If you’ve considered incorporating social media into your overall marketing strategy, but just haven’t quite pulled the trigger, listen up.
The world (and most importantly, your competitors) is passing you by. For every moment that you stand on the social media sidelines, they are taking full advantage of the benefits you are not.
Fear, budget concerns and lack of time are no longer good excuses to hesitate. If you’re not sure how to implement a social media strategy, there are a bevy of professional services, not to mention books, white papers, webinars and blogs willing to give you tactical and realistic advice.
According to a recent post on Techcrunch.com, Facebook went from 337 million to 585 million users in 2010 and Twitter has over 6 millioni . So why aren’t you listening to this ready and available audience?
Social marketing expert Scott Stratten states this very clearly: “Word of mouth is not a project or a viral marketing play. The mouths are moving. You need to decide if you want to be a part of the conversation.”ii
And who better to lead or moderate a conversation about your product, service or industry than you?
Like other forms of marketing for your organization, marketing should not be done haphazardly, nor should it be treated like a typical PR or marketing event on your website. Because social media is essentially user-driven, your mindset and approach may need to change, but your ability to decide and stick to a plan should not.
You shouldn’t jump on the social media band wagon just because everyone else is doing it, however there are some tangible advantages to engaging current and potential customers through nontraditional methods. Realizing the huge potential audience you can reach through Twitter, LinkedIn, or company website blog posts should motivate you to incorporate some form of social media into your overall marketing plan.
With this in mind, consider the following as you make and implement your social media plan:
- Pick social media outlets that make sense for your industry, your brand and your audience. As with any online-related user research, find out where the mouths are moving and apply your efforts there first.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. A realistic social media plan will not try to do it all—at least not right away. Start small and grow from there. Do what makes sense.
- Allocate appropriate resources committed to social media. Whether you want to wage a full-blown social media war or simply blog once a month on your company website, make sure you are dedicating adequate hours to make this plan successful. It will pay off in the long-run.
- Follow a schedule. Using your dedicated resource(s), make sure that once you implement a social media strategy, you follow through with it on a regular basis. Establish an editorial calendar weeks or months in advance of postings. Decide who will write which pieces of content, when it will be posted and how long it will stay there (will you archive your blog posts, your Twitter feeds, or your Digg submissions on your website?)
- Content is key. Make sure you are carefully crafting well-written content to send out to your fans, followers, competitors and critics. Don’t slap something together just to get it out the door on time. Remember that your documents, messages and tweets may end up living in perpetuity.
- Make sure your left hand is talking to your right. As with any communications plan, make sure you are appropriately integrating and timing your social media efforts in sync with the rest of your overall marketing strategy and your website. Using your dedicated resources to maintain an up-to-date editorial calendar that is clearly communicated internally should help.
- Be responsive. If you are going to allow comments to your blog posts or engage in Twitter conversations, then you had better be ready and waiting to reply, whether it is a “thank you”, a “please email us more details so we can attempt to resolve your issue,” or clarifying your position in the wake of an angry outburst. Social media might be user-driven, but that doesn’t mean you need to relinquish ultimate control to the people.
The world of social media and its application to the business world is a large undertaking, but once you take the time to evaluate how it should be customize d for your purposes, the rest will fall into place a little bit easier. Remember that your social media methods have to make sense, and most of all they should be done in the spirit of how they were intended: to engage, to participate and most of all, to listen to what others have to say about your company and your products or services. What you once could only glean in user research group sessions, through letters sent to the CEO or literally on the street is now only a few clicks away.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the Twitter addicts had to start somewhere. As with any learning curve, they asked questions and figured it out along the way. No one expects your staff to be social media gurus, but get good solid advice before you step out onto the world social media stage so you can market like one. Contact Aware Web Solutions if you want more information or need to be pointed in the right direction.
[ii] Stratten, Scott. (2010). Unmarketing: stop marketing. start engaging. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated.