Social media & marketing strategy: 5 things to consider for the new kid on the block

Social Media is at an interesting junction right now. People that are in it have jumped in with both feet and fully immerse themselves in it. They have arrived at the party and are busy networking, making connections and strengthening their brand and client relations through Social Media. Those that have not jumped in are, well, thinking about it. They often realize that it is an important part of their business, but they don’t know where to begin, and in many cases are intimidated to enter a party where it seems everyone already knows each other.

If you have thought about what Social Media can do for your business. Consider the following 5 points about how to be successful in your efforts:

1. Social Media is part of your marketing strategy, not independent of it.
Don’t let the hype scare you. Social media is simply another channel you can use in your marketing efforts. Beware of anyone that tries to sell you otherwise. Your marketing plan should include social media as part of your strategy and ensure that each channel is consistent with your brand messaging. Many firms out there deem themselves as social media experts. That they may be, but if they don’t spend the time to understand your brand or ask about your existing marketing mix, so social media can be integrated appropriately, then buyer beware. They may just be a predator for those intimidated by Web 2.0.

2. Wallflowers need not apply. Engagement is critical to success.
Our world has rapidly shifted from a push strategy to a pull strategy. Instead of the company controlling the message, most successful social media strategies are engaging conversation with the customer and using the client as a brand ambassador.

If you cannot commit the time to properly managing this side of your business then maybe now is not the right time for your company. Social media is about immediate connection. Replying to a tweet that is one day old in the social media world is like replying to a customer complaint a year from now in the offline world.

A report released April 2010 by Social Media Examiner reports that the more than half of the marketers using social media are spending on average 6 hours or more each week. Each company is different, but ensure before you jump on board that you have the resources to commit to this time.

3. Don’t dilute your brand. It is not an all or nothing channel.
One of the common mistakes when making the decision to come to the social media party is to sign up for everything. People come to me, so proud saying holding their Twitter handle, Facebook Page, Linked In account, blog and You Tube account. Not every channel is right for your company. In marketing we often say that the smaller the niche, the stronger the brand. It does not necessarily make sense for a company to be everywhere. Analyze your company’s building blocks*, what are your objectives? Presence, relationships, conversation, identity, groups, sharing or reputation? Each social media site can fulfill different needs. Make sure you have a need that needs to be fulfilled and that your niche market is an active participant there, before signing up.

4. Be real. Authenticity will take you far.
Twitter and Facebook are not the platform to post your latest press release. They are meant to create conversation with your customers. Educate, engage and inform, don’t preach. Corporate speak and buzzwords online can be a faux pas. Save those for your brochure.

The greatest thing about social media is how genuine and authentic it is. Ensure that whomever is representing your company understands and can properly communicate the brand. Whatever individual manages your social media is essentially one of the most important people in your organization. They have the power to respond as the voice of your organization. The main point here is to not delegate this to the summer intern. Whomever handles this should be able both online and offline properly communicate your brand message.

5. Bad things can happen to good companies. Plan for crisis management.
We can’t always assume that things are all rainbows and sunshine in the online world. A company is putting themselves out there for the world to potentially see all their dirty laundry. Ensure that you have a plan in place for crisis management.

Decide how much control you are going to give to the person handling your social media. What level of authority do they have to solve or resolve a complaint or problem? What will the steps be in this process? In speaking with one individual who handles the social media for a software company, he spoke to the fact that he is given all authority to do whatever takes immediately to make that customer happy since words written online can never be erased. He laughed saying, mail us your complaint it will sit in the pending file for months—online, immediate response.

Whenever or however you decide to embark into the world of social media know that there are plenty of resources out there to make sure that you can be successful in achieving your goals. Perhaps even reaching some of the 105 million Twitter users, 60 million LinkedIn users, or maybe even one of the 350 million Facebook users. Look forward to seeing you at the party!

Additional Reading & References:

The Building Blocks original list was assembled by Matt Webb (who was expanding on a list created by Stewart Butterfield).

HOW TO: Implement a Social Media Business Strategy

2010 Social Media Examiner Report

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