Is Social Media Part Of Your 2012 Marketing Plan? Strategize With These 5 Steps.

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Our competitor is on Facebook. We must get on there. Now.

In the past year it seems that multiple businesses have scrambled to utilize the latest social media platforms simply because everyone else is doing it. Sure, with over 800 million users, Facebook is an attractive platform – but should tossing up a Fan Page be the first move? Like anything else in marketing, you need to start with a plan.

Here’s a 5-step process to make sure you’re heading in the right direction:

1. Know what’s already being said about your brand.

Do you have Google Alerts set up, or even better – Google Reader? Do you use an online monitoring tool to discover what’s being said about your brand, and where? If you’ve answered no to these questions – then this is a critical first step in order to know what negative comments might come up, what positive comments you might capitalize on, where conversations about your brand are taking place, and so on.

2. Define your objectives.

With traditional advertising campaigns, organizations typically have a list of objectives. “We want to drive sales by 10%.” “We want to change behaviour.” Yet when it comes to jumping on the social bandwagon, some businesses seem to forget about asking this essential first question – what do we want to achieve? Perhaps it’s to educate customers on a product. And/or maybe it’s to provide another channel for customer service. Whatever your reason – write it down, remember it, work toward it.

3. Know your audience. Know the platforms.

Now that you know what’s being said about your brand and what you want to achieve, it’s time to look at your target audience and the available social media platforms.  Does your audience create or just comment on content? What are the limitations and rules for specific platforms? How do people use them? Answering these questions will help you tailor your day-to-day messages, campaigns, and contests in order to provide better value to your audience.

4. Develop a content plan.

To develop a good content plan, reiterate steps 1 to 3 into your plan. What is your brand’s objective? What is the current perception of your brand online? Where is your audience and how do they act on various social platforms? This knowledge serves as the backbone for your content plan. Using this information, develop a personality for your brand that will emotionally connect with your audience to start building a relationship online. Then, consider the types of posts you should be publishing to keep them interested. But remember, a good content plan is flexible. Which leads me to…

5. Rollout, review, revise and repeat.

This is where having a social media management tool (see the blog post I previously wrote about these tools) is especially useful. With one tool, not only can you monitor your brand, but you can also respond to, write, schedule and review the effectiveness of your posts. Revise your content plan as needed to improve social efforts and continue growing your online communities.

The work doesn’t stop once you have developed a strategy document. It begins.

Once a plan has been developed, there are many more actions you’ll need to take. Integration into your website, SEO considerations, visual assets for your social profiles, an internal social media policy, and maintaining the platforms day-today are just a few examples. A social media plan is different for each organization – dependant on things like the brand, business goals, key audiences, and internal capabilities.

Remember, social media isn’t “free” like some companies might think – it requires time and thoughtfulness from the initial planning, to development, to ongoing maintenance and reviewing. If you’re going to do it – do it well.

 

 

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