The 5 must-haves in your social media strategy

AHHH, it’s nice to see that some marketing fundamentals never change. I attended the Communicato/Anduro Marketing session “6 Hour Online Marketing Strategy” earlier this week in Calgary (http://6houronlinemarketingstrategy.eventbrite.com).  Music to my ears was the mantra, strategy before tactics. The key point here is, whether it’s traditional or new media YOU MUST BE STRATEGIC. Who is your target audience? What are your objectives? What strategies will you apply? And now that you understand the framework you’re working in, what tactics (or in the case of social media, which technologies) will you employ? Last, when it’s all over, evaluation: how will you measure success?

Here’s a quick and dirty outline for social media strategy that you can use for your business. Really, this strategy outline applies whether your marketing tactics will be online, social or offline.  Ideally you’ll use this outline to build a truly integrated marketing promotions strategy.

Must have number 1: Who is your target audience?

I’ll give you a hint to get started: it’s definitely NOT everybody. Hopefully if you’re in business you understand who you’re in business for. If not, or if you’re wondering if you’re targeting the right audience, ask yourself these critical questions:

  • historically, who is buying my product or service?
  • who do I think my ideal client is?

If the first two aren’t the same person or business (in the case of B2B), then ask yourself:

  • what is the primary need my product or service fulfills?
  • who needs it MOST? This person is your ideal target audience.

Now you need to describe that target audience in demographic and psychographic terms. This means answering these fundamental questions:

  • what is their gender?  
  • what is their age?
  • what is their level of education? 
  • what is their household income?
  • where are they? (geography)
  • how and where do they typically buy products or services like yours?
  • is the purchase cycle long or short? (ie, does it require lots of contemplation and comparison or, at the other end of the spectrum, is it an impulse buy?
  • what are their biggest barriers to purchase that you need to overcome?
  • What does their online behavior pattern look like? How are they using and engaging online?

In the case of a B2B business, these questions will differ somewhat, but the above should serve as a guide. You still want get down to the needs and barriers of the person within that target business who is spending time online and making the buying decision (or their influencers if the decision maker isn’t using social media – something that happens a lot in big business).

Must have number 2: What are your objectives?

What is it you want to achieve through social media? Do you want to increase traffic to your website? Gain customer insight? Sell more widgets through the web? Whatever your objectives are, make them realistic and measurable. Your primary objective might be quite broad, like, Increase online sales by 10 percent year over year over the three month period beginning January 2011. Your micro objectives that support this might include: Increase new traffic to the site by 30 percent and increase repeat visits to our online properties overall by 40 percent (so this might include traffic to your blog, if you already have one, or Twitter followers, if you already have a Twitter account).

Must have number 3: The Strategy

This is where you describe HOW you’re going to achieve these results. Without getting into the tactical details (that comes next), you want to describe how you plan to leverage social media to your benefit. For example, if you happen to be a purveyor of really unique baking products, your strategy might be to use unpaid online media (like your blog, other’s blogs, or mainstream media online) to raise your profile as expert of all things baking. Your strategy might also include building a strong network of other baking/cooking professionals online to boost your online presence and to add value to your offering (from both a content perspective (like re-tweets), as well as from a sales perspective. They may have complimentary products and services that you can recommend to your customers to round out your product offering).

Must have number 4:  A detailed description of the tactics

This is where the detail sits. Here, you describe the specific tools and technology you’re going to employ, how you’re going to do it, how often you’re going to do it, even who within your organization is going to do it. You want to be quite specific and detailed. This should serve as your roadmap for execution. 

This is where having taken the time to truly dissect and understand your target audience comes to great benefit. Not every social media tool is going to make sense (that would take us back to marketing to everyone, which we know isn’t very effective use of your time or money)! In the case of our baking products example we used above, we would know that our target audience spends a lot of time online looking for recipes, for example. They also probably fit the demographic of the type of person who uses the internet and social networking platforms like Facebook to keep in touch with friends, share recipes, etc. They’d also fit the demographic of the type of person who likes to particpate in micro-blogging platforms like Twitter, but primarily for recreation — not so much for professional networking. We also might know that one of the biggest barriers to purchasing new kitchen gadgets is understanding how they will truly make a job easier, as well as how to properly use them, so a demo video posted to a video sharing site like YouTube is probably a great idea as well. Additionally, there are probably industry-specific social networking sites or websites that you know your target audience frequents (like epicurious.com in the case of our baking products company, for example) where you might want to target some of your efforts.  These efforts might include reciprocal link exchanges, offering to write guest blog entries, or simply monitoring discussions and jumping in when you have something of value to add to the conversation.  

Must have number 5: a plan for how you will evaluate success 

One of the greatest advantages the online marketing era has brought to us, as marketers, is the multitude of accessible and affordable analytical tools and software. They range from the totally free to the rather expensive, and you’ll find the right tools for the job with a little research and experience.

In the free column, you can analyze site traffic (page views, number of visitors, number of unique visitors, etc) with Google analytics or even with the analytics included in some blog CMS’s like WordPress. You can track  the number of followers and the number of re-tweets you have on twitter, evaluate the comments you’re getting on your blog, the number of fans you have on Facebook, as well as the number of views your video has received on YouTube. You can even track your web-wide mentions using Netvibes.com.  

And let’s not forget those measurable objectives we stated earlier. Did you reach your targets?

What’s marketing all about anyway?

Ask your average person on the street and they will probably equate marketing with a slick ad they just saw, an in-store promotion they just took advantage of, or perhaps the latest credit card solicitation they received in the mail. Unquestionably, these are marketing tactics, but they all fall under the umbrella of PROMOTION, and marketing is and should be so much more.

Anybody who has taken a first year university marketing course learned about the four P’s – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. But how often is your marketing person at the research and development table, brought into a finance meeting or part of the site selection for your next store or point of distribution? These are all invaluable pieces of the business success puzzle and the in-depth consumer or client knowledge, market understanding and competitive background that your marketing person has amassed can provide great insight into helping you build your business. When the marketing engine is firing all cylinders, there’s no end to success.

Do you have a marketing success story you’d like to share? Tell us how truly integrating marketing into your business functions helped you reach your goal by submitting a comment below.