The biggest problem most organizations face when they decide to enter the social media arena is lack of a game plan. They start dabbling with blogging, create a Facebook page, start using a Twitter account, but since they lack focus and commitment, they don’t develop the following and they lose interest. Social media is cheap, but it does require an investment of time and resources to succeed as an extension of your marketing program. More important than hard work, social media success requires a strategy. You need a game plan.
Once again, I have to thank Paul Gillen for sharing his words of wisdom as to how to develop an effective social media strategy. In a recent blog post, Gillen outlines A Guide to Choosing Social Media Tools, which offers a four-step process that will increase your chances of social media success.
- Define the Objective: You have to start with a destination before you start out. Understand what you want to accomplish and work backwards. Are you trying to drive brand awareness? Build sales? Extend customer support? As Paul notes, you will probably need both online and offline tools to meet your business objectives. You have to understand what success looks like before you can measure social media results.
- Identify Metrics: Which brings us to the second point; you need a way to measure success. The beauty of social media is that it is easy to measure. You can measure the number of followers you acquire, the number of mentions, retweets, etc., but are these metrics of any real value? Consider other, more concrete metrics for ROI, such as increased number of sales, change in number of requests to speak or comment, number of media mentions, etc. Your best strategy is choosing three or four meaningful metrics. Be sure to check periodically to see if you reached your metric goals, then reassess and reset your metrics.
- Define Your Tactics: Social media can be really valuable, but it is not a magic bullet. Define your tactics, both online and offline, to assure you can reach your goals. For example, if your objective is lead generation, you may want to support your social media campaign with direct mail or other marketing tactics. If you are looking to build brand awareness, consider supplementing social media with advertising, direct marketing, speaking engagements, and similar strategies.
- Choose Your Tools: There are different tools in your social media arsenal, and each serves a different purpose. Twitter is a good news feed, for example. Facebook provides a location where you can interact with customers and others and get feedback in the form of comments. A blog is a good place to articulate your personal brand and package information that you can use to feed other channels. Use the right tools for the right purpose.
I have been working with my clients to build social media into the marketing mix, but as an extension of existing marketing strategies, not as a standalone program. The value of social media has been proven and it’s certainly here to stay, but don’t sacrifice other tried and true programs in favor of a social media campaign. Online social marketing is just another part of the program.