Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest offering from Mike Lewis, Vice-President for Marketing and Sales at Awareness Networks, a social media marketing software solution for businesses.
Building a social media program is an exciting opportunity and chance to dramatically change the way you connect with consumers. It is a tool that allows you to tap into conversations, learn more about how your brand is perceived, promote your product/service in new ways, and ultimately grow your business. Often the things you learn in your social media program can inform your more traditional marketing efforts, as you engage directly with your audience and learn more about what makes them tick. Social media – while trendy – is a fully mainstream communications tool.
Properly preparing a social media strategy, including goals and measurement, will ensure you get the most out of your program. Taking a simple four-step approach to prepare for the launch of a successful social media program can ensure that you’re set up to interact in social media venues before you get started. This process includes:
- Identifying your goals
- Finding your audience
- Setting your key performance indicators
- Scheduling and resource management
Program building gives you a chance to focus your efforts, and to determine what kind of man power will be needed to support those efforts. It will also set up your criteria for success in advance by creating a set of metrics. This will take some of the uncertainty out of your social media program, enabling you to know when you are doing things right and/or when adjustments need to be made.
Step One: Identifying your goals
Just a few examples of your social media program’s goals are reaching new customers, capturing leads, increasing sales, and establishing your brand so as to build loyalty. Each goal will help you to choose which social media platforms and audiences are the best fit for your efforts, and will allow you to set realistic and measurable metrics for the program.
Be sure to also be realistic, too, in terms of how much time and staff you’ll be able to commit to your program. Companies who try to do everything at the start are, too often, quickly overwhelmed by how much time is required to keep up the effort. If your company is trying a social media program for the first time and you have limited resources, starting with one or two key goals, measuring the effectiveness of your efforts, and then increasing your commitment once the initial program is established will be a more measured and more successful approach.
Step Two: Finding your audience
Finding your audience is key to a social media program. Each social channel has different types of audiences, and each one is used in different ways for different purposes.
For example, if you’re looking to build a group of brand supporters, Facebook could be the best choice. If you’re looking to reach potential customers who have never heard of you, or to become a thought leader in a particular industry, Twitter might be the better option. If you’re hoping to use social media for something like recruiting, a combination of Twitter and LinkedIn could be your best bet. Once you’ve set your goals, you can start researching and determining the best social channels, tools and services to meet the needs or your program.
Step Three: Setting your key performance indicators
Once you’ve set the goals for your social channels and established your key audiences and the platforms they interact on, you can start setting the metrics and benchmarks. Start by looking at some of the things that can be measured on each platform:
- Blog traffic
- Twitter followers
- Retweets of your content
- Interactions on Twitter
- LinkedIn group members
- Blog comments
- Independent shares of your content
- Trackbacks to your blog
While there are a lot of metrics that can be measured, remember that this is a benchmark. You’ll need to customize your goals and measurement tools depending on what you want to get out of your social media program.
Step Four: Scheduling and resource management
This stage is about setting timelines and determining how you’re going to staff and support your ongoing social media program. There are some important things to think about when formulating a plan. Not all of these are relevant to every organization, but these are some of the core things to consider when formulating your plan – the time investment, the man power investment and the timeline that you’ve set for the project(s).
These options will naturally lead to other questions to consider that will address any specific challenges or opportunities your organization may see when implementing its social media program. In the end, this planning process will prepare you to embark on the next phase: tactical implementation.
Mike Lewis is a sales and marketing executive who has been at the forefront of leveraging social media for demand generation and customer acquisition. Mike is the Vice President of Marketing & Sales at Awareness, Inc, where he works with some of the world’s largest brands and agencies to define their social media marketing strategy. Follow him on Twitter @bostonmike or visit his blog Social Episodes.