Thoughts on a Social Media Marketing Strategy

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 4 minutes.

Social media marketing has three important aspects. The first revolves around creating buzz or newsworthy events, videos, tweets, or blog entries that attract attention, and become viral in nature. Buzz is what makes social media marketing work. It replicates a message through user to user contact, rather than the traditional method of purchasing via an advert or promoting a press release. The message does not necessarily have to be about the product. Many successful viral campaigns have gathered steam through an amusing or compelling message, with the company logo or tagline included incidentally.

The second aspect regards building ways that enable fans of a brand or company to promote a message themselves in multiple online social media venues. Fan pages in Twitter, MySpace and Facebook follow this model.

The final aspect is based around online conversations. Social media marketing is not controlled by the organisation and it is naive to think it ever could be. Instead it encourages user participation and dialogue. A badly designed social media marketing campaign can potentially backfire on the organisation that created it. To be successful social media marketing campaigns must fully engage and respect the users.

Only recently Nestlé fell foul of trying to control a conversation on Facebook about their alleged use of palm oil, by stating users should not parody the Nestlé or Nestlé-owned brands’ logos.

…we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted.

Of course, this contributed to people doing exactly that, whilst Greenpeace also fanned the flames via both Facebook and Twitter!

Social media isn’t just about big networks like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, it’s about brands having conversations.

(Lloyd Salmons)

How does this all translate into a social media marketing strategy? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Listen to Conversations — Tap into the online conversations to find out what people are talking about, where they are talking and with whom they are talking.
  2. Establish a Share of Voice — There are a multitude of conversations happening every day, indeed every second. When you join the conversation, what share of the voice do you have, or indeed want to have?
  3. Set Goals and Benchmarks — Using the information and insights gained from following and engaging in conversations, you can then set the goals you’d like to pursue in social media.
  4. Find Bloggers and Communities — This is really an extension of point 1. You have to know where the conversations and discussions are taking place so that you can allocate time and effort and get the best return on time invested. Finding the conversations isn’t as hard as it sounds; the first stop would clearly be via services such as Twitter and the faithful, yet still important, RSS feeds.
  5. Identify Key Influencers — What and who are the key influencers? Where can they be found? What are they saying? Understanding the social graph–the connections between people–will also allow you to identify who the key people and organisations are.
  6. Develop a Content Strategy — Success in social media largely depends on the quality of your content, whether this is generated by you or bookmarked or cited on blogs and services such as Twitter.
  7. Pick the Right Tools — What tools should be using? Should you be on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? What about MySpace and Bebo? Do you know your target audience and market? If so, what tools are they using? Twitter is fundamentally different from Facebook, which is in turn fundamentally different from LinkedIn. They may all be classed as “social media”, but apart from some cross-over, they have their own target markets.
  8. Create and Deliver Compelling Content — This is the difficult part. Once you know where the conversations are happening and what is being talked about, you need a content strategy and bright ideas. These bright ideas need to be compelling and naturally flow. Contrived content won’t pass muster amongst your readers and followers. You need to contribute and enhance the conversation, not repeat it verbatim.
  9. Engage and Facilitate Conversations — Social media is all about two-way conversations. The writer is no longer preaching to an audience, the audience is now a fundamental part of the equation. Readers are no longer passive bystanders, their responses to your content serves to enhance the content and your ideas.
  10. Measure the Results — With all this social interaction comes a multitude of data; tweet history, web analytics etc. But what does it all means is the crucial question. Social media ROI can be measured, but what you measure is really up to you; whether it is tangible metrics such as sales and website visits, or intangible metrics such as influence and clout.

A well-planned, managed and authentic social media programme, based upon listening and responding to your audience will result in deeper and stronger relationships with your customers and brand stakeholders. By tapping into and implementing the knowledge and ideas of your customers and followers, you will be able to deliver what the customer wants and your products will vastly improve.

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