Does your senior management support your social media marketing efforts? The simple answer is: probably not, since less than three in 10 companies do, according to The State of Social Media for Business by SmartBrief Inc. and Summus Limited. The reality is that senior management buy-in happens only after a company has tested social media marketing and the case can be made to expand the program, based on increased reach, additional traffic, and/or improved branding.
Given that 24.2 percent of sampled companies started their social media marketing efforts only in the last six months, it’s no surprise that many firms are still in the testing phase. In the early phases of social media marketing, companies are still coming up to speed and making the case for expanding their social media interactions. As a result, it may take time to win senior management support for social media.
6 Factors Every Company Needs to Implement Social Media Marketing
Since many companies are in the midst of their 2011 planning season, it’s a good time to lay the groundwork for expanded social media marketing participation. Here’s a six-point, social media marketing checklist.
- Develop a social media marketing plan. While it’s important to understand how social media works, as with any marketing initiative, you must have a carefully constructed strategy. In order to build your social media following cost effectively, it should be integrated with the rest of your marketing program. (Here are five social media marketing rationales to help your planning. )
- Get senior management buy-in and support. Unless your senior executives embrace social media marketing like Tony Hsieh of Zappos, you need to make the case for how it’ll enhance your firm’s bottom line by increasing revenues or decreasing costs. The challenge is that social media’s impact may occur in the early phases of the purchase process where it’s difficult to tie it to a specific sale. Alternatively, you can show value in terms of brand building, expanded reach, reduced customer service expense, and lower hiring costs.
- Provide appropriate resources. In business terms, this translates to headcount and budget. While you can do an effective job of testing social media marketing with limited investment and headcount, expanding these efforts and integrating them with the rest of your marketing plans generally requires additional support. (Here’s a list of >social media’s hidden costs .)
- Establish a set of social media guidelines. Regardless of whether your firm is actively participating in social media or not, it’s critical to have policies in place to define acceptable social media behavior for three major categories of participants: employees representing your firm on social media platforms, employees engaged in social media for personal reasons, and customer participation on company sites.
- >Prepare a crisis management plan. Since a small incident can quickly get amplified across a variety of social media platforms, it’s imperative that you develop a crisis management plan outlining how your firm will respond. At a minimum, you need to have the ability to contact the appropriate people quickly, especially since a crisis is most likely to occur when no one’s minding the shop, such as when people are on vacation or there’s a public holiday.
- Track relevant social media metrics. As with any marketing program, it’s important to assess your results against your goals. In the early phases, it’s best to start small and expand your tracking and analysis as your learning increases. Here are the basic factors to measure.
- People. Count followers, likes, fans, influencers, prospects or leads, buyers, and advocates.
- Time. Measure time spent since it indicates engagement.
- Actions. Includes RSS feeds, e-mail registrations, retweets, event attendance, votes, reviews, comments, tags, trackbacks, completed profiles, social sharing, and purchases.
- Brand. Monitor brand mentions, sentiment (positive or negative), and shares.
- Sales. Track revenues and early purchase intent factors. Don’t overlook post-purchase support that can reduce returns.
- Costs. Measure social media expenses, content creation, supporting marketing, and related head count.
Regardless of where your firm is on the social media marketing learning curve, integrating these six factors into your plans is good business practice. Given the current business model of testing and iterating your marketing, it’s better to implement a basic form of these initiatives and to improve them over time to get the optimal results for your firm.
While starting social media marketing small with a minimal budget is good for making the case, it’s important to get your senior management team on board early to expand your social media presence and to extend usage across your firm.
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