By: Linda Kaun
Before you jump into the social media scene, youll get a lot more mileage out of your marketing efforts if you take a step back and develop a social media marketing strategy.
Understand what the different tools are, what they are used for, how to implement them and maybe even more important, how the effort will be maintained.
It's easy enough to start a blog or set up your profile on LinkedIn. The trick is keeping it up over time. Who will actually do that in your organization? How much time do they have to devote to these social media efforts?
If you map out a plan first, you can then grow slowly but steadily, increasing your social media presence as you gain experience.
Remember, social media is about people. People connecting through these various tools or platforms. It's not for you to blatantly push your products or services on an audience. So you must figure out what your customers are looking for, then see how you might be able to fill that need.
Ask yourself these questions for starters:
Goal Setting and Measurement
What's your goal for using social media-you may have several.
Do you want to research your market, help your customers solve problems, be a thought leader in your industry, build relationships, be an advocate for change, create sales and marketing opportunities, engage your market to improve/give feedback on your products? Each of those will require different processes to create the results you're after.
Which set of metrics will you use to measure your results, both quantitative and qualitative?
Have you analyzed your competitors to see what theyre offering in the social media arena? How can you set yourselves apart from them? Even though many companies have already created a social media presence, it's still in the early stages with plenty of room to be original and memorable. Look to other industries for ideas to adapt to your own niche.
How will you create unique value for your audience through your programs?
Remember in social media, (as with all marketing in fact) the focus needs to be on the concerns of your audience, not on your products. So consider their own familiarity with these various tools and the time they have.
Maybe they would rather interact together around a social network or forum. Or perhaps theyre more comfortable listening to information on a podcast or webinar.
What content are you offering that is, again, of value to your audience? What can you do to help them solve their problems, learn something new? The content includes written words, video, audio, and so on that will engage your audience.
You'll need to decide what tone youll take, whats the personality you want to project. People are looking for the human face behind your company. Will it be a team effort or one person? Who will handle follow up from your customers questions or comments?
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Match the tools to your goal
For research (and all companies should initiate a research component even if you don't do any other social media marketing) search for blogs, podcasts, news and portal sites to give you ongoing information. Sign up with an RSS feed and the information is delivered directly to your computer.
It's important to be listening for news about your own company as well. Sign up for Google Alerts with your company name or other keywords and you'll receive emails with links to those news sources.
For networking, build a community through LinkedIn and/or Facebook and start to create a following on Twitter. You can also encourage your audience to exchange ideas through hosting a forum.
For sales and marketing goals, give valuable content through blogs, podcasts, videos, webinars or tele-seminars, and engage with your audience via social networking sites.
There are no cookie-cutter templates here. You must do your own homework to figure out what will work best for your company, your audience, your skill set and available people to implement these tools.
How will you both set up these programs and maintain them? While it's easy to get started and the financial costs are low, the time and effort needed to sustain your programs should be carefully considered. These are not one-shot marketing events with a beginning, middle and end point.
This is why it's much better to start off slowly and build as you gain experience. To plan ahead for how you will keep the content fresh, who will be in charge of different programs, what is your long-term plan?
These all take patience, a commitment of time and resources, a long view to the future to build your brand and your company awareness over time.
About the Author
Linda Kaun of 'Linda Kaun Copywriting' works with marketing managers at B2B textile companies whose written marketing communication materials are not effectively generating the leads and sales they need, either off or online. Her copywriting brings higher responses, more qualified leads and greater ROI. Free white paper is available to download, "The Textile Industry and the New Social Media: Why You Must Take Action Now And How to Profit from this Information Revolution," at www.lindakauncopywriting.com/whitepaper.php
The information expressed is personal view of the author. Here 'I' refers to her.
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