Part 1 of 3
Square one. The basics. First step. When it comes to planning an effective social media presence, most minds drift to the tool box. Should we be on Facebook? What about Twitter? Do we need a profile on LinkedIn? What about video?
These are all great questions. But, they can't be answered effectively until you've gone through the process of figuring out what social media can do for you. You could skip the primer and just dive in, learn from your mistakes and successes. But your presence on social media will be more profitable in a shorter period of time if you just begin at the beginning.
At our social media boot camps, we teach organizations how to be their own media. We always start with a reality check: the five questions you need to answer before you decide if social media is for you.
- 1. Why should we be using social media?
Note: "Everyone else is there" is not a good answer. Take some time to really figure out what you hope to gain by being there. Is it awareness? Top of mind? Leads? Capture emails? Monitor our brand or competition? Reduction of traditional marketing budget? All of the above? If you're not sure, talk to someone you know that is doing it right and find out what they've gained from social media. Do some online reading. Start by searching Google for "social media success stories."
- 2. What specific goals will social media help us reach?
I recommend looking at this from two perspectives: short and long term. Olivier Blanchard, who wrote the book Social Media ROI, says that the biggest mistake people make in setting objectives for social media is that they confuse the channels with the activity. In other words, you might want to measure the ROI (return on investment) of your Facebook page. That really can't be done. What we want to measure is a specific activity on Facebook, such as click-throughs, specific calls to action, or shares. The second piece of goal setting is to assign a timeline to the measurement. Blanchard reminds us that you can't measure the ROI of a social media channel any more than you can measure the ROI of TV. A goal should be an activity that is measureable. The principle is the same for traditional marketing channels.
Do you want to increase the attendance at your annual fund raiser? A strategic social media marketing campaign can help accomplish that goal, and it is measurable. Do you want to increase your brand's reach or awareness by the end of your calendar year? You can develop measureable strategies to do that. You should have particular goals for short term campaigns (grand opening, annual sale, fund raising event, etc.), and you should have goals to increase your market share. It isn't rocket science, but it takes some thoughtful work and planning. An understanding that social media is a channel for either saving you money or increasing your bottom line is necessary. And the chances of doing that by chance are small-you need measureable goals.
- 3. How will we measure our success?
This question is related to number two. But where question number two asks you to consider specific goals, this question asks you to look at an evaluation strategy for those goals. It's one thing to have a presence on Twitter; it's another to know how to measure the effectiveness of your specific goals for Twitter.
In answering this question, you are making a basic commitment to track your efforts on social media. This is where most organizations drop the ball. You may have an enthusiastic answer to question one, be able to articulate some goals in number two, but if you aren't willing to put in the time to measure your success, at some level, you are shooting in the dark. Again, your chances of success will be will less. No matter what kind of measurement tools or dashboard you use here, measuring and evaluating takes time. But if you master this step, you will be able to make mid-course corrections quicker, fix what isn't working, and reach your goals quicker.
You can get all kinds of help here. Start by reading the blogs of Olivier Blanchard (The Brand Builder), Tom Webster (Brand Savant) and Dan Zarella. If you have time to read a book, I would recommend two: Blanchard's Social Media ROI and Katie Paine's Measure What Matters. People who measure have higher success rates. Be in that group.
- 4. What time, people, and resources are we willing to allocate to a social media presence?
Most social media platforms are free. But isn't your time worth something? The biggest objection I hear about social media is, "I just can't keep up with all of this." Some of this is frustration due to lack of strategy and planning, and some of it is time pressure. I've found that effective planning and use of social media tools that fit your goals make the whole process a lot easier.
Who is going to monitor and post to the social media channels? Do they need training? Will this be an additional duty, or are they going to be able to pass off some other duties to take this on? Are you going to outsource or do this in-house? Who is in charge of the evaluating the data? Which people need to have access to the accounts? Who is on the team to strategize and evaluate? How much money, if any, can we allocate to the effort? Are we going to shuffle money from our traditional media budget for this?
I start by telling people that you can plan on about 15 minutes per day, maximum (after the learning curve) for each social media channel. This includes monitoring and posting data. That figure also assumes that you are operating from an editorial calendar and using a dashboard of some kind to manage all your monitoring and posting (more on tools in part two). That time is average, by the way. Some days it will be much less and some days it may be more. But plan for the time. You may have to schedule chunks of time on occasion to produce larger pieces of content, but this should ring true for the most part.
- 5. Is our current website social?
Jay Baer said it best: a social media channel is an outpost. Your website is your home base. This isn't about having social media icons on your home page. This is about the "feel" or engagement level of your website. Is it static? Is it a broadcast tool? Or, is the content engaging and updated regularly? Are there clear calls to action there? Are you measuring them? Are you posting current pictures and video? Are you capturing email addresses and other potential lead-generating data there?
Social media is inbound marketing-it should ultimately push people to your website. A Facebook page doesn't make a good home base. Good interactive websites can be easily set up these days for little or no money. If you've had the same text and pictures on your website since you put it up a year ago, it's time to rethink your priorities.
If you're considering updating your website, think of using one of the newer, more user-friendly platforms that are programmed for good search results. Blogger (a Google product), Wordpress.com, and Tumblr are free and support custom domain names. All three offer a wide variety of templates and widgets. Take an adult education class or buy a Dummies book to learn more. Hire someone to build you a good Wordpress.org site if you don't have the time. Stay away from flash-oriented sites as they don't search well. Blow the dust off your website. It's not a Yellow Pages listing, it's a place to build a loyal following. Make a solid investment here. Remember the majority of people find products and services via online search. People have to find you before you can engage them.
Before you embark on a social media program for your organization, you need a plan that includes measurement. According to Altimeter , your chances of financial success are higher with a solid strategy in place.
In part two, we'll look at the four elements of successful social media strategy and how to put them together. If you want to learn more, you can register for our Social Media Boot Camp coming to Bozeman, Montana November 5. Register or get more info right here: http://bozemansocialmediabootcamp-eorgf.eventbrite.com/