Developing a Social Media Plan

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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.

Kelli Matthews outlines the steps involved in Social Media Planning:

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.

2. Groundswell P.O.S.T. method:

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.

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Measuring the Success of Social Media

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A problem that a lot of companies are having right now is measuring the success of social media campaigns. An issue that may arise for up and coming PR professionals is explaining to a boss that social media is important and beneficial to a company. I have gathered some information that might help you in case you are ever asked how to measure social media and why companies should invest time and money into it. Hopefully you find it helpful.

Social media is on the tip of a lot of people’s tongues these days. More specifically is the topic of how to measure the success of an online campaign. Most want to attach a number on something when the word measurement is involved, like page views or comments.  That’s a good place to start, but does it tell you anything substantive? In order to be successful and really understand how effective an online campaign is, both a quality and quantity benchmark need to be incorporated into the measurement strategy.

Social media has really revolutionized the way companies can interact with their audience. Marcel Lebrun talks about the art of listening and how effective it can be for a company. On his blog mediaphilosopher he says, “On the surface, listening seems to be about receiving. However, conversational listening sends a message: you are important to us.” Listening to what customers are saying about a brand and responding to their comments personalizes the relationship and allows trust to build. This is exremly important, especially with the increase of demand for companies to be comletly transparent, responsive and honest.

There are certain ways to successfully listen and measure how effective a company is being online. In order to do this a company must observe, listen, engage and respond. Measurement is an important tool to understand for social media because a lot of organizations are struggling to find the results. It allows companies to observe what’s working, what’s not and how they can adjust certain areas to make their product or company better. Once a company is online, they need to determine what they want to measure, whether it’s reputation, conversation or customer relationships. These objectives require qualitative measurement and should generate questions like:

– Are we part of conversations about our product?

– How are we talked about compared to our competitors?

– Were we able to build better relationships?

– Were we able to participate in conversations where we previously had no voice?

To measure traffic, sales and/or SEO ranking a more quantitative approach is required. There are a lot of free tools that can help with this measurement that are available, like:

– AideRSS: allows you to enter a URL and shows you statistics about its posts, like how many times they are shared on social media sites.

Google Analytics: Analyzes a company’s blog traffic, subscriber count etc.

Xinu: allows you to receive statistics like SEO, bookmarking, page views etc.

There are many more site like these, here is a link to a list of others Toolkit

Chris Lake, CEO Econsultancy, has some good tips on measuring a social media campaign and what to look for:

1. Traffic: This is one of the more obvious ways of measuring social media. Who is talking, what are they talking about and is it important to your industry/product.

2. Interaction and Engagement: Participation is a valuable indicator for companies. Interaction can be anything from leaving comments, to participating in support forums, to leaving customer reviews and ratings. Engagement is the company’s part in creating valuable dialogue and conversation and responding to customers’ comments.

3. Sales: Companies can track sales from Google referrals and monitoring customer feedback through sites like Twitter. Dell discovered that it made $1m from Twitter in 18 months.

4. Search marketing: The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor cannot be understated. For example a picture, image, video that is placed on a site like Digg can generate a lot of traffic and a link from Digg. Even better it can generate links and tags from many other bloggers, and can spread quickly through word of mouth without the company paying  for advertising.

5. Brand metrics: Word of mouth can help shift the key brand metrics, both negatively and positively. These include brand favorability, brand awareness, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. Positive brand associations via social media campaigns can help drive clicks on paid search ads.

6. Retention: A positive side effect of increased customer engagement is an increase in customer retention. Zappos, which is a case study in how-to-do-Twitter, is closing in on $1bn in sales this year, and “75% of its orders are from repeat customers”.

Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, are we getting what we want out of the conversation? Jason Falls on his blog Social Media Explorer made a good point about what companies want from social media. When you ask businesses why they are participating in social media, what do they say? If they say that their only objective is “to make money, then they will fail because currency in the social web is found in both relationships and content.” The goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audiences and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand. He ended with “Your ROI is what you got out of the conversation, not what you got out of their checkbook.” These are just a few things to think about when trying to figure out how effective a company.