Social Media Planning – a step by step approach

Social Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linked-In, Bebo, Ning, Buzz (and a plethora of others) - are effectively ‘online social spaces' where people can converse, share their profiles, news, photos, ideas, work projects etc. Then we have Blogs - online ‘diary style' platforms where people can share their views, news, ideas and advice about something they are passionate about.  Businesses have blogs, people have blogs - it's a way to communicate what's happening, how you feel about things, provide advice and share.

The objective is to get people interested and engaged by providing authentic, transparent and relevant information.  And hopefully, those that engage with what you are talking about - will tell others - and so they will ‘follow' your musings, subscribe to your blog - growing brand awareness, positive word of mouth - and share of mind.

Similarly, you may participate in ‘online forums' - here you share your views and advice with others - and ask for help too.  Again, the forum is not a place to directly ‘sell' - it's a place to build your reputation and share opinion.   Whether setting out to achieve a position of authority or ‘expert’ in what you do – or to learn, share and generally participate – social media platforms are now firmly cemented into savvy marketing strategies.

Of course, people do try to use these platforms for direct sales purposes - but that tends to ‘turn off' the ‘social audience'.  So whilst it’s part of the end game, direct selling should never be your main objective for engaging.

Twitter – one of the most successful social media platforms, is a natural ‘communication' channel for ‘social media' activity.

Social media platforms enable a ‘conversation’ with people you may not have been able to reach before.  It has an amazing power to enable communications to go viral - and engage audiences in conversations about services, products, issues, the company and brand - connecting a vast amount of likeminded people in an often targeted and purposeful way.  The immediacy of the platform is also attractive.  Take a look at the short recent case study – highlighting both targeting, and immediacy.

A firm of accountants has a specialism in working with artists and galleries – and have set up a Twitter account @WestburyArt showcasing their relevant clients and also commenting on latest exhibitions, news in the artworld, as well as providing links back to useful resources and articles on their website.  In their social media activity platform, they monitor the keyword ‘accountants’.  A tweet appears “Does anyone know any accountants that focus on helping artists and galleries”.  Literally seconds later – they are able to respond.  Not only do they get the opportunity to generate a new client – a number of other artists then start to follow them.

Creating a Social Media Strategy or including social media platforms as part of mainstream marketing activity is still relatively fertile territory for many.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes, as well as superbrands, are only just touching the surface when it comes to understanding where they are heading with their social media activity.  There’s significant ‘fear’ by many as to ‘opening the floodgates’ – they’re uncomfortable with the transparency and reach these channels enable (however, conversely – it’s these same factors which are actually the attractive features).

Keeping up with social media means that organisations often have to ‘run faster’ than is comfortable – however, just because it’s fast, effective planning, just as you would with any marketing activity, is absolutely necessary.

So let’s take a look at how to plan your social media activity:

1       Strategic stance

What are you looking to achieve via Social Media?

  • Increase awareness the new service / brand
  • Share authority / expert opinion
  • Raise general brand / service awareness
  • Pull people to your site / blog / landing page
  • Research / poll
  • Rally support

2          Researching and Understanding your Social Media Audience

With the ‘objective’ secured – then before up jump into ‘engaging’ we need to first ‘listen’ to the conversations happening within your target audience.

  • Identify that target audience

3          Engaging

Once you have an understanding of the types of conversations that are happening with your ‘target audience’ or ‘relevant audience groups’ – eg: via Facebook or Linked In - then you need to start ‘engaging’ in an effective way.

3.1 What

For example:

Twitter posts would focus on:

  • Relevant advice
  • Answer q’s to user challenges

3.2      When

Social Media activity should be part of daily activity – but it needs to be managed in a focused way – as it can be all consuming if trying to do too much.

It’s a case of ‘suck it and see’ to gauge what’s right for your business:

  • Twitter
  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Facebook
  • Linked In Groups

It would be useful to schedule all activities into the week.  For example:

  • Blog posts get posted daily.
  • Each morning relevant channels – Twitter thread, Trade press news sites, general news sites are reviewed and tweets scheduled for the day.
  • Blogs you are subscribed to – when alerted to new post, review and comment if relevant.
  • Forums you are participating in are scanned at least daily.
  • Linked In Group participation (as required – but visit at least weekly to review contacts’ contacts and grow.
  • Plus ….all areas organic and active ‘expansion’.

This is where useful management resources such as Co Tweet or Hootsuite come into their own.  Here you can feed all of your social media platforms into one central dashboard – watch, manage, tweet, post etc – particularly useful when managing a number of accounts.

4          Twitter

I would suggest that some keyword ‘search’ is done on Twitter Search (using advanced search) and listening in to the types of things that the relevant audience is ‘tuning’ into.

Resources: Twitter Search, TweetBeep, Twellow directory and Hootsuite can be utilised.  Again, I tend to favour setting streams in Hootsuite to follow relevant ‘keywords’.

Talking of keywords - research also needs to be done into the best ‘keywords’ to search on.

This activity will help you to establish relevant keywords to use in the ‘tactic’ of ‘connecting’ with the right type of people.

  • Follow them
  • See who they are following and if relevant follow them too
  • Watch what they are saying, understand key issues
  • Join the conversation
  • Start to engage

5          Forums

I would suggest that you select no more than 2 to 3 forums initially to engage with.  Any more becomes unmanageable for one person.  Test and gauge which ones you get the most out of.

Search the forum threads for relevant keywords

  • Review the types of questions and levels of advice being put forward
  • Join the conversation – not sell, sell, sell, but advice and advise
  • Become a ‘trusted’ advisor / experts in service categories.

6          Blogs

Run searches in Google on relevant blogs :

Search blogs for relevancy – and find any that are relevant to the objective – creating a Blog A List.    Then participate:

  • Subscribe to their blogs
  • Read what they are talking about
  • Join the conversation by commenting
  • Become a ‘trusted’ advisor / experts in service categories.

Twitter is also useful for finding relevant blogs.  Many users are running blogs – and tweeting their posts – and so when we find relevant people – in their profiles check out the URL links and review their blogs – if relevant - subscribe, listen and comment.

7          Linked In / Groups

There are a number of relevant groups to join and participate in within Linked In.  To research and apply to join relevant groups – similarly, watch conversation threads and participate where relevant.  LinkedIn only works for active users – so be mindful to endeavour to participate.

Linked In is probably one of the most ‘granular’ social platforms – it really allows you to target – in both groups and individuals.

8          Facebook

Whilst Facebook predominantly started as a ‘personal’ connection platform, the growing use for business purposes is enhancing the features available.  Using Facebook’s FBML (similar to HTML) you can effectively replicate a landing page, campaign or web page on your Facebook page – enabling real interactivity.   As with all activity – you need to have campaigns on board to keep your Facebook page ‘alive’ and interesting.  Discussions, unique offers – consider the viral – what’s going to make someone ‘like’ you page and share it with others?

9          Integrate all Marketing Communications

To maximise exposure, integrate social media as part of the general marketing mix.

All ‘communications’ and ‘touch points’ be they ‘online or offline’ – should also consider the social media channels.  Including follow me@ Twitter names on businesscards, letterheads, invoices, promoting blogs on sites and in ads etc.  Email footers in Forums should include links to blogs, twitter and sites. Contact pages on websites to include.

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10        Measure

As with all marketing activity, you need to be able to measure how your social media efforts are panning out.

Some typical and relatively simple metrics to consider:

  • Traction / traffic to blogs
  • Users signing up to petitions / surveys (
  • Perhap offers exclusive to Twitter with special Twitter code to track
  • Retweets and Twitter analytics / Twittergrader improvement
  • Google Alerts / picking up relevant activity
  • Linked In Visits
  • Facebook Fan Growth
  • Twitter followers growth
  • Google Analytics - sales/conversions coming from social media channels

11        Circle of Social Media

If anyone is still asking, “why focus on social media…”?  Highlight the uses below:

  • Customer support and service
  • Brand reputation management
  • Polling and product feedback mechanism
  • Lead generation
  • News distribution
  • Brand awareness and establishment
  • Product promotion and launch
  • Humanising the brand
  • Public relations

Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and user focused website design.

MarketingMichelle Carvill