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Establishing A Sustainable Social Media Marketing Strategy

Considering Strategy, Tactics, Process, and Commerce

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For companies trying to make sense of social media and online marketing, it’s important to take a step back from all the “TwitFaceBlogTubeIn” mania for a second and look at the nature of how these things are going to work for the overall business.

There are many questions that need answers:  ”Should we develop a strategy first before engaging?”,  ”Should we experiment and develop a strategy as we go?”, “Will it ever be OK to ask customers if they want to buy directly within social channels or will we always have to tiptoe around the subject?”

Here are a few considerations to help answer those questions and establish the framework for a sustainable and successful social media marketing program.

Social Media Strategy: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pond of cure”.  Having some idea of what measurable goals and business outcomes you’re after is essential for planning resources and forecasting outcomes. This is true with any kind of marketing and is certainly the case with social media.

I polled a number of industry smarties on social media strategy vs. tactics and while there was some distance between the approach Guy Kawasaki preferred and that of people like Chris Brogan, the consensus was that developing an approach is essential for planning, implementation, accountability and measurement of success.

The formation of a social media strategy is a ripe opportunity for creativity and certainly shouldn’t get in the way of getting started. Gaining consensus about social strategy within a corporation could easily create a bottleneck.  A strategy that calls for experimentation with iterative improvement in the context of overall goals, approach, tactics, audience and an effort to measure success is more likely to be implemented and gain support.

Social Media Marketing Tactics: The best mix of tactics needs to tie into the plan for reaching business goals.  Whether it’s “Better engage with our customers” to “Filling the top of the sales funnel”, an understanding of audience preferences and behaviors will lead to the right tactical mix.

A lot of companies take the path of least resistance and go for what I like to call, “The Social 5-Pack” of: Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, YouTube and LinkedIn without thinking through tactics. For example, one common question often I hear is, “Is a LinkedIn group a better use of time and resources or a Facebook Fan Page?”

What the marketer might want to ask is, “Where do social networking vs. blogging vs. microcontent vs. media sharing fit in the context of our social media goals?”  Then do the research and implement a listening program to discover which social networks, media sharing sites or blogging communities the target audience is present and participating in. That homework will answer the question about Facebook vs. LinkedIn and any other social communities where customers spend time.

Social Media Process: “Companies who start with implementation are at risk”, is a great quote from Jeremiah Owyang in his recent post, “A Pragmatic Approach to Social Business“. There he lists a checklist of 8 steps that form a process for approaching social media.  Jumping into tactics can send a company in a very unproductive direction. Working through a strategy, tactics and developing processes leads to efficiencies, scalability and social engagement that is true to the business goals.

We’ve published a social media checklist that can serve as a prompt for companies to gather the information necessary to make smarter decisions about how their organizations can incorporate social media in their marketing and communications mix.

Process with social media marketing is important for a variety of reasons ranging from quality assurance to accountability. How can an organization scale its social media efforts without some kind of processes in place? Redundant processes can often be automated by software. Processes also outlive internal social media subject matter experts who move on to other opportunities.

From a personal process perspective, take a look at Tac Anderson’s daily routine as a social media strategist, which he calls a “workout”.  In addition to planned activities and tactics, there’s room for putting out fires or handing spontaneous situations. In the end, a routine or process helps keep social media marketing tactics on track over time.

Social Commerce: Social Media that Leads to Sales: Question - What’s the ROI of Social Media?  Answer – What’s the ROI of having a phone system in your office?  That phone systems facilitates communications for a wide variety of reasons that are important to the functioning of the business from product/service inquiries to hiring new employees to customer service.

Social media in a business sense, is technology that facilitates communications, sharing and connecting brands with customers.  For the most part, people buy from those they like and social media helps build, maintain and improve those relationships.

So how does social media influence or result in sales?  A helpful post on BarnRaisers summarizes several studies that show exactly that. Click on the link to see the post (How Social Media Drives Sales Relationships).  I’ll also summarize them here:

Facebook - “The top reasons people press the “Like” button on Facebook is to have a sales relationship with a brand - either to receive promotions & coupons (40%), get updates on upcoming sales (30%) and show their support for companies (39%).” – ExactTarget 2010.

Twitter - “For over 40% of the time people are on Twitter, we spend it learning about products and services, listening to what others have to say and giving opinions.  That explains why over 20% of the time we’re on Twitter, we’re ready and willing to buy directly off Twitter.” – Edison Research 2010.

Social Networks – “For every hour we spend on online, we spend the most amount of time on social networks, almost 15 minutes of every hour. Roughly half of the time (approx 6+ mins), we are seeking out products and services and looking to have a sales relationship with brands.” Nielsen 2010.

As more brands include commercial offers in the social experience they provide for customers, those customers will become increasingly comfortable with the notion of social commerce. At the same time, more social features are being added to ecommerce websites. In the way that blogs and Twitter accounts are expected features of brand websites, so will social commerce functionality.

Building a flexible strategy that considers business goals and the people to engage will help marketers identify the best mix of tactics for their social media marketing program. Developing processes from a corporate and an individual standpoint will help sustain, not stifle, social engagement activities in the long run.  Start by building community and relationships.  Listen, respond and create value. Monitor and analyze for opportunities to implement social commerce features, but don’t rush it.

How have you incorporated social media into your business processes? What are you doing to create more sustainable social participation within your organization?

Originally published on TopRankBlog.com

Establishing A Sustainable Social Media Marketing Strategy
About Lee Odden
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age. WebProNews Writer


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  • http://www.volusion.com Molly at Volusion

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for a great post with excellent points on social marketing strategies! I also love your Social Media Checklist!

    In the world of ecommerce we have found some interesting trends. As we thought advice to give to our customers entering into 2011, we came up w/ a few stats that would help them understand the importance of social marketing:

    –83% of all holiday shoppers are influenced by customer reviews (ChannelAdvisor, August 2010)

    –Majority of consumers (74%) rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions (Gartner, July 2010)

    –Highly-rated products will increase likelihood of purchasing for 55% of consumers (eConsultancy, July 2010)

    –Small companies are investing five times more of their interactive marketing budgets into social networks and blogs than larger companies (Forrester)

    Thanks again for a great post and feel free to visit our site for more on building an ecommerce social media strategy: http://bit.ly/eYsr3o

    Best,
    Molly Sylestine
    Marketing Associate
    www.volusion.com
    follow me on Twitter @VolusionMolly

  • http://thesocialguyblog.com/ Matt Gentile

    Lee,

    Thank you for taking to time to prepare such an informative and enlightening post.

    Best Regards,

    Matt Gentile, Director of PR and Social
    Century 21 Real Estate LLC

    AKA – “The Social Guy”

  • http://www.gluehq.com Fiona Friesen

    Hi Lee,
    With regard to B2B, would you change the lens in which we review the social media stats at the end of your post? I’m looking specifically at the Facebook stats. We see B2B clients set up their Facebook pages and get 10-25 people sign up where most are family. Any ideas or future blog post on jazzing social media for B2B? Is Facebook the place for B2B at all?

    Fiona

    • Lee

      Thanks Fiona, you’re asking a great question and we’ll definitely add more posts about B2B and social media specifically.

      In the meantime, check out this one, B2B Social Media Winners: http://tprk.us/cwudJ6

  • Kirill Storch

    Great article, I def enjoyed it. I am tired of canned SM articles so this was great. My question to you is this: We are looking into using Iframed Facebook apps to drive conversion. We are considering something like this

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mindflash-Advertising/180033020422?v=app_4949752878&ref=ts

    Its an app that spits out branding concepts for business owners. My question is can you comment as to the efficacy of the iframe approach? My sense of it is that it converts well, and is unique, but loads slow at times and is somewhat of an unusual approach- your thoughts?

    • Lee

      The efficacy of any FB app depends on the targeting, creative and offer. Load times depend on the host, not FB if I understand the implementation correctly. My approach is simply to test, measure and make iterative improvements. Then scale or kill it depending on performance.

  • Lee

    Appreciate the comments Molly and Matt.

  • http://winwinrestaurantmarketing.com Amy Foxwell

    We help small businesses and restaurants with the marketing strategy. Social media is a really powerful solution for restaurants. It’s a great way of showing people what they can expect before they go to the establishment, increase loyalty and even send out appetizing tidbits to whet people’s appetites. A twitter message from the chef with the special of the day that he has just cooked up can be very effective.

    Come check out our free restaurant marketing tips.

    Amy Foxwell
    Win Win Marketing
    www.amyfoxwell.com

  • http://www.eBizROI.com/ Rick at eBiz ROI

  • http://www.ownstlucia.com/ St. Luicia Real Estate

    Let me commend you for such a great post. SMM can be a great lead generation tool. To get the real benefits of SMM one must look to deelop conversations. Alas too many businesses (small ones in particular) get caught up in auto post and miss out on the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships. Follow me @ownpropertyslu

  • http://www.walldirectory.com Guest

    HI Lee,
    You made crystal clear about the social networking and social media and they are effective in creating brand image of products and services. Good job and keep sharing with us newest information.

    best complements
    Marsh

  • http://www.aoay.ca Calgary markting

    Love this post, social marketing is a must.

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