I have always felt that some marketing rules mirror life's rules to live by. For example, I believe any business using social media or thinking about integrating social media into their current marketing plan must consider the six P's: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. All too often a business owner goes to the youngest member of the staff, or an intern, and says, "We need to start doing that social media stuff. Everyone else is." When the staff person or intern inquires about the details, the answer is, "How would I know, just get us out there and fast." All too often there is no plan or there is a skeleton plan that doesn't include any goal or a roadmap to achieve them.
You wouldn't go the bank for a loan without a Business Plan. You wouldn't order more product without knowing what you needed. You wouldn't go into another Tax Season without sharing a Survival Plan with the other CPAs in your firm. You wouldn't suggest a stock to a client without looking at their entire portfolio and having a plan in place. The same is true for suggesting the type and amount of life insurance your client's needs. Why then would you venture into the treacherous waters of social media without a plan? Don't you know that one wrong move that goes viral could be the end of business as you know it? What do you want to do in the social media world? Are you marketing? Recruiting? Providing customer service? Having completed a handful of these plans for clients and prospects in the past couple months, I'd like to share 6 pieces of the plan you should not leave out. These items should be in every plan regardless of the type of business you are in, your size, or the structure you chose for tax purposes.
Include A Current Assessment
You need to have a baseline to work from. Even if no one is leaving comments on your Facebook page and your kids are the only ones re-tweeting your Tweets, it's important to establish a baseline. Sometimes the best reason to establish a baseline to set yourself up for a celebration when things improve.
Look At The Competition
Establish some benchmarks for your competitors. Do this so you know where you stand. Maybe things aren't as bad as I would assume. Maybe after some time, you'll have another reason to celebrate. Maybe you can learn something and integrate it into your plan. Don't panic when you see the numbers. Follower numbers and engagement may result from a good plan but likely result from the fact your competition has been in the social space longer than you.
Specific Goals And Objectives
Identifying and listing your goals and objectives are critical to identifying your success. This may be difficult, but should really be done before you do anything else. You can't build a plan without knowing what you want the plan to accomplish. Keep in mind that all your goals don't have to revolve around revenue i.e. the number of new customers, clients or sales. Include "soft" and "hard" goals in your plan. It's okay to have customer, client and sales goals, but include other "soft" goals too. In the beginning keep your goals simple and seemingly attainable. Have realistic expectations and acknowledge that success in the social media realm is based on trust and credibility. These two thing take time to establish, so have realistic expectations. For example, you could include goals for increased brand awareness, increased engagement from your Twitter stream and Facebook friends, follower and following goals, website visitors, and the number of new prospects and sales.
Who Will Make This All Happen?
Include plans for the staff required to implement the plan. This may be something you save for after the rest of the plan is completed. You are going to need one or more person to execute the plan you put in place. Until you know what the plan consists of, you may not be able to determine the number of people you need to use for implementation. You may need to hire additional staff to make your plan work. Even if you are a small business just testing the social media water, it will take a person or people to execute the plan. I strongly believe the success of any social media plan begins at the top. The CEO has to be involved in the planning of the plan as well as the execution. The CEO has to be involved in ongoing brainstorming sessions and, along with the rest of the organization, must constantly be contributing to the social content required by the plan. The CEO is generally familiar with the marketing plan and it's budget. Your social media plan will only succeed if it is integrated into your overall marketing plan. This is another tool to add to your marketing shed and your CEO must be intimately involved.
The success of your plan lies in the content you produce on the social media networks you have a presence on. Content has to be a part of the plan. Maybe you include a weekly brainstorming session in the plan, or appoint one person to be the recipient of email ideas. No one person should be made entirely responsible for all content produced. This would be a good part of the plan to include goals and metrics around content production. How often will you Tweet? What will be the tone of those Tweets? What will you Tweet about? You can see how the intended content depends on several other parts of the plan. Be sure not to leave this section out.
Whatever you do, don't let the social media tail wag the content marketing dog.
Reporting and Analysis
Finally, you have to determine, in advance of implementation of the plan, how and what you are going to track and analyze. This list can change over time, but you need something to start with. There is no point doing everything else I've discussed and not track the results of your efforts. How are you going to track your progress and determine your ROI? Based on your goals and objectives, what are you going to track or measure? How often are you going to analyze the data and tweak the plan if necessary? What tools are you going to use to track and analyze. Do the free tools do what you need them to do, or must you invest capital to make this plan succeed?
Certainly there are more things to include in your social media plan. These are some of the more important things. This may not be easy. There may be some education that needs to take place before the plan can be created. Agreeing on goals and objectives is often challenging. Determining who is going to implement the plan can be a challendge, especially if the consensus is that another person needs to be hired to perform these tasks. Regardless the challenge, you won't be sorry you went through the process and created the plan. Ir's critical to your success.
Let me know what's in your social media plan or what items I left out.