Preparing a social media plan
In the relatively short space of time that popular social media websites have been around, their membership has grown enormously, with the major sites now commanding huge audiences.
Being aware of the huge potential that the social networking phenomenon holds in terms of potential clients, the business fraternity has now embraced the social network site as a legitimate and fertile picking ground.
However, to make social media marketing work successfully, it is necessary to construct a considered, structured plan. To facilitate the planning process, here are some important steps to consider that will help businesses to make it a successful one. However, before we continue, a little something about business goals, and social media marketing.
What it’s all About
Some marketing professionals advocate that businesses must identify what they are trying to achieve through social media marketing. The answer is obvious. The end result is creating additional sales. There are several spins people often put on this, such as developing brand awareness, or becoming an authority in a specific niche market; but if the business in question is a “for profit” enterprise, whatever the method is taken, it leads to one place – making and increasing sales.
Identify how you will use Social Media
The first thing businesses that are contemplating going down the social media marketing route should be aware of, is that social media is not a direct selling tool. People who use social media don’t go there to buy things, or even to shop. They’ll do that by Googling or using another search engine. People use social media for socialising – for some light R&R. So from a business perspective, the idea is to interact with this audience without trying to sell to them directly. It’s more of a subliminal sell.
Becoming Obsessed from the Top Down
CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) have to buy into social media advertising. Without full support from the top downwards, the initiative is likely to fail. Social media advertising is a bit like organic SEO, in as much that it takes time to work. Of course there are some odd overnight success stories, but in the main these are the exception to the rule, not the norm. It will take several months at least and maybe even 1 to 2 years before any significant change can be measured.
If the board of directors and upper management are not on board, they must be convinced. They need to understand that the balance of power has shifted; that business’s messages and brands are being discussed in social circles. Whereas as once upon a time the company was in charge of its own branding and imaging, it’s now the consumer that is ruling the roost. Customers are expecting to be given what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.
Marketing is now in the process of changing, as inbound marketing becomes the new driving force. Social media marketing is an essential part of any inbound marketing methodology. The entire company ethos needs to change, but that change must start at the top.
Engaging the workforce
It has always been said that a company’s most valuable asset is its workforce. In the conventional world, this is said primarily because an existing workforce knows how to fulfil its duties, and correctly motivated, will carry them out well. Social media brings a new angle to bear. Employees themselves use social media in their private lives. If staff become engaged with their employer’s social media strategy, they can help in 2 ways:
- By becoming ambassadors for their employer
- By suggesting new channels, the channels that they themselves use.
The business world has changed in a big way. The customer is the one who is empowered to buy. It’s not so much a case of a business selling, but of its customers buying, and it’s all about engaging that customer. The traditional demarcation of, only sales people selling, and only marketing people advertising, is gone. In today’s business, as far as social media is concerned, everyone’s a digital eMarketeer.
Communication is a 2-way Street
This saying is getting rather worn out, but it is nonetheless true. Communication is a two way process – otherwise you’re not communicating – you’re simply talking. There are 2 excellent examples to illustrate the point. According to Bluewolf, 58% of customers who used Twitter to broadcast bad customer experiences never get any sort of an answer from the supplier. Not only is that bad news from the customer’s point of view, but it’s also bad press, which goes unanswered from the suppliers point of view and doesn’t do their online reputation any good at all.
Whereas on the opposite side of the coin, in a tale of how social media was used to great effect; an article in a July 2012 edition of the Guardian recounted how O2, by responding light-heartedly on Twitter to lots of clients who had berated them on the same platform for a supply outage, not only pleased the unhappy clients, but won the crowd over too; potentially creating new sales opportunities.
These are both good examples of how to, and how not to, communicate with clients: How to make social media marketing work.
Which social networks to use?
Having identified how the company wishes to deploy its social marketing activities, the final step is to select the appropriate channels – the actual social networking sites that the company will use. To a large extent this choice is influenced by the market in which the company operates. Another important factor to consider is what format the social marketing should take. For example:
- Pinterest and in Instagram are excellent platforms for pictorials
- Twitter is ideal for shorter, more frequent posts.
- LinkedIn is a an excellent B2B platform
- Google+ is advantageous for increasing SEO ranking
The choices are numerous. There are however two things to beware of.
The Need for Regularity
Social media marketing postings must be done regularly. As mentioned earlier, it does take time to reap the full rewards, but you must stick with it, or it will fail.
Once you have chosen your channels, you must then prepare a schedule of how many posts you will make on each channel, and how often. Once you have your schedule, follow it religiously.
Don’t overstretch yourself
There are a lot of social media networks out there to choose from. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Businesses have far more success by being selective and regular, than trying to be all encompassing, and spasmodic.
However, do bear in mind that there are niche social networks out there that it may be beneficial to your business to join. Using the main networks, alongside your chosen niche network, can make all the difference to the social conversations you can enjoy to generate brand awareness and ultimately, sales.