By now, we all know that social media strategy involves more than just knowing how to put up a Facebook page or a profile on LinkedIn. In part one of the primer series, we looked at five questions you need to answer before you make a commitment to social media marketing. Part two of the series covered the first two letters of the strategy equation (A-PIE): Assess and Plan. In this last installment of big picture strategy, we'll look at how to Implement that plan and devise an Evaluation strategy using some basic tools.
To implement your plan, start with the tool box. The two most important pieces of your implementation tool box are content buckets and an editorial calendar. Armed with the knowledge that The Four Corner Posts provide (goals and metrics, SEO, social media optimization and content marketing), you can set up a content management system that mirrors the specific goals you set up for your marketing strategy.
I picked up a content organization tip a few years back from Jason Falls called "the six buckets of purpose." They are expanded in his new book, No Bullshit Social Media, where they are now " the seven things social media marketing can do for your business": enhance branding and awareness, protect brand reputation, enhance public relations, build community, enhance customer service, facilitate research and development, and drive leads and sales. Think of them as a content management system dictated by your strategic business goals.
For example, when I originally set up my online presence, I set up six content buckets: brand awareness, problem solve (strategy), product leads and sales, thought leadership, entertain, and build community. These buckets dictated the content across all my social media channels through the use of an editorial calendar (more on that later). I determined that these content areas were going to help me reach my initial business goals.
Some may wonder why we are discussing which social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc) to use this late in the plan? In his book Social Media Metrics Secrets, measurement guru John Lovett writes,
"Operational tactics, like the channels you pursue and the specific measures you use should ultimately be the last piece of your social analytics framework. Putting these components last ensures that you develop a strategy that supports your organization and don't fall prey to the hype of social media."
Which social media channels will help accomplish your goals? Before choosing a channel, you need to understand how each channel fits your goals and audience. Because I am a business-to-business operator whose blog is the chief means of reaching my goals, my channel priority looks like this: 1)blog 2)LinkedIn 3)Twitter 4)Video 5)Webinars 6)Facebook. My purpose for each channel:
- Blog: Value-added content for followers to establish goals of the content buckets.
- LinkedIn: optimized profile for brand awareness and top of mind, and active presence on discussion boards of groups that fit my product profile.
- Twitter: curation and brand awareness; added value to followers and potential customers
- Video: product delivery and free value-added content (not yet implemented)
- Webinars: product delivery and free value-added content (not yet implemented)
- Facebook: supplement multiple channel presence and participate in groups related to my business.
You'll notice I have two channels that aren't implemented yet: still planning for time, people and resources there.
Do you have a master calendar of your year that includes events, short-term product campaigns, product launches, travel, etc? If you don't, that is the first step. An editorial calendar follows your master calendar. Establishing an editorial strategy is a whole series in itself, so I am going to give a big picture view here. Besides a calendar, my editorial strategy also includes posting/curating schedules for Twitter and LinkedIn that include times per day/week and how many times I will promote my content vs. promote the content of others. I also have several blogs in an RSS reader that I curate as part of my editorial strategy. If I find content I know my fans will like, I tweet the links. I use a scheduler (not an automater) to curate so that I can sit down and read the blogs in the morning and schedule out links that are no closer than an hour apart. I use Dan Zarrella's science of social media as a guideline for optimum posting/updating, and keep a pretty close eye on the recent data available about optimum posting techniques. I post to Facebook manually to escape the punishment that Edge Rank inflicts on third-party posting applications.
My calendar is a simple spread sheet. With master calendar in hand (or on the screen), I plan out at least a quarter (three months) of blog posts at a time. Some of that content is reimagined and a little is a re-do of popular posts I wrote the previous year. But the majority of it is new and dictated by my content buckets. Following is an example of an editorial calendar using my content buckets:
You have a brand, now what?
What is a brand ambassador?
How to build a program
Brand assessment poll
How-to (social media)
CB, EF, BA
Higher Ed Blogs
CB, EF, BA
Top Five List
Measure What Matters
In this particular calendar stretch, I was introducing a new product: brand ambassador programs for higher education institutions. I scheduled the four blog entries to introduce the concept a week apart and filled in between with other content. Normally, I only promote product sales in about one of every six blogs. This same editorial calendar has several more columns for reporting data. There needs to be wiggle room. Since writing the original calendar, I had to postpone the launch of the brand ambassador template, so that is on the back burner.
A good editorial calendar takes some time to set up on the front end. But I can tell you from experience that it saves time on the backend. Some days I sit down and write 2-3 entries from the calendar and save them for future posting. An editorial calendar can keep your social media marketing on track.
Keeping with the big picture view, the last piece of your social media strategy should be setting up an evaluation schedule.
People, Time, Resources
Here is the place where you want feedback from whoever is running the social media effort. Do they have enough time and resources to implement the plan? Are other parts of their work neglected? Are they able to show success? Have you been able to keep up and stay present on your channel(s)? Don't neglect ongoing education. Be sure and leave some time and money for the social media manager to brush up on the latest information, maybe by attending some online webinars or just having some time to research and learn.
Goals and Metrics
What progress are you making towards the goals you set up? Even if your goal is as simple as an increase in engagement by measuring click-throughs, comments, and likes or shares over a prescribed period of time, are you looking at the data? What is it telling you? Do you need to make mid-course corrections? Change strategies? Scale back? Expand? I use a bunch of measuring devices. I have several columns on my editorial calendar that measure comments, shares, and reads on my blog, along with click-throughs on calls to action and day of week and time each entry was posted. I am looking for patterns of engagement. I glean a lot of data from Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. My scheduling tool (Sprout Social) also has a very nice variety of metrics that are exportable to a spread sheet.
Whatever measuring tools you use, they need to be linked to specific goals. I like John Lovett's explanation of measuring using the waterfall technique: business goals produce business objectives that produce measures of success that result in operational tactics. Whatever tactics you employ should be logically related to the other three waterfall steps.
For basic information about measuring resources, you can click here. One caution: don't get carried away. I am too small for something like Argyle Social or Hub Spot, but have moved past the place where Hoot Suite gives me everything I need. Again, I believe in starting small, but being strategic.
Designing a social media strategy isn't difficult; it just takes a commitment to the process and a willingness to put in the time. I hope these three pieces have helped steer you in the right direction. I can only guarantee you one thing: A well planned social media strategy will increase the chances you will have success at social media marketing. Good luck.