Monday, July 2, 2012

Ready! Fire! Aim! Effective Social Media Marketing Means Aiming Before Firing

With social media, it is very exciting and seems deceptively simple to jump in and "do some socializing". But it is still an extension of your media program, an extension of your brand. If you won't compromise on which blue makes it into your billboard, or you paid good money to create a jingle for your radio ads, then you need to take the time to create a social media plan that is quantifiable.
Here are three tips for starting your social media planning.
Know what you want to achieve before starting
Ready, fire, aim is clearly the wrong order when firing a gun, so why is it acceptable for social media? The fact that you only have 140 characters or that everyone is friendly doesn't mean your team's effort can be less serious or rigorous than designing a print campaign or
running a targeted sales push.

1. Start from benchmarks:

Your benchmarks can be in many forms. Something is better than nothing here.
  • Count up your current followers
  • Look at how many current followers have your keywords in their profiles, or in their own feeds, to add some nuance to your understanding of your social audience.
  • Average the number of messages you have previously sent per week.
  • If you have multiple channels (ie., Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), define these benchmarks separately. Never lump all your users into the same bucket because they want different things from their various channels, so your message has to be refined for them.
  • You can even reach out to a related company, or friends who own companies, and ask them what their stats are as a way to define your goals. 
  • Keep your benchmarks in front of you -- on top of a weekly report or posted to bulletin board -- so you can know where you started from.

2. Be sure you are using the right outlets:
  • Facebook is generally for consumer-based products with a lifestyle angle.
  • LinkedIn is all business, and typically executive business rather than technical business.
  • YouTube can be really awesome for product demos and for distributing media coverage, executive interviews, adding your own coverage of events like tradeshows or sponsored events. See how lowly blender company BlendTec was able create a cult following by blending things that should never go in a blender (and videotaping them).
  • Google+ is still defining itself, but seems to be a good platform for technical marketers to interact with IT leaders, and also keep up on what Lady Gaga is doing.
  • Twitter has the most opportunity and missed opportunities because it is what you make of it.
First understand where your target audience is already engaged in social media. Ask them in surveys or give the question to your customer service people, call them up. Don't assume or you'll always be working uphill.

3. Establish sales conversion tracking:

In Omniture, you can now add on their Social Analytics product to integrate with the channel's API and really dig deeply for lots and lots of numbers. You can also use SiteCatalyst's traditional "var" system to define unique tags to add to your tracking URLs to know where users came from. This can be simple or get really complex, so implement what you need to understand your sales.

Even if you have a simple HTML checkbox at the end of each online sale, you are learning where your most valuable traffic is coming from, and where to continue investing your social media dollar.

Simply put, it is possible and desirable to track where people heard about your product and define ROI, even in social media.

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