If your company is using social media, it is VITAL that you have a strategy and plan in place that’s guiding your efforts. Not only will your efforts be much more successful, but it will save you a ton of time and money since your efforts will be focused. And it will be much easier to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.
So why don’t more people have a social media strategy in place? In most cases, they simply aren’t sure how to create said strategy. This post will hopefully help with this ALL too common problem. So if your company is using social media and ‘winging it’ without a plan, please share this post internally. If you have friends that are trying to get social media efforts off the ground at their company, please pass this along to them. We will not see REAL growth from companies using social media until more of them get SOLID plans in place that are guiding their efforts.
Let’s get started on making that happen. Here is a framework for creating a social media strategy for your business.
First, think about what you are wanting to accomplish with social media. What are your goals? Here’s some examples:
- Build awareness for your company
- Increase sales
- Increase customer leads
- Establish thought leadership
- Use social media as a customer service platform
- Provide product support for customers
- Collect feedback on existing or potential products and services
- Build a place where customer evangelists can connect
Second, think about who you are wanting to reach. Is it current customers? Potential customers? Industry sources? Potential clients? Who is your ‘target market’? Creating a simple monitoring system will help you determine the answer to this question. By monitoring online mentions, you can get a good feel for where the online conversation about your company is happening, and how active it is. Want to jump on Twitter? What if no one on Twitter is talking about you? Monitoring will help you determine this. You can use premium tools such as Radian6 or Techrigy, or if you are a smaller business it’s probably fine to go with free tools such as Google Alerts and Twitter search.
Third, what are your resources? What’s your budget for social media? How many employees are available to work on your social media efforts? Will you have to outsource some of your efforts at the start? Will you have to outsource all of your efforts at the start? How much time can you devote to social media?
Answering these questions will greatly determine which tactics (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) are best for helping you achieve your social media strategy. Let me state this again; Getting on Twitter is NOT a social media strategy. Twitter is a tactic used to execute a social media strategy. You first need to answer the three questions above and THEN decide that Twitter is the right (or one of the right) tactics to help you achieve your goal(s) for social media.
So let’s say you’ve answered these three questions. Your goals are to use social media to build awareness and increase sales. That means you will primarily be targeting new and potential customers. Now let’s also factor in the answers from the third question about your resources.
On the surface, a goal of using social media as a way to build awareness for your business and increase sales sounds like a great opportunity for your business to launch a company blog. But a blog carries with it unique time and social media skillset requirements. That’s why you also need to factor in your resources. Do you have enough time and people available to ensure that the blog will regularly have fresh content available? Do you also have the people available to spend time connecting with readers and potential customers on and off your blog? If not, do you have the budget to outsource some or all of these efforts?
That’s why you must consider all three questions at once. And after you have answered these questions and now have your strategy in place, and have decided on the social media tactics you will use, now you have to figure out how to measure the effectiveness of your strategy. At this point, don’t blindly assume that more traffic or followers or friends is best. Make sure that the metrics you measure tie back to your social media goals. If your end goal for your blog is to sell more widgets, should you measure number of comments per post, or number of referrals from the blog to the widget product page on your website? Does it really matter that you have 10,000 followers on Twitter, if only 10 of them are potential customers?
Put your metrics on trial. Make SURE that whatever you measure makes sense in the context of what you are trying to accomplish with social media. More traffic is great, but what actions are those visitors performing once they arrive at your blog or message board? If you are adding 100 fans a week to your Facebook page and still can attribute no additional sales from Facebook fans, so what? (BTW this opens another can of worms, but it could be that your Facebook fans ARE driving sales, but you don’t know that because you aren’t tracking them correctly, or at all)
At the end of the day, you have to have a strategy guiding your social media efforts. And I know that some CEOs hear the term ‘social media strategy’ and immediately get nervous because they think it means a lot of $$$ and a big commitment. What it means that you are going to ORGANIZE your social media efforts and make them more efficient. Just because an intern got you on Twitter and Facebook doesn’t mean you need to be on either site.
Once you get a strategy in place, you’ll save time and money. You have a strategy driving your other marketing efforts, why should what you are doing with social media be any different?
Thanks to Esther for suggesting this post!
Scott Gould says
Nice overview of basic strategy but certainly nothing new here that we haven’t heard before. What I want to k ow is what are the social media frameworks, what are the main strategies. Otherwise, it’s just the same stuff being said week in week out
.-= Scott Gould´s last blog ..Sucker For A Story. A Bigger Sucker For A Mystery =-.
Mack Collier says
Scott I actually want to expand more on the actual strategies in the future.
But you have to realize that my audience and the people I am trying to reach are companies that need help with social media. And in the majority of the cases, this is the exact type of information that they are begging for. When I connect with a company, the initial conversation usually starts with ‘Ok we’re on Twitter and Facebook but I have no idea if this stuff is working or not. What should be happening?’ So we have to back up and start from scratch by putting a plan in place and THEN deciding if Twitter and Facebook still fit in that plan.
This stuff is likely all old-hat to you, but it’s not to many of the companies that seek me out. In fact, that’s why I wanted to write this post and other 101-level posts so I can start pointing to these posts instead of saying the same thing over and over again in emails.
Thanks for the comment and suggestion!
Danny Brown says
Great points Mack.
One I would definitely add is to carry out a social audit before even considering how your strategy will pan out. If your audience (existing or targeted) isn’t even there, you’ll just be wasting a whole load of resources to start with.
It may even be that your complete strategy consists of nothing more than listening 🙂
.-= Danny Brown´s last blog ..The HEART of Social Media =-.
Mack Collier says
You’re right Danny, I think this is where the monitoring plays in, to figure out where the chatter is, the volume of that chatter, and who is chattering 😉
Add in goals and resources and all this plays in together to help a company determine what they should or should not be doing with social media.
Ed Hartigan says
Thanks Mack – nice post indeed.
I think the planning and strategy phase is grossly overlooked at the moment. It also takes an honest agency or consultant or guru (the good kind!) to hold their client back a bit, not take the $$ on offer to do a quick fix and make a stand for a correctly implemented strategy with the tactics and tools coming later.
.-= Ed Hartigan´s last blog ..Do the tools mask what social media really is? =-.
Mack Collier says
I agree Ed, I think a big problem is that we consultants are telling companies that when it comes to social media to ‘just do it!’ So they do, and then a month later look at how many followers they have or friends and wonder what the hell they are seeing.
Just getting started is fine, as long as you get started with a plan in place that dictates your future actions. No social site or tool is ‘one size fits all’.
Amie aka MammaLoves says
I’m sort of a strategic planning purist, so I LOVE that you point out the difference between goals and tactics.
My other pet peeves are the “consultants” who say they will create a great social media campaign which in my mind misses the point. It’s supposed to be social. Relationships are supposed to be developed. Throwing up a website/blog and having a Facebook Fan Page do not count as a campaign.
Great post. Tagging it on Delicious for future reference and referral.
.-= Amie aka MammaLoves´s last blog ..And Again =-.
Mack Collier says
Amie thanks for the comment! I also think there’s a big disconnect between what many consultants THINK companies should be focused on, and what resonates with companies.
For example, many consultants stress the need for companies to ’embrace the conversation’, and that draws a blank from many companies, but if you reposition a blog (for example), as being a customer service channel, then they can more easily see the benefit. Or as a way to improve SEO.
So many of our conversations with companies are spoken in OUR language, not their’s. That’s why the disconnect happens in many cases.
Rob Ungar says
I think one of the other issues is the word ‘campaign.’ I HATE seeing/hearing this word when people are talking about social media. All these things are just tools to help you do something easier/better. Are you going to start treating using the phone as a campaign? Is using e-mail a campaign?
If you’re (and obviously I don’t mean you, specifically; I mean you generally) treating these as ‘campaigns’ that makes me really question your long-term commitment. A ‘campaign’ implies a short-lived project with an endpoint. Unless your business is just a ‘campaign,’ I can’t see why you’d treat the relationships and knowledge and experience you gain with social media as such.
When people throw around the word campaign, it makes me feel they are not in this for the long run and they don’t treat this as a fundamental shift in the way people do business and communicate, which it is.
.-= Rob Ungar´s last blog ..Quoted in Article on @anywhere =-.
Anna Barcelos says
While this may be obvious to those who have been in the space, I applaud you for thinking of your audience – companies who have still have NO CLUE where to start today. We are working with huge customers who “want” to begin a social media strategy but don’t know how to begin. This article is excellent for these types of companies. Thanks for always thinking of your audience 😉
Mack Collier says
Anna you’re right. They don’t know how to begin, how to craft a strategy, or who to get to help them. So they go it alone and do the best they can.
And to their credit, many companies end up having great efforts. But I really hope in 2010 we move toward focusing more on letting the strategy dictate the tools, rather than the other way around.
Kevin Andreassend says
Good discussion and article here Mack. This week we meet with a marketing who handles some top accounts. Three of the staff have a private Twitter account, a couple on Linkedin and they admitted they have no idea where to start even though they are saying to their clients they need to be involved in Social media. The good thing is they are keen to learn, have us help and work with them and their clients. So for many it is a faltering first steps as they start to get their activities underway. I suspect what you write Mack is going to be brand new concepts for many companies for quite some time.
.-= Kevin Andreassend´s last blog ..SEO keyword selection in brief =-.
Suzanne Vara says
I like you work with people who are in at the basics so this post is not only useful but necessary for people in that area to be exposed to. While people in the industry may see this the blah blah I know this already I see it as a different way of structuring the “words” that we can use to push those on the fence along to show that social media is not just cool people (have to call us cool) playing on the internet.
Thanks for taking the time to lay this out and collectively maybe we can make an impact.
Mack Collier says
Thanks Suzanne. It’s interesting how many different audiences/networks we can have. The one I have on Twitter actually doesn’t do a lot of business with me. It’s great for referrals, but most of the people on Twitter are past 101-level stuff.
But my clients are not. And ultimately, this site is for my consulting business, and the content here is for the benefit of my clients. But I also appreciate it when you smarties stop by as well 😉
Janet Dolansky says
Mack and everyone – What about social media (twitter) to replace a “call center” with an online presence and twitter becomes another channel for business customer support? Would “NOT” be goal of sales in this scenario, but would focus on customer experience for existing “business” customers (not consumers), etc. Obviously we’d want to see if our customers are on twitter, would be, etc. I’m evaluating actually and I’m new to twitter so I welcome any thoughts (URL’s I can reference, etc.!). I’m JanetinDC on twitter!
Mack Collier says
Janet I think that’s a great usage of Twitter. As you said, you’d need to determine if your customers are on Twitter (I think in your case they probably would be), then it becomes a matter of having the resources to actually use Twitter as a CS channel. Because once your customers figure out that you are on Twitter and listening, they’ll begin to seek you out 😉
But I think if you have the resources, it would probably be a great idea!
Victor Canada says
Mack, Great article. I find that Social Media pros lose sight of how young the industry is. I believe that less than 20% of fortune 500 companies have much social media awareness right now never mind SMB companies. I just started my Social Media Consultancy in Louisiana in November and look to you and other Social Media leaders as examples. I appreciate hearing the 101 topics worded differently over and over again. Keep up the great work.
Mack Collier says
Victor good to see another Southerner in the social media space! And thanks!
Mack you did a great job on touching on the possibilities for using social media, specifically Twitter. What excites me is the opportunity of new mediums and innovations of use for the current mediums of online social networking.
Allan Schoenberg says
I’m still surprised by the amount of people I meet at events who say they’re company is ready to do Facebook and Twitter — but once I start asking them questions they have no idea if they have any customers are on those networks. Your thoughts are right on and another example I can use to share with friends and colleagues about the right way to start thinking about social media (or any media for that matter). And Danny’s point about conducting an audit is valid. Perhaps that’s your next blog posting.
Yes…great post. Although I’m a makeup artist in Toronto now, I used to work in Marketing. And I found that clients always wanted to decide what they wanted to do before pinpointing their goals. They were planning their actions first. Never made any sense. So you really can’t put the cart before the horse and have to start at the beginning. And I find that even now my colleagues are all running quickly to twitter, Facebook and Pinterest just to say they have a presence but their presence is aimless. On another note, I like the design and layout of the content of this blog here. Well done
Mack Collier says
Thank you Colette 😉 And thanks for commenting!
Had a typo in my web address in the last post!
Sorry to anyone who clicked on my site to see some great before and after makeovers only to be lead to a faulty rogers page!
Mack Collier says
I changed it for you 😉