When I turned 12, my father took me down to the social security office to get my card and said I would start working on the weekends busing tables at a local restaurant. I remember when I first started, feeling totally overwhelmed by all the things you had to keep track of. In the restaurant industry, you quickly learn how to prioritize based on the needs of the owners, the kitchen, the bar and the customers. I think Social Media Marketing works much in the same way; you need to decide what your priority is for attaining your goals and then go from there. Do I bring water to that table, or do I serve the food that is sitting in the kitchen getting cold? Chances are the table can wait for water, but the customers are going to be pissed if they get cold food.
We often hear about how marketing sometimes makes you feel like a deer caught in the headlights. All the possibilities can make a business owner’s head spin… Should I be more active on social media? Should I start blogging? What sites should I be active on?… It’s understandable, there is a lot to navigate and so much information (often conflicting) out there, that it is hard to know where to go. As a business owner, whether your knowledge is limited or vast, us marketers understand the decision making challenges you face.
So where do you start? Well, that of course, can depend on where you have been. In every case, however, the first place to start is with your goals. Whether you are a brand new online business, an offline business beginning to establish an online presence, or a brand that has been around for years, if you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing, you are never going to know if you are getting to where you are supposed to be going (say that 10 times fast). After you decide what your marketing goals are (and yes, you must do this whether you like it or not) you will want to determine what your marketing plan is. Basically, what are you going to do specifically to achieve your goals.
Once your goals are in place, you will need to take a look at your audience segments. Even if you have a good sense of who your targeted audience is, it is always a good idea to have a fresh look. With new social media sites popping up, particularly for niche audiences, you will likely find that your audience segments grow and change over the course of time. You may start out with four or five segments and then realize that each segment can be broken further down into sub-segments and sub-sub-segments. When compiling your lists, you want to make sure you prioritize your audience based on your goals.
So you have your audience segments in place, now what? The big R word… Research. Where is your target audience spending the most time online? Most likely Facebook and Twitter are going to be big players, BUT they are not the only players. Maybe you have a heavy visual component and Flickr and Pinterest are going to be important communities. Or perhaps you generate really great how-to videos, therefore, YouTube or Vidipedia might be great social media sites to target. Smaller niche communities with high engagement can also have great value and potential even if they only have a small pool of people to engage with. You want to think about what sites will target which audience segment and push appropriate content to those sites.
After you determine which social media sites you will be active on, you need to put policies in place for employees to be active on these sites. An internal social media policy can go a long way to ensure that the voice and messaging for your brand is kept consistent.
Now that you know where you are going, you need to know how often you are going there. Allocating percentages of time can help keep your social media plan focused so that you can determine the benefit (the social ROI) of using these sites. This should not be done haphazardly. Be realistic so that you can actually follow through with your plan. Ask questions like: Do you have someone with 2 hours free time in your organization that they can dedicate to blogging once a week? How much free time does office staff have on a daily basis to be active on social? It may end up that you need to bring in some extra help to manage your online presence.
You social media marketing plan is a road map for your daily, weekly, monthly activities, but it doesn’t mean that you set it and forget it. Constant monitoring, reviewing and tweaking are all part of a good strategic marketing campaign. Be sure to keep an eye on your competitors and always try to stay one step ahead of what they are doing. Don’t forget to look outside of you bubble to see what topics are trending in your industry or what horizontal industries you can connect with.
There is a wealth of information about social media marketing and the industry is rapidly growing and changing on an hourly basis. Your online marketing plan must include room for your employees to learn about the changing landscape to help create and develop ideas for your industry. Having a curious and sponge-like brain is critical to navigating in this world.
Companies know they need help getting their products and services into the hands of their intended audience. Still are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of creating your social media marketing plan because don’t know where to begin? My advice is always to… ask an expert. Don’t run into the road and become a deer caught in the headlights, instead, find someone who provides social media training and consulting, and ask them to help you cross the road.