8-Point Approach to Building a Social Marketing Strategy
Are you feeling lost or out of control with your social marketing strategy? New communities pile up on top of old ones, which means more metrics to track, more content to push, more personas to build – all in the name of connecting people to your brand in meaningful ways. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, how about building an approach to your social strategy that helps you make sense of it all. Then, take what you’ve learned and add to your strategy over time. Repeatable models help you reduce the stress associated with managing large portfolios of social networks and content production. Plus, when you work to define the things that matter to your community, your content – the bread and butter of social – only gets better.
1. Look at the social channels you’re currently participating in.
Analyze how you’re doing right now. Benchmark – what’s working, what’s not working? Create baselines. You’re going to need this to measure results. Use the data that’s available to you in all your social networks, things like Facebook Insights, so you can begin to build a case for trends on what your community responds to. Look at creative ways you can mine data in your communities. It’s there just waiting for you.
2. Look at potential channels you’re not utilizing.
Define the audiences and behavior of each social community you’re not participating in. You need to make sure it makes sense for your brand to be in that space before you charge full steam ahead. Ask yourself what the purpose and end goal for participating is. Is there a potential audience for anything your company has to offer? If so, how will you make the content you share a fit for the community? This means taking the time to understand each community, finding out what works there and what doesn’t. You have to play by the unspoken rules to succeed. But, true understanding comes from participation, and this knowledge will develop over time.
3. Define the purpose and goal of each social channel.
This requires a lot of thought. You can’t just jump in expecting things like “social networks are meant for sales.” You have to realize that each channel will serve its purpose in its own way. Define not only the purpose of each community, but the purpose of its overall contribution to your holistic marketing plan.
From there, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with your goals. Data and wisdom meet in this step. Some social channels are just not meant to do certain things. The goals for your blog, for example, might be to build authority and drive traffic, so don’t make the mistake of making dollars your direct goal. Make building authority and driving traffic your goal, and it will likely contribute to the end goal of revenue (more on that later). You’ll want to set goals for success in each individual community, and then goals on how that community is contributing to the marketing plan as a whole.
4. Define and track your metrics.
Your metrics should fall into place after you’ve decided the purpose and goal. Now you decide what you will track to ensure you’re meeting your goals. Using the blog example, if you decide the purpose of the blog is to build authority and traffic, you’ll now identify ways to measure both of those. Within each goal, you’ll have several indicators that you set to measure success. And each social channel will likely have a hierarchy of metrics.You’ll want to track success not only in individual social communities, but also how each contributes to your entire marketing effort as a whole.
So for example, you’ll want to track how your LinkedIn presence is doing on it’s own, and then how it’s impacting your conversions. This is where attribution modeling can be helpful. Tracking and assigning value to social’s role in the conversion process helps you to understand how it contributes to the big picture.
5. Figure out how you will monitor progress.
What tools will you use? Tracking progress across multiple social channels is no easy feat. Spend time doing research on the tools that will make your efforts make sense. Paid tools will likely give you more efficiency by having one single dashboard. But, you can bootstrap and piece together free tools for each community. Some communities also offer built-in data already.
Next, how often will you analyze reports for each social channel to stay ahead of the game? Some social marketing efforts may require more reporting than others, depending on how fast the community moves or what type of content you’re tracking. Will it be hourly? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
6. Develop personas for each community.
Who is your existing community? Dig in and find out. Almost every community offers ways you can extract data. Some of it may be laborious, but with a little creativity, you can find out a lot about the community. Then, combine this with the demographics of the network as a whole. You can dig into demographics of networks like Google Plus and Pinterest with a little research. What opportunities do these networks offer in terms of data and targeting? Looking at the network as a whole helps you to understand targeting opportunities outside your existing community.
And for each community, look at potential personas that perhaps aren’t as obvious. Instead of looking at demographics at face value, how about looking at subsets like potential clients of a service or product you offer, or current customers who are participating in your community already? Even a search engine spider can be a persona.
Or maybe a persona subset is a role, like an information-seeker. For example, you might have an audience on your blog that has a range of needs. Some may only prefer “how-to” articles, while others love industry-type news and information, while still others prefer more advanced topics.
7. Decide how you will allocate resources.
What communities get what resources? If you’re just starting out, the answer may not be crystal clear. Over time, you may find that the top-performing communities deserve more resources. Or you may find that some communities just demand more resources. Either way, it’s good to get a snapshot so you can continuously budget time.
8. Determine your content strategy.
Which came first — a thriving social community or great content? Truth is, you can’t have one without the other. The whole point of all the data you’re collecting in your social channels, the building of personas, the understanding of the social communities — all this is so you can create quality content and give your community what it wants, all the while building your company’s visibility online.
This one section could be an entire blog post. But some high-level things to remember when building content strategy is you have to understand the audience you’re speaking to, you have to track the performance of the content you create across channels, and you have to be able to be both proactive and reactive.
If you’re just starting out and haven’t been sharing much content in the social sphere, then you may feel like you don’t have any direction because because you’re short on data as your starting point. But that’s not true.
Take stock of all your existing content on your website. Look at your analytics to see what pages have been performing. You can use that information to start building content around topics that seem popular to your online audience already. If you have a blog, even better. You can dig into social reporting in Google Analytics to get a snapshot of how your posts are being shared across networks.
A publishing schedule should be created and defined across all channels. How often will you publish which content? This includes creating an editorial calendar. Save room for special campaigns or trending topics so you can be reactive to the information people want, right now.
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