Our first post in a series to help beginners (and maybe some more experienced hands as well) understand social media begins with strategy.
Often skipped entirely or dismissed as unnecessary, drafting a social media strategy should be the cornerstone of every social media campaign – regardless of the company size. Whether you’re an individual looking to rebrand yourself before a job search or an international company trying to target a new market, you need to have a plan. Let’s take a look at what goes into a social media strategy in three steps.
One caveat: This three-step guide assumes that you’ve already spent some time online listening to your market and you’re able to make an educated guess at how to target them. Before you can build a strategy, you’ll need to have set reasonable goals for your social media campaign.
Step One: Resources: Social media isn’t free. Before jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, take a hard look at what resources you can allocate.
Will a new social media campaign replace existing aspects of your current marketing? If so, will it free up budget? What content are you going to contribute? Do you have a regularly updated blog that provides more than simple self promotion? Is your company in support of promoting themselves as thought leaders in their industry? How often can you add new content?
Who will search for relevant articles to post? Who will answer comments on your blog and moderate posts to your Facebook fan page? How many staffers can be dedicated to the initial setup and learning curve of various tools? Will each staffer specialize in a specific area or will you need to cross train your staff to function with multiple tools? What skills do your staff already have and what will need to be taught/learned? Will your outreach be limited to business hours only or is it possible to allocate manpower over a larger part of the 24-hour cycle?
How much budget can you allocate to purchasing support tools for your strategy? Can you foot the bill for Involver’s toolset to make your Facebook presence more powerful and easier to manage? Will you and your staff have smartphones capable of sharing content from anywhere with a 3G connection?
To build a successful strategy using social media, you’ll need to take a hard look at three resources:
- Time: How much time can you or your company dedicate to these efforts on an ongoing basis?
- Talent: What skills can you leverage that allow you to reach out online in a new format?
- Technology: Both hardware and know-how – can your current hardware get the job done and are your tech skills up to the task (or do you have a geek in waiting that could help you out)?
Step Two: Content: Before you create that corporate account at Digg.com, take a step back and consider what content you’ve got to share with the world.
The first part of content brainstorming should be a raid of your archives. Have you got good informational articles that can be repurposed as blog posts with a facelift? Do you have some PowerPoint presentations explaining your product or service that can be shared at SlideShare.net? Videos teaching someone some tips and tricks that you can add to YouTube? Audio files that teach – can they be made into a regular podcast? Content is king in any social media campaign, so consider first what you’ve got to use. In many cases, generating new content is also the most time consuming (and therefore resource consuming) aspect of your strategy, so make sure you use what you’ve already got.
But your own content is less than half of the equation. In order for your outreach effort to be a success, you need to become a valuable resource to your target market. And that means sharing a wealth of top-notch content that extends well beyond your own self-promotion efforts. If you’ve done a good job of building a successful listening system and know what content is relevant to your target market and where they can find those resources, you’re well on your way to sharing great links.
Instead of trying to steer your market to your content only, serve as an aggregator of relevant information on the Web in a variety of platforms. Become the go-to site for news and information, tips and tricks.
Instead of the staid model of solely diseminating information to your target market, become part of the discussion and encourage a focus group atmosphere.
Step Three: Tools: Finally, we reach the aspect of social media with which folks are most familiar. Once you’ve got the content, how are you going to reach your target market?
If you’re lucky, the most powerful tool in your social media toolbox might be your own Web site. If you’re unlucky, and your Web site doesn’t meet the needs of your target market, you’re going to have a hard time with any Web-based marketing campaign – despite your best efforts. Your own site is home base for your presence on the Web. If your ultimate goal is to sell a product, be contacted by a prospective client or be hired to perform a service, your own site is the most likely gateway for new business. Make sure you have your ducks in a row at home before spending resources trying to promote a weak site.
Whenever possible, your use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter should be a means of getting people back to your own Web site. Don’t let your networks serve as an end point. While it’s useful when someone shares your Facebook fan page, you’ll have a lot more leverage if the link they share is to your blog or Web site. Train your target market to come back to you as a destination for useful content. Any links to your site that are shared will improve your search engine optimization – this technique is known as inbound marketing.
Which networks are the best fit for your target market? Will you reach the same market on two different networks, such as Twitter and Facebook? What sites for rich media fit your content the best? Does your Web site have tracking software in place to determine from which sites people click through to you? Which networks are best suited to your specific goals?
In summary: Evaluate your resources, raid your archives for content and target your market on the networks that are most conducive to achieving your goals.
We’d love your feedback on our new series – Social Media 1-2-3 – here on the blog at Pixel/Point Press. To read more articles in this series, please bookmark this category.