healthcare businesses did not and instead found more success with LinkedIn.
Which? Which social platforms will you use, it may make more sense not to use them all. This relates back to “where is your target audience online”. Keep in mind you may not use all of the platforms but you might consider securing your name on the main social media sites as a branding effort, being sure to incorporate elements of your brand into your profile(s).
How? How will you create a relevant conversation? How will you encourage sharing/referrals? This could be from something as simple as share buttons, to a call to action on a blog post, a “How-To” video, to Facebook contests. Again, your goals drive the type of content that you create and the calls-to-action you use.
How? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? Identify your competitors strengths and weaknesses as well as your own, this will help in planning your social strategy.

A key concept for business to understand is that a large portion of Internet traffic still comes from search, therefore, having timely and relevant content is paramount. Content with value will drive social influence. However, content must also directly relate back to the business goals and objectives. Great content can be a source of Internet traffic as well as assist in building authority and trust that ultimately leads to social influence. With this social influence, an organization can leverage this it to drive growth and sales.

Take a moment and think about your own brands social strategy or your personal brand strategy: Do your social media goals and objectives directly relate to set (organizational) objectives? Specifically, can you align each social tactic you employ to a social goal or objective that relates to a business/personal objective?

Traditional marketing and social marketing must be integrated and nurtured in order to realize the full potential of a very powerful combo. Traditional campaigns are easier to measure success than a social strategy as they typically have a defined start and completion date. With a social media initiative there typically is not or should not be a completion date as social intends to create connections and maintain long-term relationships. This is a huge difference.

For the long haul you will want to:

Plan for Content: Review last months post “4 Things you will NEVER heard a Social Media Marketer say about Content”. Not only do you need to be relevant and timely, but content should be compelling. There is a lot of “clutter” online and having content that is compelling (or actionable) is paramount to differentiating yourself from the competition. Content your audience finds valuable will be viewed and shared; you will want to be sure to be the source of that content. When content is “done right” you can create content that people want to share with their online communities.

Schedule the content:There are several ways to do this, I use the editorial calendar within WordPress but you could also use an Excel spreadsheet or Google Docs. You could schedule a week at a time, or a month at a time: it is up to you. I also suggest scheduling the corresponding Tweets and Facebook updates as well via a tool like Hootsuite (full list of tools I like here), be creative with your 140 characters, entice someone to click and read the link. Reminder, be sure to remove #hashtags when doing your Facebook posts. Term after term students tend to neglect this and it is a personal pet peeve.

Repeat: Consistency is key. Be sure to make time in your week to plan and schedule content religiously along with daily monitoring. Social media monitoring is used to identify, predict, and respond to consumer behavior. Listening to the conversations surrounding our brand is key to getting great results from a social media campaign. Understand that this is not something you do when you “feel like it”. This is a long-term investment in your brand. It is a continuous process that (in my opinion) is enjoyable. What better way is there to spend your day than to getting to know your customers?

photo credit: Sean MacEntee via photopin cc

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About drjrogers

Marketing Faculty @ Southern New Hampshire Univ.; Adjunct Faculty @ Texas A&M Univ-C, PhDMktg '15, Rock'n Roll Wife & Mommy, lover of social media, hot wings and my Pups Bit.ly and Pixie View all posts by drjrogers

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