Creating Your Social Media Plan

If you enter into social media without a plan, you will fail. Period.

All the hours you spent will be wasted, you will receive no traffic bump, there will be no engagement, no one will care and you will learn nothing. Except maybe that you’re an idiot and that you should have listened to me when I told you to create a social media plan. You wouldn’t jump into a raging river without knowing how to swim, don’t create a Twitter account without knowing how to use it.

Grab a pen, I’m about to save your life.

Just because the tools of social media are free doesn’t mean they come without their own barrier to entry. The barrier is the knowledge of how to use them. Before you get started with using social media, you need to understand the tools you’ll be using. When i work with clients on their social media strategy for their business, here’s a bit of what I’m always sure to discuss with them.

Secure Your Brand

The first step of a successful (and long term) social media plan is to grab your brand everywhere you can, regardless of whether or not you plan to use it. It’s important that you have control of your identity all over the Web.  It’s always better to have the username and not use it, then need to wait and kick yourself later when someone else grabs it. Having a unified social media username is very important in establishing trust with other members (and potential press contacts) who may belong to multiple communities with you. You want them to know that you’re the same person.  Appearing as [cameraexpert] on one network and [cameras343] on another may confuse them.

To help ease the mind numbing task of username registration, we suggest using Knowem to search a large listing of social media sites. One search will tell you where your brand is still available on 120 different social media sites. (We also use their premium service to register the profiles for us since we’re too lazy busy to register all those profiles ourselves).

Set Your Metrics

Listen to me. Do NOT enter social media until you know what you want to get out of it. Period. If you don’t know what “success” is for you, then you’re not ready to start yet. It also means you should cut back on your blog reading.

Before you jump in, define success. Is it:

  1. Building buzz and conversation around a particular product?
  2. Better overall brand awareness?
  3. More traffic?
  4. Blog subscribers? Increased leads?
  5. New knowledge about your customers and how they view your brand?

 

Once you know that, the next step in your social media planning is to figure out how you’re going to measure success.. You want to identify your challenge, goals and concepts to determine how “buzz” will be quantified. Is it blog comments, conversions, links, Twitter talk, better brand recognition? If you can’t measure whether or not you’re meeting your goals, then you’re going to fail before you even start. It will limit your ability to bench mark results and render you unable to implement changes.

If you don’t take the time to figure out (a) what you want and (b) how you’re going to get it, you will fail in social media. In fact, you’ll fail in life.

Know Who You Are

I tend to believe that for most businesses, marketing is storytelling. It’s about using the tools available to you through social media to pique your customer’s interest and make them invested in who you are. The most successful companies are the ones that have gotten us interested in their story to the point where we want to share it with other people. We want to be associated with them.

Figure out your story in the market. Don’t construct a mythical tale about yourself, but do take the time to become aware of your identity. What does your company believe in? What are you known for and what do you want to be known for? If you’re “the corporate white hat SEO company” or “the blogger with an axe to grind”, you’re going to need to embrace that and bleed it. That knowledge will also be crucial in determining how you’ll talk to people, what your tone will be, how far you’ll go, and what you are (or are not) comfortable doing and sharing.

Determine Where to Build Satellite Communities

You want to plan your social media attack so that it’s as concentrated and as powerful as it can be. You don’t want to waste your time in communities where either no one is talking or they’re simply not interested in your kind. That means understanding two things:

  1. Your customers
  2. The communities you’re walking into

Your Customers: Put a face on them. Who are they and what are they interested in? Are they comfortable enough online to be hanging out in these communities? If so, where are they in the social media landscape? Are they on Twitter? Creating Facebook Fan pages? Answering questions on LinkedIn or Yahoo Answers? Or, God forbid, on MySpace? Wherever they are, find them.

If the bulk of your customers aren’t online, is there an opportunity to capture a secondary audience through social media – folks who may not make up a large percentage of your customer base but sit in parallel industries and could become more important?

If you don’t naturally know where people are hanging out, don’t panic. It just means you’ll need to do some research to start. Head to Twitter and search for your brand name, your competitors’ names, your keywords, industry, etc. Decide if there’s enough conversation to warrant engagement. Head to Facebook and see if there are any Fan pages dedicated to your company or industry. If there aren’t, are there a lot of people who list it as an interest and who may be interested in joining a community on that topic? Go to Yahoo Answers and see if people are asking or answering questions.

If your community is Internet-literate, they’re talking somewhere. You don’t have to invent the neighborhood, you just have to track it down and move in.

The Communities: Once you find the communities, study them. Scope them out and identify the elders, the specific caste system, their openness to newbies, how folks communicate, the type of content that is passed around, the rules for engagement, etc. You need to become an expert so that you know how to interact and don’t end up stepping on people’s toes or burning your bridges before you even start. Every community operates differently so you want to know the proper rules for each.

Create Rules for Engagement

What are you going to do when someone calls you a moron? How will you react when they tell the world that your company is deceitful and made of nothing but liars? Will you find a way to use the negative press or spaz out Kapil Sibal-style?

You won’t be able to create an exit strategy for every possible situation, but do get some ground rules down. We all got a peek at the Wall Street Journal’s official conduct rules for employees engaging in social media. The document mentions basic social media tenants like disclosing the company you work for, not discussing confidential information, refraining from disparaging the company, and not “engaging in impolite dialogue” with the wonderful folks of the Internet who will spend 20 minutes telling you you’re ugly. And so is your mother. It’s a lot easier to respond to the crazy when you have a system already documented on paper.

You also need rules for not just what you’ll say but who will be in charge of saying it and what their role is. Create these rules before you start, not after the break up.

Some things you’ll want to address are:

  • How will social media be integrated into the company’s core strategy?
  • Who from the company will engage? Will there be one voice? A team using one branded account? Personal accounts?
  • How much time will be spent on social media?
  • How long will the company “test” the different sites before evaluating their success?
  • If a serious fire breaks out, what is the proper protocol and who needs to become involved?

Engage. Genuinely.

Did you notice that “engaging in social media” is Step 6 and not Step 1? Just wanted to point that out. Carry on.

When you finally enter the social space, your job is to listen and begin forming a platform for people to openly talk and engage with you.

  • Listen to what they’re saying.
  • Listen to what they mean.
  • Listen to what’s bothering them.
  • Listen to what makes them happy.

And when you have something to help lighten their load, to be helpful or to make them smile, respond. Respond with links to your resources, to other people’s resources, to your competitors’resources. Your job in social media is to listen, to help and to get your message out only when appropriate. For every 10-15 messages where you help someone else, you get to include one that promotes yourself. That’s it. Social media isn’t about you. It’s about your customers and connecting with them so that when they have a need for X, they remember they have a friend on Twitter/Facebook/the Web who specializes in that.

If you chose to enter Twitter, use tools like the Advanced SearchTwitter Grader and Twellow to find people you should be following. If you’re on Facebook, join the groups that are relevant to you and become part of the conversation. If you’re answering questions on Flickr or LinkedIn, again, find the groups that are relevant to you and jump in finding ways to be useful and a good community member.

And then get in there. Leave comments on blogs, tweet people, leave Wall comments, etc. Engage new visitors. Go out there and talk to your community and at least pretend to have fun doing it. Be social and friendly and everything you wish you were in real life. The more excited you are about your community, the more excited they’ll be about you.

Also look for ways to take it offline and in the flesh. Organize meetups and tweetups so that people can be passionately vocal about your company togetherNo one wants to be in love alone. Give your community a way to find one another and to band together. You’ll empower them and empower yourself.

Assess Your Success.

The same way you can’t “set and forget” an SEO campaign, you can’t dive into social media and then never look back either. You’re going to have to take a look at your on-site and off-site metrics to determine whether or not your social media efforts have been successful, and if not, what you can do to fix them. Lucky for you (!), you set your metrics early on and determined what you were looking for and how you were going to quantify it. You know how to measure social media success.

I’d give your social media efforts about 2-3 months to stabilize before you really start trying to decide if things are working for you.  If you start evaluating any earlier than that all you’ll have to go on is your number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans.  Those aren’t really the metrics you want to be looking at. They’re useful to bench mark, but you should really be looking to see if:

  • Rankings have increased based on traffic and links.
  • Social media users are actually engaging with your content and/or converting (hint: Crazy Egg is awesome for this).
  • You’ve had more success on the social voting sites?
  • You increase awareness about a product that led to sales.

Whatever you had outlined as determining “success” before, now is the time to see if you’ve gotten any closer to that goal.  If you have, congrats. Keep on doing what you’re doing. If not, figure out what’s broken and fix it. If you can’t do it yourself, you may need some social media consulting (just sayin).

 

Get Your Entire Company On Board With Social Media

Is everyone supporting social media at your company?

Are you struggling to get the support you need?

And although there are many reasons why social media campaigns fail, far and away one of the biggest reasons for failure is the lack of top-to-bottom “buy-in” from all employees in a company.

  • In some cases, the CEO thinks the idea is frivolous.
  • In others, management has their doubts.
  • And in a large majority of companies, employees have no understanding of what social media is, what it does and how they can play a role in its success.

This, my friends, must change.

The Time for Complete Buy-In Is Now

The time has come for companies big and small to achieve complete social media buy-in from ALL employees.

The days of, “Yeah, we let the marketing department (assuming there is one) handle that stuff and we just do what we do,” must come to a close.

In fact, if I had a dollar for every head of marketing who has approached me in the last year and said, “Vikram, I just can’t seem to get anyone else in the company to buy into social media and assist me in my efforts,” I’d be a rich man.

So again, to say this is a problem would be an understatement.Whether it’s an army of 1 or 1,000, when all members of a team share the same vision of success, amazing things can happen. Look no further than the business example of Apple to see exactly what I’m talking about here.

Just as Steve Jobs helped his entire company, plus the world, to catch the Apple vision, so too must businesses small and large look to help their employees have a unified social media vision.

So that’s what this article is all about. We’re going to discuss 5 actions any company, large or small, can take to achieve this social media buy-in. And once we’re done, I can’t wait to hear your further thoughts and ideas below.

5 Ideas for Achieving Complete Social Media Buy-In From All Employees

#1: Someone Must Take the Lead

Every great project calls for a great leader. And if you want your company to dominate in social media, someone is going to have to take the reins.

No, this does not mean all responsibilities fall on one person’s shoulders; rather,the person is a coordinator, a motivator and a filter for all of the company’s core content and social media.

When it comes to true social media success, one thing is certain—if a company’s social media marketing is left up to chance and the unguided efforts of many, it will undoubtedly fail.

#2: Educate Via an Event

In so many cases, the manner in which a CMO establishes a social media campaign is incredibly lackluster and ineffective. Here are some examples of what not to do:

  • Send out a sudden mass email to all company employees asking them to write blog articles.
  • Notify staff of the company’s new Facebook page and suggest they Like it.

The reason for this is very simple: The majority of company employees, no matter the industry, do not understand the power and potential of social media. Blogs make little sense to them. Search engine optimization and its benefits are completely foreign. YouTube is something their kids do for fun. The list goes on and on.

This is why I strongly suggest that when a company decides to start a serious social media campaign—whether it’s via Facebook, Twitter, blogging, video, etc.—that they bring as many staff together as possible for a company “social media summit.”

There is a magic that can occur when a company meets together to fully lay out there social media goals and vision, as everyone can then start off on the same page.

During this summit, the first half of the event is really meant for education. This is where all employees can become familiar with types of social media, the potential power of these platforms, how content marketing works, etc.

Once employees understand how social media can impact the company by increasing sales, revenue and customer satisfaction (thus discovering the “why”), we can now move to phase 2 of this important summit.

#3: Encourage Employee Action

The next step of this summit is to implement an action plan of how each person in the company can make a difference. There are many examples of this, but I’ll just demonstrate one here.

In a recent social media summit for a company in Singapore, the CMO and I decided content marketing would be the main emphasis of their social media marketing efforts. To make this happen, we brainstormed as a group the common questions received each day from prospects and customers. Within 30 minutes and after much participation and enthusiasm from the entire group, we had well over 100 common questions.

Later on, I requested that the CMO turn each one of these questions into the title of a blog post, and assigned each article to different employees, with corresponding due dates for each.

Now that everyone in the company understood the power and importance of content marketing, each accepted his or her role in producing the assigned article. And because there were so many employees who were now willing to take part in this activity, it was easy for this company to produce multiple blog articles a week, all without putting too much burden on the shoulders of the CMO.

This example is powerful because before the summit, the CMO had been struggling for about a year to get other employees involved with the company’s social media efforts. But now that all were brought together in a manner that not only educated but also involved all parties, the reaction to “We need your help” was completely different.Talking about social media is one thing, but merging the brain power of everyone in an organization is truly special.

#4: Create a Company Social Media Newsletter

As with every movement, a great launch like a company social media summit is not enough to sustain the long-term practices necessary for social media success.

For this reason, I strongly urge all chief content and marketing officers to send out a regular newsletter to all employees explaining the results of their social media efforts.

Examples of things to include in this type of newsletter:

  • Special mentions of excellent blog articles and the employees who wrote them
  • Increase in the number of website visitors due to social media/blogging efforts
  • Leads and sales that were a direct result of social media campaigns
  • Positive customer testimonials/comments referencing blog posts, videos, etc.
  • Examples of how specific pieces of content led to a sale that otherwise likely would not have occurred
  • Question and feedback opportunities for the employees

As you can see, the amount of information that can be included in a newsletter like this is significant, but the importance of such a tool cannot be emphasized enough. Constant awareness is key to building long-term momentum with any marketing campaign, and by increasing this awareness, the process of making social media part of a company culture can then become a reality for any business.

Launching your social media campaign is only the beginning, but if everyone is going to work together on this, a newsletter of some type will be imperative going forward to keep everyone sharing the initial vision.

#5: Continue Training and Education

Nothing is developing more rapidly in this world than the Internet and social media. What was yesterday’s MySpace is today’s Facebook, so staying up to date and educated is necessary for long-term success.

Just as the newsletter helps employees to see the fruits of their labors, ongoing education with respect to social media marketing allows for continual improvements, innovations and ideas to come from staff members.

For example, because video marketing is becoming increasingly necessary going forward, it’s a great idea to train all employees in the basics of producing video. Once they have this knowledge and understand how to look for content opportunities, they can then start producing product- and service-related videos that can have a major impact on the company’s brand and web presence. And the more employees who jump in, the greater the results will be.

Just because someone on your staff might not have certain skills today to help with your social media efforts doesn’t mean they won’t excel in that area at some point with a little bit of guidance and training.

OVER TO YOU

So there are 5 suggestions for helping achieve complete social media buy-in with any organization. This being said, I know there are many other ways by which companies can establish such a social media culture.

As always, i’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below. Also, if you’ve tried any of the above steps in the past, what has been your experience? What did you do well and what would you have done differently?