Social Media Strategy - Marketers - it's too fast to pin down...

I've been working on a social media strategy with a client - and in doing so - what has become very obvious to me is that fact that ... not many organisations are getting their head around applying a formal socialmedia strategy. I think the big challenge for businesses small, medium and large is the time management of it all.  How much time should businesses be applying to social media?

It's still such fertile territory - that whilst there are some great examples out there from people sharing how they are leveraging social media platforms within their marketing activity - it's a fraction of businesses.

I recently read a report that stated that 72% of 'marketers' that are now using social media as part of their marketing activity have only been doing so for a few months.  (The report was dated March 2009!).

Too new, too fast, too imponderable - so what to do...?

Taking a step back and thinking about social media platforms well - new mediums seem to be springing up all over the place - however, there are some clear staples:

Social Networks such as Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, Ning, Bizzbug, FlickR etc.  Blogs - blogging and commenting on relevant blogs.  Forum activity - becoming a 'voice' in relevant forums.

So what's the end game?

Those that write about Social Media Marketing (and there are hundreds of good and often opposing articles out there) all seem to agree on one point.  It's about conversation not direct selling.  Selling is secondary.

I understand that  when Tim Berners-Lee started out with the Internet - where we are now, is exactly what he envisioned.

Conversations - useful, interesting collaborations - sharing information, genuinely conversing - and faciliating information - directing people to resources, people, spaces, places - virtually or off line to where they can achieve their main objective.  Transparency - simple - yet hugely powerful.

Would you direct someone to a competitor if it was the right thing for them?   That's really sharing...

As an enthusiastic social media'ite' - yet traditionally trained marketer - fully comprehensive in all elements of marketing and strategic theory - it's no surprise that many strategic marketers are sitting on the fence when it comes to 'social media marketing'.

So when thinking of Social Media Strategy - I'm sure that many 'traditional' marketers are going to want to apply 'traditional' strategic planning methodology...

Initially, I tried to myself!

Don't get me wrong - I have a huge respect for professional marketers - and even more respect for those that see the opportunity that social media platforms enable.

It's fast, it's changeable - but hey - that's the nature of the beast and as marketers, we kick our shoes off and run barefoot with it.

Key messages from strategic planning apply:

  • Research - listen to the conversations that are relevant to your space - for Twitter - check out and and - useful!
  • Engage - start to engage with those conversations - not directly selling - but more advisory, providing relevant and useful advice (and if that means directing them to your blog, website, product, service - then great - but it if means directing them to somewhere else then that's okay too - they'll value you for that too!).
  • Nurture - once you've grown relevant followers on Twitter, Blog subscriptions etc - keep them happy.  Just as any marketing tactic - keep in their radar providing useful and relevant information.
Implementing a Social Media Strategy
We know that traditional marketing certainly has a part to play in the fast world of Social Media Marketing - and so here's my outline as how one marketer (namely moi!) has tried to pin down a 'strategy' for a client - albeit a transient one:
  • Rather than try to engage with every social media platform available - think 'strategically' about what are the most relevant platforms for your business.  What's your strategic objective:
    • Brand awareness and establishment
    • Customer support and service
    • Polling and product feedback
    • Lead generation
    • News distribution
    • Brand reputation management
    • PR
    • Product promotion and launch
    • Humanising your brand
  • Cement your positioning?
    • What 'tone of voice' are you (and your team) going to be using - what's permissable, what's not.  Are you the authority on 'cat grooming' - 'are you market leaders in voip software'.  Your positioning determines your brands personality - so be clear on it.
  • Researching and understanding your social media auidence(s)
    • Research is fundamental when starting out.  You need to gauge what's going on in the arenas you want to participate in.  Listen in whether Twitter, Forums, Blogs, Facebook, Linked In - these tend to be the most popular platforms (no surprise that Twitter leads, followed closely by Blogs, then Facebook then Linked In and then Forums).  And for some platforms there are resources you can use (such as TweetBeep, TweetScan, WeFollow etc).  Search keywords - see what's happening, observe - see what others are doing - what's working, what's not and consider what you want to do.
  • Engaging
    • A simple enough word - but this is the all important 'brand push' - and so you really need to plan this part.
    • Who, what, when, how, where - all apply at this point.  Not to mention frequency and time given to resource.
    • Are you going to divide your products up and let each business manager promote their own business area - it's their responsibility (that's the tactic I employed).
    • Are you going to hand it over to the 'marketing team' and ask them to build it into their communications
    • Conversations, well useful and pleasant ones, tend to be a two way balance - and so consider how and who is best to really start the conversation and keep it going.
  • When
    • Social Media activity really has to be part of weekly, if not daily, activity.  But it needs to be managed in a focused way - it can soon become all consuming if trying to do too much.
    • In the strategy I implemented - just 4 platforms were selected:  Twitter, Blogs, Forums and Facebook.  Main push focusing on the first three for Phase 1 of the Strategy (I said it was transient!) - with the businesses 'somewhat stale and unloved' FaceBook group being 'refreshed' - and Twitter feeds added.
    • We considered a schedule that looked something like this:
    • Blog posts get posted to relevant business unit site on Monday and Wednesday
    • Tweets re these posts are made twice a day for 5 days - revamping the text each time to bring out a different point in the post.
    • Blogs subscribed to - when alerted of new post - quickly visit to see if you can make relevant comments (do this quickly as people tend to read the first 5 to 10 comments after that you pretty much get lost!).
    • Forums you are participating in are scanned three times a day - and any alerts to threads you started acted upon.
    • Start with a schedule morning 20 mins, midday 20 mins, later afternoon 20 mins.  (Of course this doesn't consider writing the blog posts - this time is for scanning, commenting and tweeting).
  • Integrate with all Marketing Communications
    • Where relevant tweet promotions, offers (not overkill but where relevant)
    • Test Twitter Exclusive promotions
    • Include Twitter handles on businesscards, letterheads, promotional materials, campaigns, email footers, blogs, websites.
    • Create an email footer that includes Twitter, Blog address, Join our Facebook Group etc and make standard throughout the team.
  • Measure
    • As with all marketing activity, ideally, we need to be able to measure how our social media efforts are panning out.  They will be determined by activity - but are likely to cover:
    • Traction / traffic to blogs
    • Users signing up to petitions / surveys
    • Exclusive offers to Facebook group members, Twitter followers (with codes)
    • Retweets and Twitter Analytics (
I've written another piece - specifically about Twitter - some tactics and basics.  If you'd like to take a look at this it's here.
And also Tips for Getting Started with Social Media - which may prove useful
I've got anothe post lined up which looks at the recent survey as to how marketers are using Social Media  - so if you'd like to subscribe to my blog - you can do that by visit - and I'll keep you updated on all my marketing news, views, tips and advice.
Oh and of course, you can follow me on Twitter
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 website design.