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Social Media Strategy Primer, Part Two: Plan to Succeed

If we were building a house of social media marketing success, the five questions you answered in part one would be the foundation. 
If you’ve worked through the five questions and decided social media marketing will benefit you, then you’re ready to start putting up the walls of the house.
You may still need to do some work on your foundation. And that’s okay. The important thing is that you realize that social media isn’t a passing fad or a fun hobby–it’s a business strategy. As Jason Falls wrote in his book, No Bullshit Social Media, “this isn’t a sandbox, this is business.” Only the strategic will survive. We have moved past the stage where social media is a shiny new toy that everyone is playing with. Like every other marketing strategy, it requires time, people, and resources to succeed. You’ve made that commitment and now you’re ready to dive in. Let’s build the walls for your success: you need A-PIE.

Assess- The first step in the A-PIE plan is to assess. Before you make a calculated foray into the social media space, check out the lay of the land. Do this assessment by asking a couple of questions that can be answered with a number of different strategies.

1. Where are my potential customers and fans? Strategies: You can address this several ways. You can look at the national statistics and find out where your customers are online, and even find out even what they’re doing there. You can run a quick check by plugging your sample customer demographic into the free tool Forrester Research has set up. Pick your most common demographic and see how many of them are online. For instance, if I plug in women 35-44 in the United States, I find that 70% of them are spectators online. According to Forrester’s research, this means they are reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching videos from other users, reading online forums, customer reviews and reading tweets. A rather large 31% of them are what Forrester calls “critics,” which means they are posting their own ratings, commenting on blogs and contributing to online forums. You can learn more about the online behavior groups here. These were recently updated in 2010.

How does this help you? If this is your demographic, you know that 70% of them are consuming online content other than just reading their email. You know where you can find them. The next step will be producing content that meets their needs. Remember, they’re not online looking to see what you have to sell; they are looking for answers to their own questions. Help them with valuable content that leads them to the answer. People don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped.

You also know that 31% of this group are influentials. In other words, they are not only consuming valuable content, they are commenting on it and passing it on to others. You will want to make sure to plan for calls-to-action in your content that appeal to their online behavior. If you want more specific online national statistics, check out the Pew Internet Research data. They’ve done several recent online behavior surveys you will find helpful in assessing where your customers are and what they’re doing there.

If you’re interested in something closer to home, start by seeing how much of your target audience is on Facebook. You can do this by going to the “Ads” app on the left side of your Facebook business page and setting up a sample ad. As you whittle down the demographic you want to reach by country, state, ages, etc., Facebook will tell you exactly how many people on Facebook fit your target demographic. If you are willing to spend some money, Gist.com will let you upload your email contacts into their data base, and they will tell you exactly which social networks they are on. A more cost effective way to do this might be to choose a group of core stakeholders and send a free Survey Monkey survey out to the group via email asking about their online habits. You can send ten questions for free to any email list. Ask what social media channels are they on, how often, how long, and what kinds of activities they are participating in on each platform. Throw in a question asking them what kind of content they’re looking for online. That’s a good start.

In the assessment phase, you’ll also want to set up some Google Alerts to monitor your business name so you can be notified when people are mentioning you online. You can also set up effective searches on Twitter (which surpassed Bing and Yahoo put together in 2010 as a search engine). Good tutorials for using Twitter search are abundant online. I would also suggest setting up a Twitter account and making up a list to follow, rather than following individual accounts (again, find tutorials on Google). If you put people you want to follow on a list, you don’t have to follow them officially on Twitter—their content will be delivered to your Twitter feed via the list. I would suggest making a list of successful businesses in your town or business sector to follow, and see how they use the channel. You don’t have to tweet to be on Twitter. You can learn a lot from listening.

2. What are some good case studies of businesses using social media well? Strategies: Do you consume online content? If you don’t, I would suggest you start. Donate a few minutes every day to reading blogs about your business sector. Are any of your competitors on social media? Follow them and see how they are using it in their marketing mix. Follow a few good blogs on social media marketing. You can subscribe to these blogs on an RSS reader such as Google Reader and go there once a day and do a quick read of articles that look interesting. Social Media Examiner put out a list of the top ten social media blogs in 2010. Start there (and include them). You’ll find out after a while which blogs are really helping you. Also, are there bloggers in your city or your sector that specialize in content that will help you? Ask around. Success won’t happen by osmosis. You’ll have to learn and apply what you learn.

After spending some time setting up your assessment program and learning, you can take that valuable input to the next phase. By the way, you never quit assessing–it’s an ongoing part of your marketing effort.

Plan- The next step in your A-PIE trek to success is to plan.

The first step in planning is understanding the “Four Corner Posts” of social media marketing strategy (SMM). These four corner posts are the anchors of the strategy structure. ( I adapted this from Jay Baer’s three-legged stool illustration—nod to Arnie Kuenn– and added goals and metrics, which I believe have to be a part of the basic picture.) Any strategy that doesn’t include all four is going to be wobbly.
Goals and Metrics: Goal setting is part of any marketing plan, but it is especially important in social media marketing (SMM) because most SMM actionable goals are measurable, unlike traditional media. You should plan a brainstorming session that outlines specific actions that you would like your social media strategy to accomplish. A thorough explanation of goal setting is beyond the scope of this article, so I would recommend purchasing a copy of Measure What Matters by Katie D Paine. In the book No Bullshit Social Media by Jason Falls and Erik Deckers, the authors outline seven business strategies that social media can accomplish. This is probably a good place to start. They are outlined in my review of the book here. Both books specifically talk about matching actions to metrics. For now, just remember that metrics are about actions. In other words, we don’t measure the ROI of Twitter, we measure the ROI of an action on Twitter.Actionable goals may be campaign-oriented, short-term, or long term. Come up with a basic set of goals for your social media strategy, and when we get to part three of the primer (The Tool Box), you will be able to plug them in to specific social media channels.I would encourage you to start small until you get the hang of devising good measurable goals. Maybe your primary goal for SMM is to increase awareness about your business or to gain a higher “top of mind” in your sector. Both are measurable on several social media channels. We’ll revisit this in part three.
SEO: If you know me, you also know that I am not qualified to write about search engine optimization on any level except the basics. I do have the Dummies book and a couple friends who are really good at this stuff. There are some things I can tell you. First, your website has to be optimized for search. If you don’t know if yours is, find out. Read some good basic articles on Google, ask your IT person or web developer. An important part of the equation is getting found. You may have the greatest content on the web, but if nobody can find you, you’re sunk. Know, for the most part, that this part of strategy involves finding good keywords and making sure they are present in your content, on your headers, in your picture tags, and your URL. Google AdWords has a tutorial and FAQ page hereon key words. Your website (home base) and your social media channels (outposts) create an inbound marketing loop of sorts that should be keep your fans engaged in your content.
Content Marketing:Content marketing is fast becoming the best method of developing new fans and deepening the loyalty of your present fans online. In a nutshell, content marketing is the method of developing online content that meets the needs and answers the questions of your target demographic. Content marketing is not about you, it is about solving your customer’s problems. It involves two important actions: listening and solving. Listen to the needs of your fans, and provide the answers and resources to solve their problems. It isn’t about selling—it’s about building a foundation for selling. It’s about building loyalty and trust before you pitch. It’s about setting yourself up as a trustworthy authority. We have bundles of data that show people buy from people they trust. That might be established through great customer service, loyalty rewards, or content that solves their problems.There are tons of good examples of great content online. The first one that pops to mind is Procter and Gambles’ Man of the House blog. Providing advice on everything from cooking for your kids to public bathroom etiquette to bedroom intimacy, this blog gets what men want. On a smaller scale, my hometown has a food co-op that provides loads of information on their website: bang-for-your buck wines, recipes, news and events on food and seasonal products, organic farming advice, you name it. They get it. Many websites are turning into centers of information, not on the business, but on their customers’ needs. Companies like Procter and Gamble still have a company website, but they have a different mission there.Content marketing doesn’t have to be a blog; it can be present in all your social media outposts. Good resources to learn how to develop a content marketing strategy across all social media channels include: Content Rules (best recent source), Convince and Convert (Jay Baer Blog) and TopRank(Lee Oden blog).
Social Media Optimization (SMO): The process of getting your social media outposts seen and shared is social media optimization. There are several pieces involved here, but the first is profile optimization. After your keywords are done in the SEO step, they must be transferred to your online profiles and social media content. I also recommend using the same basic profile speech on all your online profiles, if possible. Make sure your profiles include inbound links to your other online outposts and your website. For instance, many people don’t know that you can embed live URL’s in every section of your Facebook info page, and that the headings on the info sections are just suggestions for what to put there. SMO includes (but is not limited to) cross promoting your social media channels on all your online locations. It includes using icons, URLs or QR codes in print and TV advertising, and posting them in your place of business. It includes customizing content for culture—Facebook and Twitter audiences are different. Are you automating the same post to all your social media channels? That is not optimizing. Two good resources to learn more: Accelerate by Arnie Kuenn (best recent source) and Inbound Marketingby Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.In addition to integrating the four pillars into your plan, you must count the cost. How much time, people and resources are you willing to funnel to your SMM efforts? If you are the sole proprietor or the CEO of a company, whoever ends up with social media on their plate should get some training. Whether that means read books, do free online webinars, or hire a consultant, make sure that whoever runs your SMM efforts is familiar with the tool box, knows how to measure and evaluate goals, and has a grasp of all the info in this primer series. I went into some detail on this in the first part of the primer series in question four.

 

I strongly believe your plan should include a social media policy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but it should include guidelines for dealing with negative and spam posts on your channels (here’s a good social media triage example from SocialFish.com), a crisis communications plan, and guidelines for whoever is posting to your accounts. Your plan should also include en editorial calendar based on content buckets, and a dashboard system for posting and monitoring, both of which I will tackle in part three of this series.

I strongly recommend putting your plan into document form and revisiting it regularly (more on evaluation in part three). It can take any form that fits your culture from a multi-page strategic plan to a couple pages of action points. But do make a plan. It will be an anchor, a guide, and a measure of your success.

Next up: Part three, The Toolbox. The toolbox includes the last two letters of the A-PIE acronym, Implement and Evaluate. We’d like to invite you to attend our Social Media Boot Camp on Nov. 5 in Bozeman, Montana, where we will go over all the principles of the primer in detail. Hope to see you there.

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