Social Media Marketing - Take it seriously or leave it alone!
There’s no denying that the current marketing zeitgeist is described in two simple words - ‘social media’. Whether people are engaging directly with social media or not – the likelihood is that most people at least now know about it.
The founding platforms that started with sharing information about our personal selves via Twitter, Linkedin andFacebook (three of the still most popular platforms, but there are many others and no doubt more targeted ones on the way…) – have now of course, tipped over into our professional lives.
Whilst some businesses and large brands are now focusing considerable energy in the social marketing platforms – for the majority, the social marketing space is still relatively fertile territory, with the majority of businesses either dabbling half heartedly or simply sitting it out on the sidelines to see whether the ‘hype’ is going to last.
I’ve seen initiatives like those by MySMB promoting the fact that ANYONE can do social media – and the new tranche of freshly sprung social media gurus with previous lives as SEO experts, web designers, PRs, life coaches to name but a few, promoting an array of social media services that promise to ignite new life into a business.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total advocate of the social marketing platforms – engaging people has always been and will continue to be a powerful marketing tactic – and the beauty of the social marketing platforms is that the ever improving technologies enable;
And, I’ve got plenty of case study material from businesses of all shapes and sizes that share their successes and have generated new business as a direct result of their involvement.
However, my bugbear is with execution.
As a professional marketer, in my view, social marketing - just like any other marketing activity, should be taken seriously and planned for. Doing ‘social marketing’ in isolation of any other marketing is really quite odd. After all – the social platforms simply provide new marketing channels. However, many businesses don’t seem to grasp this.
Businesses and those tasked with managing social media marketing, should be experienced and conversant in strategic marketing planning.
Whilst these new marketing channels open up new ways to market – the discipline behind the fundamentals of effective marketing planning still stand:
Before diving in – think and plan strategically…
Businesses should be asking themselves some key questions
Q: What do we want to achieve with social media?
- Brand awareness
- Gathering support
Objectives need to be defined in advance - whether for the brand generally or for a specific campaign. That way you are clear on what you are aiming for.
Q: Which social media is right for us?
Not everyone runs TV advertising – it’s simply not relevant for many businesses. With social media – the media planning is as relevant. The media you select will be determined by your objectives - hence why it’s important to clearly understand them.
For example; if you are recruiting – then Linkedin or Facebook may work better than YouTube. If you are launching a new service – then YouTube and Twitter may garner more reach.
Then there’s the B2B and B2C element to consider. There’s evidence to show that Linkedin is currently the most effective B2B resource – and Facebook has more success in the B2C arena.
It may indeed be a case of adding all possible social marketing platforms into your marketing mix. Testing what works and then pulling back on the least effective activities.
However, to be learning by your marketing activity (as we all should be) you have to be monitoring and measuring results. Again, monitoring effectiveness helps you to plan strategically.
Rather than just diving in and mindlessly doing everything – (mousewheel style), expending lots of energy, but going nowhere – effective planning helps you to better understand what’s working and guides you in leveraging activity and ultimately practice intelligent marketing.
Q: Who are our audience?
Different audiences respond to different approaches. I always preach about being targeted in marketing approaches – and this still stands online in the social platforms.
The beauty of the platforms is that if you want to deliver online ads – then Linkedin and Facebook provide you with very granular demographics. You can really drill down to very specific audience criteria.
You can also target specific ‘Groups’ or ‘keywords’ to review conversations and nurture in a relevant and targeted way.
Social marketing – just as with traditional marketing should be targeted. Understand your audience, talk to them in a way that’s relevant to them, provide them with relevant and authentic offers, news, content, ideas and conversations.
You need to be clear on who your audience is – so you can target them effectively.
Also – remember the little saying… like attracts like. The ‘message’ that you put out is attractive to your audience and so it get’s shared by your target audience – most people have ‘friends or associates’ that are ‘likeminded’ so you grow your targeted audience in social way. (Hence why Groupon has been such a hit…for Groupon!).
Q: What should we be saying?
What you ‘say’ and the messages that you communicate need to be agreed as part of your planning. After all – this is your business, your brand. It’s irresponsible to just let communications run loose without any prior agreed planning.
I know businesses that say they are ‘doing’ social media – but really, all they are doing is ‘tweeting’ sporadically and aimlessly and have put out a Facebook page that gets little or no attention..
I love the quote – ‘Those that aim for nothing – hit it with remarkable accuracy’. Again – this is the danger of just diving in without thinking things through and without a plan of action.
Social marketing activity needs to be well executed and coordinated. Those tasked with ‘doing’ social media should be trained to do so. Communicating a consistent brand message is no easy task – hence why so many businesses in the past employed PR and MarComs agencies to do so.
Therefore, you either skill up your marketing team, bring in a professional either recruited in or to train your team or outsource to a marketing agency that understands strategic planning and social marketing.
If you do decide to outsource to an agency – beware if the agency you choose just want to take your account and run – that’s risky. Any marketing agency worth their salt will need to fully immerse themselves within your culture, brand and business. According to this audit guide, a full marketing audit should be undertaken, gaining a comprehensive view of all current marketing activity and planning, a clear understanding of brand values garnered – and that’s before any social marketing planning can even commence. And then of course, it needs to be 'joined up' with your overall marketing activity.
As part of your social marketing planning you need to agree what should be talked about and shared, tone of voice used etc. All key parts of communicating effectively. Resources allocated effectively – eg, if you are going to blog daily about xyz – then who is going to do it, sign it off, ensure it’s on brand etc before its shared.
Of course, what’s great about social marketing platforms is their transparency and authenticity – and when something is overly ‘manufactured’ - it’s very obvious. You can still have authentic and transparent conversations – but planning what the ‘theme’ of those conversations is – eradicates the ‘I’ve just had a cheese sandwich’ tweet, creeping into the corporate channel. Would you put such a video out on YouTube?
Q: What should we expect?
Creating media which is ‘socially attractive’ is no easy task. You are effectively endeavouring to build a social network, a critical mass of people that regularly talk, share or engage with your products or services.
Always keep in mind that for the majority – this level of nurturing and relationship development is a long game.
Of course, it may be that you offer something to a highly relevant audience that flies – and you quickly grow a vast amount of followers or fans. However, that may be a one hit wonder – and things may die down again. So, like all forms of marketing, you’ve got to keep at it.
With social marketing – you really do get out what you put in. The level and quality of engagement generally seems to determine the success. If you have qualified people that are constantly responding, watching, listening, monitoring questions, comments, issues – then that’s a highly engaged level of conversation. And if you have the CEO or MD involved too – then not only highly engaged but a ‘high involvement level’ of conversation.
Q: How do we manage these fast and far reaching channels?
Beyond the day to day implementation – there’s a huge amount of knowledge generated via the social platforms. How businesses tie this all important knowledge and feedback into their operating systems is key to learning and growing.
Dell is probably one of the biggest success story by integrating public ideas about ‘innovating’ their products – (they reported that an estimated £3m in sales were done via social marketing platforms last year and this is likely to rocket significantly this year).
Another case is where Starbucks learned through social platforms that their customers didn’t like throwing away paper cups. So, Starbucks created a campaign focused on reusable containers – promoting a free cup of coffee in return for taking them up.
Whilst there are analytics and management features within platforms such as Hootsuite – (our preferred management resource) and there are a plethora of others out there, these platforms aren’t going to help you plan strategically. They’ll help with monitoring and implementation – but the strategic planning is key.
Q: Why bother with social marketing?
Social media platforms collectively have a massive user base. Over 50% of the UK alone have a Facebook account – and Generation Y and beyond will only continue to focus their communications in a seamlessly mobile way. There will be a cohort of people that won’t understand what it is to visit a webpage without automatically sharing it with someone.
It’s here to stay that’s for sure. But just because the platforms are currently free to sign up to don’t underestimate the strategic importance of them.
My advice to all businesses…
Take social marketing seriously
- Think strategically
- Plan efficiently
- Train effectively
- Learn intelligently
- Monitor vigilantly and continuously.
@Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative – the online visibility experts. A digital marketing and design agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The agency covers all aspects of online visibility - covering social media marketing and social media training, user focused website planning and conversion focused website design.
For marketing and social media advice and amusement – view the Carvill Creative Blog