Before you embark on a social marketing strategy, consider asking and answering these questions.
As someone who has been both client-side and agency-side in the digital space for over 10 years, I believe it's a great idea for marketers to step back and ask themselves these questions that will help put digital in the right perspective.
1. You don't have a New York Times or a front page newspaper strategy. Then why ask for a Twitter strategy?
Social marketing strategy needs to derive directly from the digital strategy, which in turn should roll down from the overall marketing strategy. That is the best way of ensuring a cohesive consumer strategy.
What may serve one well though is to understand the role of digital and the interplay of the various elements of the Digital Channel Plan in the overall marketing plan.
2. Have you forgotten that just as TV is no longer the idea, it's the same with digital? You need an idea first, and TV or digital to support and amplify it.
So many marketers 'do digital', believing that by simply creating a website, a Facebook fan page, or running a mobile campaign, their marketing needs will be served. Another fault of some marketers and digital agencies is treating 'technology' as the idea.
At best, technology is an enabler of an idea. This is even truer in today's times when the lead time of a technology 'first' is fast shrinking.
3. When was the last time you briefed your agency for a billboard at Times Square in NYC or Haji Ali in Mumbai? Then why do you brief them for an iPhone app? Shouldn't you brief about your brand situation or business challenges instead?
Fundamentally, digital marketing is the same as conventional marketing. It's just the design of the communication and the means of getting it out to consumers that is different. Shouldn't then the starting point of conceiving a digital strategy and campaign be the same as is the case of conventional (read: TV, print, etc.) media?
4. Do you realise 'Let's do a viral' is impossible to deliver? A viral isn't what you do, it's what happens. (Try catching a cold if you don't believe me!)
Instead it's important for marketers and their digital partners to focus on creating communication that's relevant to their brand, differentiated from competition, and interesting to consumers. If all three aspects are present, the message may well find its way from consumer to consumer...and spread like a viral.
5. Don't you think saying 'Let's do a YouTube video' is akin to saying 'Let's do a poster'? Kinda meaningless.
This is a common approach taken by newbie digital marketers and lazy digital agency folks. Simply running a TV commercial on YouTube isn't even scratching the surface of possibilities that YouTube, a blend of video, and social networking offers. YouTube isn't TV, and needs to be part of a larger plan, rather than be the plan itself.
6. Have you noticed QR codes in automobile ads are fast becoming like the 'dealer panel', a blind spot? A QR code isn't the idea, it's the means to bring alive an idea.
I have noticed a pattern of automobile print ads carrying QR codes. When the first brand added a QR to the ad and linked to its website, it got noticed, for being a first and 'cool'. But then everyone started doing it, and soon the coolness and novelty waned. Just like it happened when every brand created a website.
The brands that stood out were the ones that gave consumers reasons to come to their websites, and then provided value that got consumers to come back, or tell other consumers about the brand and ideally do both. It's the same with QR codes. 'It's the cool thing to do' is no longer reason enough. (In the automobile business and every other business too.)
7. Has someone reminded you lately, the best 'user-generated content' is produced by professionals?
Startling, but true. The biggest hits of the Internet in the much romanticised 'user generated' space are professionally produced - by the same folks who produce the best advertising. Supervised by the best directors. Scripted by the best copy writers. But made to look 'user generated' via smart creative treatment.
It's important to remember this, as too many marketers rely on home video quality content, and then wonder why there's no brand traction.
8. Have you explored 'Life beyond the 'Like'', and discovered what lies beyond Facebook fan numbers?
Fan following on Facebook is great; a million fans is great. But it's crucial to step back and look at the real value of these fans. How many are valuable? How valuable? How can more fans be made more valuable? Important questions to ask, in order to turn a 'Like' into real brand 'Love'.
9. Has it struck you that successful social media marketing isn't about the media or even marketing, but it's about being social?
Yes, being social is what counts. It's important to behave like a guest, at your consumers' party. And socialise before you even think of selling.
The best social 'media' isn't Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. It's your audience. Make them your media, socialise with them, and marketing will take care of itself.
10. Do you realize that marketing is no longer about building destinations and driving traffic to them, but reaching consumers wherever they are?
The new WWW isn't World Wide Web, but Wherever Whenever Whatever. Reach your audience where they are, when they want, in the manner they want to connect. The new digital destination of smart marketers is their consumer. Around whom they will wrap their brands.
Some of these questions may seem provocative. That's the idea. Getting marketers to think of the issues before they brief their agencies to 'do digital'.
Ashok is an award-winning global and regional Digital, Brand and Social Media Marketing leader with nearly 20 years of client and agency-side business experience on brands that cut across the spectrum from one-cent candies to million-dollar hotels stays. He has been passionately leveraging Digital to grow brands since 2000. Ashok is also the founder and author of 'The Future of Digital for Brands', a highly regarded global online community of over 3000 marketers spanning 65+ countries. You are welcome to join the conversation around The Future of Digital for Brands. He can be found tweeting at @ashoklalla.
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