If you’re not already tapping into social media, you should, as the channel offers brands tremendous opportunities to foster community and engagement. But many marketers jump into social media efforts with little more than a “cool” idea. This is a mistake. Not only could it pose serious implications for a brand, but it could also obliterate the value you sought to derive from social media in the first place. To effectively leverage social media, you first need to devise a plan. Here are five tips to help you get started.
Develop your vision. Get creative and develop a vision of what your brand looks like in social media. For example, will your brand be personified, or will it have a catchy tagline? Will the user get special deals or coupons if they connect with you in this space? What is the message you wish to have transcend the brand? During this process, be sure to think through the different sites you are interested in using, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and define how you envision your brand acting within these sites. Give thought to what you might tweet about, the discussions you might create, how to best use Facebook notes, or what to include on your YouTube channel. When the sky’s the limit—as it is in social media—it is essential to take the time to first create this vision.
Understand your goals. Outline what you are trying to achieve with social media and be specific about your goals. And note that jumping into the fray just because your competitors are doing so is not a valid reason. Instead, perhaps you want to leverage social media to interact with your customers, or drive sales, or simply to reinforce your branding efforts in alternative channels. Whatever the case, you first need to have clarity on what you are hoping to achieve so you can put together an effective strategy to get the job done.
Identify your success metrics. Decide how you will gauge the success of your social media efforts and the specific metrics you will use. For example, if the goal of your campaign is to create awareness for a contest that you are running, it’s important to measure contest and brand impressions, numbers of fans or followers, video views and interaction with the site. In addition to identifying your success metrics, be sure to have analytics in place so that you can track on-the-page site interactions and monetary value.
Define how you will communicate value. Identify the value you are offering your audience and how you will communicate it. In doing so, be sure to make the connection between cool and valuable. Why? Because while creative content generates initial interest, the communication of value will keep the discussion with your audience going longer. Regardless of the means you choose—maybe it’s a contest, or an exclusive coupon for fans or followers—be sure to give your audience a reason to stay connected. Not only will it facilitate engagement, but it will also boost the longevity of your social media effort.
Integrate your efforts. From the outset, you should plan to integrate your social media efforts with the rest of your marketing initiatives as it can produce a symbiotic effect. For example, by integrating social media with your offline programs, you can create “buzz” for the launch of a new commercial, or solicit feedback about your latest magazine feature. Likewise, by integrating social media with search, you can leverage SEO tactics to help your social content rank in the search engines, build a PPC campaign to capture the demand created by you or your competitors and leverage optimized press releases to promote your efforts.
Identify sufficient resources. Give thought to the effort and resources necessary to launch your social media initiatives and keep them going. Remember, just showing up in social media won’t suffice. Instead, you need to continually update your presence on a daily basis. For example, you can’t just create a Facebook fan page and walk away from it. You need to invest the time necessary to leverage it as a creative means to interact with your audience and expand the conversation. As you develop your social media plan, make it a priority to identify who will be responsible to update and outline communications with your constituents. Otherwise, your social media vision will get stonewalled.
Social media is a growing channel that offers brand marketers creative ways to interact with their audience and keep the conversation going, but getting started requires more than a cool idea. To derive the most value from it, you first need a plan, and these tips should help you get started.
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