Because social media is around us more and more, companies are starting to see the value in add it to their marketing mix. However, many are unsure where to start or how to develop a plan. By using social media correctly you can engage your audience in new ways, be more personable, develop new connections, and maintain the ones you have. Let's consider the development of a social media strategy with these six steps:
1. Listen - Conversation Mining
Get online and listen to what is being said. What do people think about you and your brand? What are their points of views? Who are key people who influence others and which ones should you cooperate with? What are the various topics? Is the tone of the conversation heated? Do people favor one point of view over the other, or is it mixed?
Determine your audience and where they are online. Blogs are a great place to start looking. Technorati is a good tool to help you search for blogs and blog posts that have content related to your niche. Twitter and the Twitter network is another great place to gain insight in to conversations that are happening in real time. The advanced Twitter search is one of many tools that will let you isolate specific conversations and monitor them.
Once you have identified where your audience is, then listen to what they are saying. What are their issues, opinions, and needs? How does this information fit with your value proposition? Understanding this information will help you determine how to best contribute to the conversation and how best to make a contribution.
Next, find out who's driving the conversation or those that have a strong influence. These people are called "influentials" because they possess authority, respect, or experience to shape people's opinions. A good example is Lance Armstrong. Since I'm a cyclist, I follow what he has to say. If he endorses a product you can be sure I will check it out. Find people who influence your industry or niche and listen what they are talking about. One source to get you started on finding these influentials is to look at WeFollow, which breaks down influentials by category and lists them by number of followers.
2. Identify Goals and Objectives
You should now be in a better position to establish your goals now that you have had a chance to "listen" to your audience. Some goals might be to drive a certain amount of traffic to your website. Or you want to increase the number of followers by 15 percent in six months. Maybe you just want to extend you brand presence on the social web.
Consider not only your company goals but your audience's goals. What are their needs and wants? You will get much further with social media marketing if you offer something of value. I see many people who are just simply promoting themselves all of the time hoping they will attract new customers or site traffic. This really doesn't work well with social media.
Once you have given people something of value, you've earned the right to plug yourself a little. I recommend that you spend about 90 percent of your time providing valuable content and 10 percent promoting yourself. You will find you can build more influence and trust with the value you provide your followers.
3. Develop Your Plan and Time Your Content
Map out your approach to delivering content to your audience. Will you reach out and leverage Influentials? Will you provide free material or samples? How will it be delivered? You may have products that are environmentally friendly. Will you moderate and lead a conversation about environmental issues? There are many creative ways to approach your audience. Be innovative.
Next, develop a timeline, preferably 12 months in advance, to identify events, promotions, or product launches that you are aware of. Now identify the content ideas you want to deliver that can supplement those events. It is like developing a media plan where you are timing your efforts so they are consistent and relevant to other events your business or customers participate in. You will find that it will be much easier to manage content creation efforts and allow you to plan ahead.
Now identify the social platforms you should use to deliver your content. Is Facebook the right platform for you? Is it a combination of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? If so, you should develop a mini plan for each site and how you will consistently use each tool to accomplish your goals and objectives. Be careful not to go after too many sites too quickly. Ensure you start with one or two sites at a time and develop them so they are solid before moving on to another social media site.
4. Develop Your Content
Next, develop the content you have outlined from your timeline. This timeline will help you know what order to start building your content. This is where you really need to understand your audience and your brand. You must be highly creative and much of what you say within social media channels should sound like your brand.
Optimize your content with your targeted keywords. Armed with a solid keyword research report with relative categories, you should be able to derive some great ideas for relevant content that will resonate with your audience. This content can come in various forms. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
5. Engage - Implement Your Plan
Armed with smart objectives, a solid timeline, great content, and the right social media sites you are now ready to post your content. Engage in the conversation and express your point of view. Remember to keep to your schedule and be constituent. Have the resources on hand to respond to comments and feedback so you can keep the conversation going. This is not an "if you build it they will come" type of scenario. You have to keep at it.
6. Measuring Success
As you know, the ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities is imperative to any company's marketing strategy. Social media marketing isn't as easy to measure as other online channels but it can be done. If you identified your success metrics in step No. 2, then you're already ahead of the game.
Depending on your success metrics you might look at content consumption. Who's reading your content? Where are they coming from? You can also look at how much or little is being contributed and the number of visitors who are interacting with your content. Here are some variables to include in your measuring process:
I will discuss these in more detail in a future post. Feel free to send me any success metrics that have worked for you and that you found to be effective.
Having a solid social media strategy can really help make a difference in the success of your campaigns. You will come off more polished and organized and viewed as being a real player in the social media space.
Ron is off today. This column was originally published on May 2, 2011 on ClickZ.
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Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.
Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.
Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.