It’s no secret that the advent and ever-increasing popularity of social media has changed the way the world communicates — and most importantly for you — has changed the way brands communicate with their important customer audiences.
For many business leaders and corporate marketers, embracing the changes to the “traditional” model of communications can be frightening. You’re constantly evaluating social media’s value and benefits to your brand, its marketing return on investment and in a time when budgets are more strapped than ever, wondering how to justify expenses to cover these “extraneous” marketing costs.
Although valid in your concerns, there is no doubt that social media has forever changed the way we as individuals, brands and consumers “talk” to each other . . . and it’s not going anywhere. Although twitter may potentially fall off the map someday, micro-blogging will remain. While Facebook may surpass MySpace in its popularity and membership, social networks will continue to provide a platform for individuals and brands to share information. With that said, educating yourself and diving into the world of social media with a strategic plan will help your brand navigate the waters of seemingly uncharted territories.
Below are the key elements of building a successful social media campaign for your organization.
1. Set firm objectives
First things first — you need to identify what you want to get out of your social media program. Just like when embarking on any marketing initiative, you need to define its goals — are you seeking to increase brand awareness, manage your company’s reputation, promote new products or services, or, generate qualified leads? Your social media campaign centers on its purpose and will therefore allow you to effectively analyze your measurable outcomes and return on investment in the end.
2. Listen and learn
Let’s be honest, it’s a crowded marketplace out there. The freedom of user-generated information has led to a chaotic, segmented and hard-to-reach market. Do your research before creating a strategic approach to your social media program. Monitor trends and breaking news in your industry, evaluate your competitors, find out what your customers are saying about your brand and explore the platforms they are using for discussion. To this end, behavioral targeting has emerged as a way to evaluate customers’ online footprints, allowing for communications that are more cost-effective.
3. Put a strategy in place
Armed with your goals and research, it’s now time for your brand to begin talking. Your strategy is what’s going to drive the use of social media tools. Don’t just start a blog or a Facebook business page because everyone else is doing it. Remember your purpose.
With that said, leave social media up to your organization’s communications professionals or partner with an integrated marketing agency who knows the ins and outs of the social media world. The biggest barrier for social media marketing is not cost, as the majority of social media tools are inexpensive or even free. Instead, it’s the ability to dedicate time and resources. Sometimes companies downplay the significance of social media marketing; however, it is actually one of the most important roles in relation to your brands’ communications efforts. Why?
Social media is not about the technology, it’s about the people using it – your important audiences and those customers that are going to make a difference in your bottom line. Trained public relations professionals and marketers are best equipped to handle this role. They are experts on establishing and engaging in mutually beneficial relationships. As Michael Cherenson, the chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), said in a recent blog post, “Technology is certainly a powerful tool for building relationships, but people and basic communication skills still come first.”
4. Measure and Analyze
Now that you’ve implemented a social media program, measure your results and return on investment. Because social media is a newer way to communicate, a vast amount of measurement methods aren’t in place (although there are still many), but the good news is that social media isn’t about the number of earned media placements or advertising impressions. What it comes down to is the engagement and interaction with your audiences.
Go back to your objectives. Have you increased brand awareness? Generated qualified leads? Effectively managed a crisis or improved the reputation of your company? Your answers will provide a benchmark for future social media initiatives and improve your social media marketing efforts in both the short- and long-term.
Whether due to advances in technology and innovation, or in part because of the economy or changes in consumerism, the “traditional” structure of communications has been altered. Although it may be worrisome for some, it’s also an exciting period for marketers. We now have the ability to directly communicate with our core customers. Communications is getting back to its roots – connecting people and ideas.