Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy
When I devoted an entire chapter in my book, Marketing 2.0, to developing a social media marketing strategy, my intent was to inspire marketers. In other words, I want marketers to avoid making the most common mistake, which is the mindset that you need a Twitter or Facebook strategy. You don’t. You need a social media marketing strategy!
Consider assembling the marketing team and your CEO and asking these questions:
• Why do we think we need a social media strategy?
• What is our objective?
• What will the costs be?
• What are the staffing requirements?
• What are the risks?
• What are the opportunities?
• What are our competitors doing in social media?
Old School Meets New School
While Marketing 2.0 is a new-school marketing paradigm, there is no substitute for old-school research to gain valuable insights before you develop your social media strategy. Begin with research about your customers, target customers, competitors, resellers and influencers. Take no less than a few days (at a minimum) to study the landscape in your industry. Conduct searches in Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for the names of the CEOs of any company in your industry that is relevant. Include your competitors, your suppliers, and any other relevant company, including analysts and publications. This research should provide valuable insight into where your customers and relevant community are spending time on the social web. You’ll learn what they’re talking about and what groups exist by topic or by company. You’ll learn what your competition is doing or not doing. Eventually, you will gain valuable insight that will drive your social media strategy.
Why Do We Think We Need a Social Media Strategy?
This question is somewhat akin to asking, what business are we in? When you consider why you need a social media strategy, you should take some time and revisit this question about your core business. A social media strategy serves one simple purpose; it enables your company to engage in authentic conversations with your community so you can improve your ability to attract, retain and serve your customers.
So Begin Your Social Media Strategy by Listening!
On one hand, it’s obvious why we should be listening. It’s the same reason we should be reading industry news—to stay informed. But remember that News 1.0 came at you from only one direction. The people whose job it was to deliver the news wrote it, and you read it. That’s where it ended. In News 2.0, we are empowered to participate in the story. When you listen to the comments made by people who react to a news story, you are listening to your market in real time.
If your top competitors are actively producing content in social media, your risk may be greater if you choose not to. Your absence from online conversations may damage your brand. In short, competitive pressures may influence your decision to become a content producer.
What is Our Objective?
You’ve done your research, and you’ve identified why you need a social media strategy. Now, it’s time to clearly define your objectives. Your objectives should fall into one of these categories:
• Competitive differentiation
• Market share growth
• Expansion of your brand
A competitive differentiation strategy requires you to increase your visibility on the social web in your market segment through online content commenting and new content creation. Identify the best sources of web-based content in your industry, including vertical industry media and associations. Task a member of your staff to monitor the content and the conversations in these online communities. Identify the subject matter experts in your organization who can get engaged in the conversations in these online communities or contribute new content. Consider a blog strategy if you have the staff to devote to it. Find a voice for your organization that can become a consistent voice in your market, delivering a consistent message on specific topics. Allow this voice to be active and free with ideas and valuable insights into the things about which the people in your industry care. Remember, this is not a direct sales strategy, though your management team may view it this way. Your differentiation goal is to allow the market to see how you think, how you serve, how you listen, how you respond, and generally how you add value to your market. Talking about your products in ways that interest your community is advisable. Shouting to them about features is not. Your goal is to make it easy for others to learn how your organization is different from your competitors.
Market Share Growth
In setting out to grow your market share, you must be committed to proper staffing and producing diversified content on the social web. You must do proper planning and be willing to experiment, even if it means taking risk and failing some along the way. The objective is to attract more of your community to your organization. To do this, you need a bigger footprint on the web. If your differentiation strategy was primarily based on a blog, you may need to expand your strategy. You might commit to producing videos. Groups are available in social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook and can offer very easy ways to expand your reach. Similarly, you may find groups in industry-specific social sites where your staff can participate. This requires commitment, which carries with it some staffing implications. But this can be accomplished by adjusting your staffing requirements, cutting nonperforming marketing activities and reallocating staff resources to producing more social media content.
To expand your brand using social media requires a big commitment and carries some risk. The content strategy is the key to success in brand expansion! You’ll need to decide which social media platforms to use, who will create the content, and who will be the public face of your content. Presumably you’ve done your homework to find the audience you want to reach, and you’re committed to producing the content that will reach them. You’ll need to experiment to find the right mix of content and platforms to reach your desired audience. You may find that some content is more effective than others in expanding your brand. You’ll need to take some risk and measure results along the way to determine the effectiveness of expanding your brand through social media.
Let Your Content Go
The reality is that most businesses have more content than we know what to do with. We have white papers, news releases, websites, newsletters, and countless internal documents, not to mention the brilliant but often undeveloped content residing in between our ears. The power of social media marketing lies in letting it all go. Share your content with the world. So if you have good content for your community, share it, promote it, but most of all, just let it go.
Ready, Aim, Fire
Do your homework. Set your goals. Set your content strategy. Assemble the team. Cut non-performing activities to make room for a social media strategy. Then, get started. You’ll make some mistakes. But, with good planning you’ll make fewer and less costly mistakes and you’ll accelerate your results.
I’ll write a blog post soon about how to measure social media marketing results…