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Social Media is now the bells and whistles of good business. It is all about building relationships and networking. Possibly the rise of the global financial crisis this decade has sped up the need for people to not want to deal with faceless, nameless individuals who only speak with spin and jargon.

Social media is also proving to be a long term social, personal and business investment. Even in Australia, there are currently 975 job adverts on for roles involving social media, that’s almost three times those in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This puts social media in the position that  it is not a game to play this week, rather, strategise to be able to maintain the enthusiasm…. don’t do it just because everyone else is jumping off the same bridge.

Your business’ strategic marketing plan will lead to an integrated marketing communications plan which will most likely include social media. The decision of who is going to be accountable for social media should also be included in your strategy. Just because it is entertaining personally, it can’t be everyone and no one’s job.

Similarly, again because it feels informal, your organisation needs to consciously maintain a unified brand or personality etc – maybe the marketing strategy area determines the messages they need the public to know, the communications department determine how we are going to say it and IT work their magic to make the message appear in cyberspace on social media.  Use it as a team building exercise across functional areas, it may be the start of some great cross pollination of ideas.

With the growth of all the ‘Yes’ campaigns (think Obama, Gillard and Optus), let’s look at Social Media as the ‘(K)No(W)’ Campaign:

  1. Know how it all fits into your marketing plan.  You will have your marketing precepts driven by how you meet your market,ie bricks and mortar or only online, what your product offering is etc.
  2. Know how it all fits into your integrated marketing communications plan. By knowing how your product offerings are targeted to different groups of customers, you can pin down those offerings that match with those audiences that will be connectable via social media.
  3. Know who you want to be talking to.  Identify your target audience which is reachable by this form of media. This may not be (in fact probably won’t be) your total target audience for your entire marketing strategy. You will have ideas based on the product, the target demographics, past sales and current consumer feedback.
  4. Know what you want to say to them.  What is the message you want them to hear.
  5. Know how you are going to say it.  What terminology, what voice, make the wording, grammar and spelling etc relevant and unmistakeable to the audience you are targeting. Don’t let your communication style be a barrier to your audience understanding your message. In a tweet, don’t start using a passive voice or using highly specialised words to tell your market about a great discovery. Eg ‘It has been shown that deadliduckihedron acid (sold as Acne Away) is highly efficacious for treating Propionibacterium acnes bacteria in reducing the affects of acne vulgaris’. Far better to say ‘Get your tube of Acne Away today – I’ve had my face clear up in 2 days, in time for my formal – I’m stoked’.
  6. Know what medium you will use.  Research usage to understand which social media sites will be most attractive to your target audience. You may want to be part of some specialised forums and blogs, and most importantly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Find out what these mediums are talking about in relation to your organisation, your competitors and the whole industry and search on those words you use as keywords for your own search engine optimisation.
  7. Know your target audience from a social media perspective; become a listening party to those mediums above. Watch how they are being used, take on board the comments the users are making and help to tailor your message more specifically based on this knowledge.
  8. Know how to be a follower. Subscribe to blogs by people in your industry that you admire, or believe your audience listen to.  Be mindful of others that have influence in your sphere, maybe politicians, scientists, fashion leaders, social commentators etc. Whatever your area of interest, there will be many others blogging, tweeting, Facebook posting and generally getting their ideas out there. Make use of all this free information as you set about your future provision of information yourself, you now have an almost unlimited supply of ideas you may never have thought of. Utilise some of the tools out there to be a part of the niche groups you are interested in. For example, WeFollow is a Twitter tool that allows you to find those with stated tags that you want to follow in your industry, problem solving area or give commentary relating to your interests.
  9. Know how to play the game. Remember being a kid and just turning up to play cricket in the street where some others were already playing? Well joining social media is a little like that. You need to join the conversation to be a part of the community. How much effort and sportsmanship you put into that cricket game will determine how you are perceived by the rest of the players and will determine whether they come ask you to play next time rather than just hoping you won’t turn up. This is all about building connections in your community.
  10. Know the way to do it. Join the conversations, add or respond to comments and questions on forums, add ideas to blogs, ask questions of other industry leaders, basically interact, always with your end result in mind. Twitter says it has a perfect tool to stay up to date with the centres of influence, basically it connects an incredibly wide range of topics via its Twitter @Chat.
  11. Know your ROI– not return on investment, it is a return on your interaction within your community of interest. This is all about measurement, like all marketing tools, you need to have an understanding of what goals or results you are looking for, and a way to track them. Different objectives that you can measure are:
    1. Brand awareness and presence in social media, this could simply be measured by the number of mentions of your brand on different media platforms before you start and then measured at set periods to review the basic numbers.
    2. Count the number of positive responses versus negative about you, your brand and/or product. Is the ratio improving over time?
    3. Has your website traffic increased? Whilst making it difficult if you have a series of other marketing activities concurrently running, you can work out how some of your visitors have found you through special portals or links only used on your social media or for special events etc. Include the tag in the URL to sign up or connect to you as relying on your connections to remember to put in special codes etc makes much of your data collection ineffective.
    4. Have your followers increased on your twitter account or subscribers to your blog etc?
    5. Develop relationships: It is worthwhile to keep an updated and accurate database of all those you have come in contact with. This has never been more useful than in social media. Whether it is keeping track of those in your industry who have made favourable comments, suggested you may have future business together, have given an interesting webinar on a topic close your heart or you just have a feeling that you would enjoy doing business with that person at a later date. Keep all the details in your database.  Invite them to social media events you truly believe will interest them, ask what they are doing, and give them opportunity to interact in a relevant and real way with you and your business.
  12. Know a simple way to maintain the contact. One effective way to make the most of your time and staying in touch once you are up and running in social media is to prepare a special article regularly that would be a valuable blog entry. Edit that entry by reducing your introduction and conclusion and highlighting just the major points and post on Facebook. Take the edited version and up load a video onto YouTube with you giving your own interpretation visually of the article. Finally take your 140 characters worth of major ideas and tweet! All of your bases are covered from one initial well thought out and written article.
  13. Know that this is not the end, it is just a beginning. Once you are at this stage it is time to evaluate your foray into social media. You have the opportunity to be entirely reflective of your involvement. Ask yourself
    1. Did you see positive results? In what way?
    2. Did you have the outcomes you expected or predicted?
    3. Did those who interacted come from your proposed target audience and did they ‘get’ the message?
    4. Did your messages secure the outcomes you hoped for?
    5. What was the real positive and negative feedback you encountered?
    6. After all this, what can you now do to improve your connection to your community?
    7. Do you need to adjust your original Marketing Plan to accommodate this new dimension?

To really make the most of what you have now achieved with social media, this cycle is to be as all good business cycles are: plan, do, analyse and refine.

Most of all, enjoy the process, being more open and innovative to your audience is what social media is all about.