Wednesday, August 11, 2010

yes, you need a social media strategy

*before we even get started with this post, we have to give you an obligatory disclosure: hailey works at a PR firm in the digital media department.. if you know where she works, great. if you don't know where she works, even better. for all intents and purposes, it doesn't really matter.

The SmartBlog on Social Media postured: "Do you really need a social media strategy?" in their weekly reader poll. (You can read the results here.) It seems in recent months, that there has been this on-going debate that is starting to bubble to the surface about the merits of social media strategy. Do you need it? How do you do it? Where do you participate? Is it right for my company/brand/cause/product?

This is my answer: yes.
(Continued after the jump.)

Yes, you do need a social media strategy. It doesn't matter what company you are, what brand, what cause, what product - you need one. It can be proactive, requiring you (moving forward, "you" refers to company/brand/cause/product,etc.) to provide loyalists and curious-cats alike with a consistent stream of content. It can be a listening strategy, requiring you to know what is being said about you, and where. It can be a combination of both. But anyway you slice it, yes - you need a social media strategy.

For the record, I'm not advocating foregoing other traditional marketing, PR, or advertising strategies and campaigns. Social media is a nice way to tie it all together and further your messaging and branding.

Personally, I think it is important to have a strategy that is a combination of proactive and listening tactics. Think about it: If you're only listening, and are not participating on a platform (i.e., Facebook or Twitter), then how can you authentically respond to questions or concerns?

Five Tips for Getting in Bed With Social Media:

1. Understand the platforms and what you're getting yourself into: do your due-diligence.
Would you buy a car without researching the brand, the model, the year - heck, even the color?

Seek the advice of someone - no it does not have to be an agency - who plays on the platforms. Maybe you know someone who's brand you admire. Maybe it's a friend who blogs. Maybe it's your 14-year old daughter. Whatever the case may be, seek some general input from people you know and trust.

And above all else, research. Research the platforms and how they function. What are your competitors doing? What, in general, are comparable "you's" doing on the platform? What do you think works, doesn't work? Scribble down all your good ideas, and while you're at it, your bad ones too.

*A note on books about social media: By the time you've purchased that book you're holding, it's outdated, and something newer, hotter, flashier and trendier has arrived. Don't bother. You're better off reading up on online sources - there's a ton out there. If you're dying to get your hands around pieces of bound paper, read up on traditional thought on branding, messaging, PR strategy, advertising, etc.

2. Define your goals and what means success for you.
Your goals are going to be different than Pepsi's. I can say that because, let's face it, no way is Pepsi on here, and they don't need to hear my thoughts on social media - it hurts to admit, but they're doing just fine on their own without this girl. (But hey, if you aren't, give us a ring.)

Maybe success is 100 Facebook fans, maybe it's 100,000. Maybe success means 10,000 Twitter followers, maybe it means 200. It could mean 25 Retweets a day. It could mean 50 likes on a Facebook page a day. Whatever it is, know what it looks like (and you won't know until you've done your research) and how you're going to measure it. And don't cheat yourself by setting the bar low - write down your goal and stick to it. Just understand that it takes time.

3. Build your strategy.
After you research a lot (no, really, A LOT), and write down your goals and expectations, you can start to develop your strategy. (PS - Seth Godin has a great article about Strategy vs. Tactics you can read here.)

Once your parameters are defined, ask yourself, "how am I going to get there?"

Does it mean 5 blog posts a week? Does it mean posting Tweets at a certain time? How many Tweets do you think you need? How do you drive people from your website to your Facebook and Twitter, etc., pages?

Don't rush through this part - I think it's one of the most important steps. Clearly define how you're going to achieve your goal.

Part of building your strategy should include damage control protocol. Crisis management, if you will. You should be able to anticipate complaints, concerns, questions, someone might have about you. You have to be honest here - if you're not, you'll get stuck in a pickle and that's no good. (Think BP and their lack of response...anywhere.) Know how you'll handle a situation - what you will respond to, what you will leave alone, what you will remove. Know who is responsible for the response.

Promise me you won't get caught with your pants down.

4. Build an editorial calendar.
When it comes to you (meaning: company/brand/cause/product) and your social media strategy, it is essential to have an editorial calendar. Or you can think of it as a messaging calendar. Whatever the case may be, you should have a pretty good idea of what you're going to say, when you're going to say it, why you're saying it and how. Sure, things come up on the fly, but the road to authenticity and consistency is having a calendar to follow. Plus this helps you stay in line with your other marketing/PR/advertising efforts.

5. Measure your progress.
There are lots of ways to measure your progress. Depending on the platform or platforms you are using for your strategy, you'll be interested in different things. On Facebook, maybe its likes instead of fan count. Maybe on Twitter, it's Retweets instead of follower count. Whatever you decide how you're going to gague your success will determine what you measure - and what you use to measure. Sure, there are fancy services you can use for monitoring, but if you're a one (wo)man shop, you might not need it. But include social media measurement tools in your research.

Do you have a social media strategy? What is your take on the ongoing debate?

PS - come back tomorrow for thoughts on personal social media strategy.

source 1, source 2

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