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Developing a Social Media Strategy

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It’s tempting to dive into social media and start “doing”, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time, money and frustration if you take the time to develop your social media strategy and plan first. Once your strategy is developed, you should revisit it often, ideally as you measure social media effectiveness on a monthly or quarterly basis.

The process is designed to help both new and experienced social media users develop a strategy and action plan to guide decision making quickly and effectively. It is also designed to overlay a similar framework for traditional marketing strategies and tactics so both can be integrated into your marketing plan.

Decision making framework

The Process

The process is defined in more detail in the Social Media Strategy and Planning Guide in the book Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing and Create a Culture of Execution. The following is a summary of each step in the process.

Purpose: What Do You Want to Accomplish?

A social media plan, like any marketing plan, begins by defining the specific goals you wish to accomplish, and doing so in as quantifiable a way as possible so you can track and measure them through analytics and reporting. Use the following questions to help you define your objectives:

What is your purpose for engaging in social media? How will you define success? Is your goal to generate leads, brand awareness, drive sales, or establish expertise? Is your objective to increase customer engagement with your brand or to build a large community of subscribers and followers?

Research: Who Is Your Target Audience and Where Will You Find Them?

Social media is about connecting with prospects, customers, and like-minded people. How do you define your target audience? Where will you find them and what social media networks do they use? Do they engage in blogs? Once you have identified who you want to reach, then you can discover how to reach and communicate with them using different types of social media.

Another important component of research is to listen and understand customer needs so you can respond effectively. Social media is an ideal way to do research to discover what is being said about you, your company, your brand, customers, competitors, and trends.

Analyze: Statistics, Media Tools, Metrics, and Trends

Analysis of your research will help you determine what strategies will yield the best results, as well as select the metrics for monitoring performance. Will it be number of subscribers, comments, views, actions, retweets, followers, links, leads, media mentions, or something else? Will you compare your presence to competitors, industries, or best practices? How will you know if you are attracting the people who matter?

Strategize: Create Your Game Plan

Social media strategies cascade from your business goals and marketing objectives and it is developed to affect the actions of the target audience you wish to reach. Your work in the previous three steps will enable you to develop strategies faster and more effectively.  Make sure strategies reflect a consistent brand position and messaging that is used in all your marketing communication.

Implement: Develop a Tactical Plan

Now that you have developed strategies based on the objectives you want to achieve, you will develop social media tactics to achieve your strategy. Your plan will define the specific tools, social media networks and specific tactics you will implement, the resource needs, how tactics will be measured, and projected ROI. Also include budget, time frame, and who is responsible for execution.

Execute: Link Strategy and Execution

Now it’s time to operationalize your plan so it can be executed more efficiently. Define clear roles and responsibilities. For example, who creates blog content? How much time will it take to develop it? What ramp time is needed to create a library of content for posting? How often should posts be made? How many hours a day or week are required to participate and build a community? Who monitors customer engagement and satisfaction? Who responds to customer requests? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.

Evaluate: Metrics

Ongoing review is critically important. Your social media strategy will outline ROI metrics and the research and analytics that are needed to make decisions. Who is responsible for doing this important activity? How often will strategy and metrics be reported and adjustments made?  Evaluate programs often to ask questions such as: Where are we getting our greatest response? Do we know why? What messages resonate with our customers and prospective customers the most? What messages and videos are forwarded to others the most?

For additional information, as well as a list of tools and metrics, download The Social Media Strategy and Planning Guide found at MarketSmarter.com.

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