The Four Pillars of Social Media Marketing

Sometimes senior management wants things boiled down into easy-to-consume-and-understand packages. Because time is valuable, these executives want a high-level understanding of a concept or an idea. That can be pretty tough to do with social media marketing, especially when overnight successes have been touted on the latest business channels.

There is a way to break it down and explain that social media marketing is not quite as easy as starting an account on Facebook. It’s a way to make things easier for directors, vice presidents, managers, and even practitioners. I call it the “Four Pillars of Social Media.” Without any one of them in your strategy or planning, your foundation will be wobbly.

  1. Research: Without the proper research into your audience and demographics and without thoroughly knowing your target audience, you’re going to be throwing darts at the dartboard. Research may take a lot of resources and at first might seem a bit overwhelming or maybe even frivolous. But it will save you from wasting efforts.

    By researching where, when, how, and why your audience and/or consumers are interacting the way that they do, your social media marketing efforts will be finely tuned and targeted for the right kind of engagement with them. This engagement will allow you to see better results and set the right kind of goals and measurement factors when putting your plans in place.

  2. Strategy: Once you have the results from your research, you can use that insight to plan a social media marketing strategy. Strategy is a lot more than just signing up for a Twitter account or submitting an article to Digg. Strategy encompasses planning, setting goals, deciding what to measure to ensure those goals are met, determining how to engage with your audience, who engages, what conversations need to be had, and so much more.

    Don’t embrace a marketing tactic just because you heard about it on the news or your vendor tells you “they know how to implement it.” Ask you and your team: Does your research support actually implementing those tactics? Is your audience there? Will implementing this tactic as part of an overall strategy be beneficial? Planning a strategy is like a road map that anyone on your team can read and understand where you’re starting and where you want to end.

  3. Engagement: Let’s face it, if just lurking or posting content or signing up for an account in social media will lead to success, more companies would be putting social media marketing into their budgets as a line item. Right now, marketers have to convince senior management that social media marketing is worth the time and effort, and unless you are truly engaging with your audience, it’s likely not going to be worth the effort. Engaging isn’t just about talking with people in social media communities; it encompasses a whole lot of other activities.

    To be fully engaged with your audience or a community, you must actively listen (not just hear); you must offer advice as well as ask questions. You must say “thank you” as well as give value to your audience. By fully engaging with your audience and/or community, you can reap the benefits of the social media marketing strategy you wish to deploy.

  4. Measurement: Measurement comes in a lot of different forms. No two companies will have the exact same type of measurements to see if they are hitting or missing their goals, not even if they are competitors. A lot of factors go into deciding what you need to measure, and it’s not always about counting.

    Seeing an increase in Twitter account followers may excite your team, but represents only a tiny view of social media results. Use that metric in conjunction with how many people are retweeting, how many lists you are on, and how many active conversations (relevant ones) you are having a week to get a better picture of whether you are truly hitting your goals. That’s just one example. Each social media community has different types of measurements; you have to decide which ones best help you define your success or failure.

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