Today’s guest post is written by Carolyn Maul. She is the Web & E-communications Manager, Social Media Club of Columbus (@SMCCoLUmBus).
Let me kick off this guest post with a brief disclaimer. I am not a social media expert. In fact, I don’t believe anyone who claims to be one. Adam Kmiec’s Dec. 23 post explains why:
You’ve hired a social media expert or guru. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he identifies 10,000 hours as the amount of time needed to reach expert status. If we take Gladwell’s data to be true it would take someone approximately 5 years to be an expert at social media marketing. So if we have “experts” today, that would mean someone would have been practicing social media marketing since 2004. For all intents and purposes that’s impossible. The concept of social media marketing is roughly 2 years old. Most of the tools and platforms… weren’t even around in 2004.
That said, read on at your own discretion.
A solid strategy needs to address a variety of related tenets: business model, competition, industry landscape, consumer power (all illustrated in Porter’s Five Forces). I studied marketing strategy in grad school, but I struggle with how to distill everything you need to know about strategy into a readable blog post. Rather than throw strategic spaghetti onto the wall of your minds to see what sticks, I’ll give you just what you need to know as it pertains to social media.
First and foremost, you must remember that social media is just one part of an overall, integrated digital marketing strategy (which should, of course, integrate with offline marketing initiatives). I present to you, Exhibit A:
In a perfect world, social media as an organizational function is tied inextricably to other digital initiatives. True marketing strategy should be developed at a level higher than each of these functions, so that each area can contribute appropriately to the larger business objective.
But alas, we aren’t living in a perfect world. Often, these functional areas ARE silo-d. This is where social media strategy development and execution become a major challenge and why brands grapple with developing the right social media strategy. I see many brands attempt to build a long-term (1+ year) plan for their social media, independent of overall marketing objectives and without the foresight to predict how the conversational landscape will shift even 3 months into the future (hell, no one can know that). The fact is that it’s foolish to build a long-term social media strategy that is set in stone – and this is what brands are trying to do. Rather, their focus should be on building a competent and nimble social media organization that a) possesses a strong understanding of marketing/business objectives, b) that can quickly adapt to changes in the landscape, and c) enables the brand to interact with consumers in a compelling and authentic way. Kind of a tall order, huh?
There are two ways to think about your social media strategy: 1) the overarching approach for your social media function and what your social media team hopes to achieve independent of any campaigns, 2) the social component of any given integrated marketing campaign.
#1 Your Overarching Social Media Strategy
At a bare minimum, you need the trifecta of social strategy:
- Social Media Policy. ‘Tis a PITA to develop, but every brand needs one. Fortunately, there is a wealth of canned online templates that you can download and customize.
- Crisis Management Plan. Do not pull a Chipotle. Be prepared should a crisis rear its ugly head. Brainstorm all potential crisis scenarios, designate a response team and deal with the crisis in the forum in which it initially appeared (i.e., do not draw unnecessary attention to it!).
- Monitoring System. You should have an ongoing monitoring system in place to maintain a pulse on the social landscape and listen for what’s being said about your brand, competitors, customers’ needs and opportunities to close product or service gaps. You’ll also find that this will help you to more effectively shape social media strategy for individual campaigns (e.g., if you are a local eatery trying to drive new customers and your monitoring tells you that restaurant recommendations are frequently solicited on Twitter, incorporate targeted Twitter responses into your campaign strategy).
#2 Social Component of an Integrated Marketing Strategy
Other than forming the three foundational elements above, I invite you to consider that it is not appropriate to build a standalone social media strategy. Consider that social media is a support function to help other areas of the business achieve top-line objectives (e.g., increase new customers in Q2 by 3%). Social media as a marketing function should be campaign-driven.
When you shift your view of social media from an independent function in need of a separate strategy, to one that supports other campaigns, it becomes much easier to develop a strategy. Here are some guidelines to help shape your social media strategy. These should be revisited for each campaign that requires a social component.
- Campaign objective:
- How will you measure/monitor it?
- Message/value proposition to consumers:
- Consumer call-to-action:
- Which consumers will be targeted:
- In which social channels are these consumers active (note: these are the channels in which you should be present):
- How will the message/value proposition be customized across channels?
- What other digital channels & tactics are engaged in this campaign?
- What are competitors doing that is related/similar? What is your competitive edge?