As I uncover new information about social media, I become more enthralled by all it has to offer. Web 2.0 is quickly evolving and a growing number of businesses are showing interest and wanting to get involved. In a few of my classes we discuss the social media faux pas committed by companies, followed by a discussion about what could have been done to prevent the unintended outcome.
In my Strategic Social Media Class we discuss how to develop a social media plan. I thought this was a relevant discussion for students about to enter the work force, as well as all public relations and marketing professionals.
When creating a social media campaign or any type of marketing campaign, it is a good idea to check its relevance, ethical nature and likelihood to be accepted by the intended audience. Companies often get into trouble when they rush through the planning process without combing through the specifics and discussing any areas that might garner negative attention. If you create a concrete campaign, it is likely that you will prevent a crisis and diminish negative attention.
Once you have the idea and content for the campaign, you need to structure a strategic plan to get some attention. Great content without a plan might garner some attention, but an effective plan can maximize the traffic volume and help you reach a more targeted audience. The plan should outline what type of content to develop, the audience you want to attract, where to promote it, and how to keep people engaged. Here is a worksheet from the Social Media Conference NW: The New Word-of-Mouth Marketing.
1. Analysis of the Situation: Know the company’s background and history as it relates to social media. Figure out certain staff expertise, availability and willingness to participate. This is important because it allows you to structure the plan around the time commitments. Research external factors like industry trends, built-in communities and willingness and likelihood of participation. Survey the channels of communication the company is currently using and what degree of success it is receiving.
People: Find out who your audiences are. Use Groundswell’s Social Technographics Profile to figure out what type of social media consumer your customers are.
Objectives: Figure out what it is that you want to accomplish in the “Groundswell.”
Strategies: Listening, talking, energizing, supporting, embracing.
- Listen to your potential audiences. Before your company can be a part of the conversations, you need to know what people are already talking about so you can determine how your company can best contribute. Setting up tools to monitor conversations is easy. The difficult part is choosing keywords that will return the most usable results. Use tools like Social Media Firehose: Kingsley Joseph used Yahoo Pipes to create one RSS feed that aggregates results from Flickr, Digg, YouTube, FriendFeed and other social media sites.
- Start leaving comments (talking) on blogs and building a community on Twitter and/or Facebook to further help the discussion and illustrate your company’s commitment to developing online relationships.
- Energize your audience and your initiative. Figure out who your key audience is, see what their issues are and capitalize on them. Pick a channel that fits with the demographic and stick with it.
- Support your audience with valuable information, easy access and open conversations.
- Embrace your audience. Give them a place to discuss issues, provide suggestions and provide feedback on new products. Embracing customers’ ideas is a great way to build and retain relationships.
Technologies: Pick the communication channels that will best reach your audience like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.
Timeline: Include timelines for both short- and long-term objectives. Answer questions like, “What do you want to gain? How many people do you want to attract?” Remember that it takes time but if you allow the online community to grow and continuously monitor and engage with customers, you should be satisfied with the results.
Companies that develop a plan and create a social media initiative will have a better sense of how they are perceived by their target audiences. They can establish a two-way dialog with key members and they will empower their customers to speak with them, not at them. But, without a strategic approach to social media, it’s difficult to succeed.