10 Things You Should Include in a Social Media Plan

Mike Sweeney
Mike Sweeney Managing Partner, Right Source Marketing

Posted on October 16th 2011

While the 4 Ps of marketing are still relevant, it’s the 7 Ps that are most applicable to modern day marketing. Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. This is especially true for social media planning, where all too often the plan revolves around a murky set of objectives and a band of interns.

When done right though, a social media plan for marketing, recruiting, or customer service is a thing of beauty. Having completed a handful of these plans on behalf of clients in the past few months, here are the 10 components that belong in your social media plan, regardless of organization type, size, and structure.

1. The Baseline Metrics

Even if no one is interacting with your Facebook fan page and only your employees are sharing your content on Twitter, it’s important to establish a baseline. Sometimes the sole reason for establishing a baseline—as bad the numbers may look—is to set up the applause when those numbers improve.

2. Competitor Benchmarks

Don’t do this to be a copycat. Do this for the same reason you gather the baseline metrics in number one above. It’s not always easy to identify what you’re after with your social media program, and competitors make an easy (and fun) target.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that because a competitor seems to have their act together that they actually do. Follower counts, engagement and a well-designed presence are often the result of pure longevity, and not the implementation of unique ideas.

3. Goals and Objectives

This is often the most difficult piece of the planning process, because your return on social media is not—and may never be—as cut and dried as something like a PPC campaign. Therefore, you will find yourself trying to justify some goals that feel “soft” and others that seem unattainable.

My advice: Keep the goals relatively simple to start, use both soft and hard goals, and don’t be afraid to put goals into buckets or categories. For instance, you may have goals for awareness, engagement, followers/following, SEO, and even prospecting and sales benchmarks.

4. Naming Strategy

This is a seemingly minor detail, but how and what you name your social media properties is just as important as the domain you choose for your organization’s website. If your organization has a unique name, it’s relatively easy. If it’s not a unique name, be prepared for a process that involves brainstorming, searching, brainstorming again, searching again, consensus-building and finally selection.

5. Staffing Plan

You are going to need people to execute your social media plan. That’s right. People, not person.

Even if you are a small business just dipping your toes in the social media water, it will take the efforts, influence and direction of more than one person to make your plan come to life. You may only have one person doing “the work” but any successful social media plan relies on a group, not an individual to carry the weight of the plan. I could write an entirely separate post on this, but you cannot successfully execute a social media strategy without ideas, support, and resources flowing from throughout your organization.

6. Content Calendar

No content, no social media. No content marketing strategy, no social media marketing strategy. If your social media plan does not revolve around some type of content calendar, your message—and your social media plan—will fall flat at best, and fail at worst.

Whatever you do, don’t let the social media tail wag the content marketing dog.

7. Partner Integration

Guess what every single one of your partners – investors, technology partners, VARs, and others – wants to do? Expand their social media audience and engagement.

Guess what your brilliant social media plan will do for them, if done right? Expand their social media audience and engagement.

Use this plan to present some true win-win scenarios where you and your partners can cross-promote content and campaigns.

8. The Ideas!

If your plan revolves around only tweets, updates, followers, friends, and day-to-day tactics, it may be organized, but it won’t be special.

Special comes from social media campaigns, not the day-to-day tactics. If you’re trying to reach a particular audience, build an entire campaign to find and engage that audience. If you’re trying to stand out from the crowd, consider using a customized campaign that is anchored by a contest, sweepstakes or special offer.

Don’t just do social media, get creative with it.

9. Examples

At some point, you’re going to have to sell this plan to supervisors, investors, or colleagues. Chances are that most will not grasp the business case for social media, and will question whether your plan makes sense compared to other corporate initiatives.

Hands down, the easiest way to conquer these objections is to show examples of how similar organizations have used an organized social media plan to achieve specific goals and objectives. If you’re a television show, use “The Voice” as your example. If you’re a retailer, use Zappos as your example. These examples are easy to find, and will mean far more than your own proclamations about why social media can have an impact on your organization.

10. Reporting and Analysis

How are we going to track our progress and return on investment? If you don’t get this question multiple times during your social media planning process, then people either think you have the Midas touch or they simply don’t care.

First, based on your goals and objectives, decide what you want to measure. Second, decidehow you want to measure against those goals and objectives.

Count on this: While each social media property includes some basic analytics, you will need to explore a variety of tools and software packages to arrive at your ideal reporting and analysis solution.

Social media planning is not easy. As a matter of fact, it’s painful for most organizations, because many of your stakeholders will not understand the first thing about using social media for business. All you can do is embrace the 7 Ps, include these 10 components in your plan, develop some thick skin, and start moving!

I'd love to hear about your social media planning triumphs and failures. What has worked for you and your organization? Let me know in the comments.

Mike Sweeney

Mike Sweeney

Managing Partner, Right Source Marketing

As managing partner and chief content officer of Right Source Marketing, Mike is responsible for all content marketing initiatives, including growing the company’s content marketing practice, guiding all client content marketing strategy, and recruiting and growing a team of modern marketers. See more from Mike on Twitter and the Right Source Marketing blog, connect with him on LinkedIn, or subscribe to his RSS feed.

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Comments

Posted on October 16th 2011 at 5:39AM

Hi Mike,

I came to your blog via a tweet and found this post so interesting. I run my own very small online creative writing school and am a writer and have only recently come to the idea of developing a socail platform or social media plan. Your new 7Ps made me chuckle but are rweally helpful  even for a small newbie such as me just starting out (and ex-markering progfessional). Don't think I'm ready to hire "people" never mind a person, but can see why you would! I have already got the thick skin, so that's a bonus, and will embrace the 7 Ps and include as many of your 10 components as ppossible and start taking a few baby steps on the rocky road to media triumphs and failures!Will let you know in six months time how it's going!

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 16th 2011 at 9:56PM

Marianne - Thanks for the comment. Glad you liked the post and please do let us know how things are going six months from now...hoping the 7 Ps work for you!

- Mike

Posted on October 16th 2011 at 12:26PM

This is an amazing colaboration of information Mike that spells out what to expect and what to do with social media.  I agree, a social media plan has to include many of the things you discuss here.  In fact, I think that one of the things you mentioned,  I learned just within the last year, I had to have a team. 

Social media is an awesome tool for my business but without implementing and executing my plan that I had established, it wasn't going to do me any good.  So today I am utilizing an awesome writer that I met (through Twitter!), a virtual assistant (that I met through Linkedin!) and a webmaster (that I met through referrals on Facebook!). 

My point is, for those that are starting out and thinking they can't afford 'a team' or 'people' ... there are other ways to achieve this through effective and low cost way.  Of course, I had to go through a couple of writers before I found the one that is dependable and very good.  So you might have to spend time to really know who you are adding to your team, but it is well worth it.  If I didn't have these folks helping me, I know my business would not be where it is today. 

My future business plan includes incorporating 'people' within my company.  Getting to this point has been a wonderful journey and points out to others that, it takes time, nothing happens over night.  But if you stick with it, your business will grow and become successful.

 

 

 

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 16th 2011 at 9:53PM

Lynn - You are absolutely right! Sometimes even the team concept scares people. The reality is that a social media team can take many different shapes, sizes and formats. Full-time employees or a full-service agency doesn't have to be the answer. Thanks for contributing.

- Mike

Posted on October 16th 2011 at 2:21PM

Hi Mike, Your article about 7Ps is the beginning social media planning techniques. I recently got job in software company running B2B Platforms , I am facing big problem to launch its new social media product called wapr.com, because of the businessmen behavior who do not believe in soft products. whereas this product is the way to link all SME's globally and benefit from real-time. I hope to find some suggestions in this field , how to persuade the local businessmen to subscribe in social media B2B platform. my current plan is still going on.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 17th 2011 at 6:54AM

Mohammed - Ah, you have quite the challenge. Building a social media marketing plan for a non-social media product/service is one thing, building a socia media marketing plan for a social media product/service is quite another! In one sense, your job becomes easier because your target audience is already using the communities you want them to use. In another sense, your job becomes tougher because there's a lot of noise in the social media product/service space. Good luck!

 

- Mike

Posted on October 16th 2011 at 7:21PM

Excellent post and I think you have raised some valid points. Social Media should be just that.....social. Many businesses need to plan their social media campaigns better rather than just jumping in and making the same common mistakes. One of the main points being that they don't seem to interact with their new social customers to answer complaints, queries etc. Social media works both ways and rather than having automated messages all the time companies need to start looking at employing staff solely to interact with their customers on Twitter etc. Have a lovely day! - Sue

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 17th 2011 at 6:48AM

Sue - Yes, social media should be social, but more importantly social media should be planned. At least the part of it that can be planned. Thanks for commenting, and have a great day!

- Mike

GranthamU
Posted on October 17th 2011 at 9:55AM

Hey Mike,

This post contained an incredible amount of useful information. I recently joined Grantham University (online distance learning institution) as social media manager, and found this entry spot on with what we're trying to do. Thanks for this!

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 17th 2011 at 8:23PM

GranthamU - Congrats on the new position! Glad the post was (and hopefully will continue to be) helpful. Look forward to seeing the results. - Mike

Posted on October 17th 2011 at 1:05PM

Mike, As I sit down today to write a couple of new blog posts of my own, I can't help but feel your pain/agree wholeheartedly. It seems that the majority of businesses know that they "should" be participating in social media, yet have no idea how. That's fine. There are professionals that are ready and willing to help them accomplish that! However, it it the head first dive in without a plan or any idea of content, goals, responsibility that causes problems. Even when your presence is outsourced, it will behoove any business to collect and provide content to the media manager. We always say "We care about your business. You need to care too. It's a partnership." Otherwise, you are just promoting weekend clearance sales on a regular basis. Those get ignored quickly! It is amazing how many little things happen in a business each day that would be of interest to their followers. Yet, they are overlooked as being routine are of no interest. A solid plan would force you to pull these things and play with them in a way that will eventually engage your followers. Thanks for sharing!    

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 17th 2011 at 8:22PM

Angela - There is no pain....ok maybe sometimes when dealing with clients that have the wrong mindset. Strategy before tactics, content before social. Thanks for commenting, and glad you liked it! - Mike

Posted on October 17th 2011 at 5:14PM

Sure, social media strategizing isn't easy, but it's certainly necessary if one is hoping to use the field to successfully propell their business forward. No sense in jumping on this bandwagon willy nilly without a battle plan, right? Sounds like a lot of wasted effort for little return.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 18th 2011 at 11:16AM

Emma - Exactly. Strategy before tactics. Gotta know where you're going before you get in the car and start driving; otherwise, you're just going to put a lot of useless miles on that car. - Mike

Posted on October 18th 2011 at 8:35AM

Hi there Mike

 

Thanks for this - like you said we must look at similar case studies within our particular industries. I am running the social media for a lodge in South Africa called Mabula Game Lodge. I am looking at others to see what they are doing and wonder how they got their numbers so high - presume previous guests and some of the bigger ones just have huge names in the industry. But I also know this is not the be all and end all. Compared to a month ago there was no platform for the lodge I am doing - now we have 200 followers. So its growing. I have taken your advice to heart about the truth and the spontaneous rather than the mundane weekend clearance sales...but if you have a look at my page I wonder if you have any comments on the actual content that I am sending out. (www.facebook.com/mabulagamelodge)  

My main concern is becoming repetitive - my what a pity that would be for a game lodge hey? Thanks again for the read!

Andy :)

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 18th 2011 at 11:21AM

Andy - First of all, don't assume that the big numbers you see on Facebook fan pages have anything to do with a well-coordinated, targeted campaign to get those numbers. Often times, the big numbers you see are a result of pure longevitity and presence. Or sometimes the big numbers are a result of a campaign that attracts a large volume of unqualified, unengaged users.

As long as you stay true to your audience, and provide useful and entertaining content, your fan/user base will grow over time.

It's unfair for me to evaluate based on a quick glance at your page, but I would consider two things:

  • Love the photos, but you need different types of content. Video, blog posts, reviews, contests, etc.
  • Make sure you are taking advantage of your biggest asset in terms of sharing/distribution - your existing employees and current customers. For different reasons, both groups should help you share the page and the content.
Posted on October 18th 2011 at 5:57PM

Mike,

Thank you very much for this post. I just started my own little social media consultancy in Kiel, Germany and reading the articles on socialmediatoday already provided a lot of information which I could use for my clients. I really like your 7 P's and I'm going to include them in my next customer meeting.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 19th 2011 at 9:52PM

Stefan - Great! Glad you enjoyed the 7 Ps, and good luck with that customer meeting!

- Mike

Posted on October 19th 2011 at 2:16PM

Counting on website analytics can be dangerous and grossly misleading.  I used Google Analytics and found most of my hits were supposedly originating from a small town in Brazil -- highly unlikely considering the website content I was tracking.  Also, G.A. kept giving me reports on site visits more than 10 months after the site ceased to exist!

Although I've asked more than 20 supposed marketing "experts" to provide me with how they obtain independently verifyable tracking data for social media I have yet to receive even one positive response.  Will you be the first, I'd love to see it. 

As a senior executive for many years at major national P.R. agencies, I think today's "social" media promotion is a shell game.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 19th 2011 at 9:51PM

Hi Larry - Thanks for the comment. I don't think I specifically mentioned website analytics, but using analytics in general. Sounds like your GA experience was a unique one though.

The basic truth: You can't track social media like you track PPC, SEO, or since you're in the PR game, the old fashioned column inches metric. There are parts of social media which are not trackable at all, via independent sources or otherwise.

Does that make social media promotion a shell game? No, but it does make it difficult to track in comparison to other direct marketing methods, at least from an ROI standpoint?

The fact that it's not yet trackable in the closed loop sense though, is no different than some other items your business dedicates money and resources to. Wht's the ROI on your phone system? How do you track that phone system? What's the ROI of your office lease? How do you track that ROI?

Anyway, glad you enjoyed the post! - Mike

Posted on October 20th 2011 at 4:36PM

I agree with you assessment, you laid out a lot of the details about the execution of the social media marketing strategy and plan, but the article I did today on Digital Brand Marketing Education was looking at how Social Media is NOT a Marketing Plan, and the reason why I did that, even though I am an avid believer in Social Media is because foundational basics always get lost in Social Media Marketing and for a business owner or young professional they are taking an article like this executing and then trying to figure out what went wrong.

 

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 21st 2011 at 10:03AM

Basil - Appreciate the comment. I am not totally sure what direction you're headed in, but what's contained in this post are just some of the areas that should be covered in a social media marketing plan. That doesn't mean anyone can take this and build that plan, but for those who have been asked to build a plan, this provides a solid outline to start with. The big point here is that execution should not happen without this planning stage.

- Mike

Posted on October 21st 2011 at 2:27PM

I guess I am starting to find our work to be instantly grabbed by less expereinced consultants and marketers, as such they rush forward with some great building blocks, but often forget the foundation of the work, a brand has a story to tell, social media marketing does not change that story, it just helps spread it. 

The hard part comes when they are using our work (name) as examples, citations or plans... then when it fails I often wonder who garnishes the blame..

Maybe we need discalimers on the bottom of our articles these days, something like:

These are ideas or tools and may not represent every aspect of running or executing a successful campaign, please see other articles, posts or consult a professional before trying to do this....

or perhaps I was just looking for a venue to vent a little....

Regardless, I did enjoy the article Mike some great stuff in here

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 22nd 2011 at 11:54AM

Basil - We are absolutely on the same page with this. There are too many pretenders hawking "social media consulting services" that conveniently forget that a social media marketing plan must be based on a broader marketing plan. If a client or prospective client of ours does not embrace marketing before social media marketing and strategy before tactics, we don't accept the work.

Love the disclaimer. It's nice to think that such a disclaimer is understood without formally presenting it, but I suppose some people do take these types of posts and think they can just run with it.

- Mike

 

 

Posted on October 21st 2011 at 9:15AM

Hi Mike,

 

I'm also a firm believer in Social Media Marketing Campaign. There is no way around it nowadays. I'm currently working in a marketing team in a university. Needless to say that even if I was blessed with an open-minded team, the challenge to prove the necessity of a real Social Media Campaign is overwhelming.

ROI is so hard to prove even with all the tracking and analytics available. Mainly because it's the return is mostly in awareness and a sense of community with your followers. Even if there are not real cost involve, time spent is still to be considered... 

I saw some evaluations on time spent vs "profitable" campaign but I'm still trying to wrap my head our real figures to include in my plan (which is going to be very progressive).

I love to hear your thoughts on this and if there is time efficient campaign that I should look into.

Cheers

C

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 22nd 2011 at 11:47AM

Chantal - Love it. Doing social media - or frankly any type of digital marketing for a university - is a lot of fun, and I don't say that about every industry. There are SO many opportunities for communication with current students, prospective students, faculty, and other university stakeholders.

Regarding campaign tracking, it starts with identifying those goals referred to in this piece. Once you identify those, selecting campaigns becomes at least a bit easier.

- Mike

Posted on October 21st 2011 at 9:29AM

Nice start Mike, some really good points here. But are you not missing the fundamentals? Behavioural research and audience segmentation before you plan? You touch on some excellent points though: campaign, not day to day; partner value and the staffing element. Love it.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 22nd 2011 at 11:49AM

BWP -Yes! I especially agree with your comment on audience segmentation. In this article, I am making the assumption that a broader marketing plan exists, one that identifies target audiences. Unfortunately, my experience indicates that most organizations don't even have a marketing plan, let alone a social media marketing plan.

- Mike

Posted on October 21st 2011 at 12:58PM

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the article. I agree with what you say on the planning. Not sure that the tracking is something that can be truly monitored. I have tried several tools and am still looking for one that really fits the needs. As a defense contracter we are pushing the envelope among businesses our size, but the results are beginning to be seen.

Any thoughts on where we are lacking would be helpful. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Power-Ten-Inc/240820995937930

Thanks again for the article.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 22nd 2011 at 11:44AM

Darren - It's a tough job trying to handle social media for a defense contractor but looks like you are off to a great start with the Facebook page. You're posting all the right types of content, but one small suggestion: on your blog, it's not easy to share content. It's not immediately clear how - if I like your content - how i can quickly share via social networks, social bookmarking sites, etc.

Thanks for the comment! - Mike

Posted on October 24th 2011 at 5:34PM

Hi Mike,

I follow a similar approach, starting with "discovery." This phase includes stepping back to do an audit of existing communications materials, objectives, market spend, and results (ROI). And a review the brand (or lack thereof). I like to put social media in context of the overall marketing plan - including the considerations you outline above. I also like to know how the client measures success via tangible performance measures.

A good read and reference.

Alison Cummings

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 25th 2011 at 9:33AM

Yes! Social media fits into marketing which fits into an overall business plan. Start at the top, then work your way down. Strategy before tactics. Thanks for the comment Alison.

Posted on October 24th 2011 at 8:12PM

I really appreciate your insight; the 10 components are spot on.

I strongly believe that knowing where you are currently with your social media efforts (benchmark) is essential. Otherwise, there's nothing to gauge your successes/failures as you begin to design your social media marketing campaign. 

Additionally, it would help if you have a product or service that people want or people won't care about what you're selling, no matter how great your marketing plan.

Many thanks for this great article, very helpful.

Mike Sweeney
Posted on October 25th 2011 at 9:31AM

Thanks for the comment Socialicia. Benchmarking and then setting reasonable goals/objectives is a critical part of this planning process. - Mike

Posted on October 30th 2011 at 10:43AM

Great article. I think one of the major problem in planning out a social media strategy is due to the diverse information out there. many business people just do not have the time or knowlegde to figure out the right way to do things. I think the more social media becomes a part of our daily life the better people will be equipt to do a better planning.

Posted on November 10th 2011 at 6:35AM
Insightful article. Thank you. I would definately replace No 6 "Content Calendar" with "Content Strategy" and empasize on that.
Jason Melo Hall
Posted on December 22nd 2011 at 12:40PM

I liked the partner/client integration part.  Since I've started reading its been unique to your article.  Great advice overall, it'll definitely help us at Giving Tree Associates.