Social media marketing strategy – the biggest challenges today?

6 ways to use social media marketing to support your marketing activities

Getting social media marketing right is THE most common challenge mentioned by marketers I speak to today. But what are the biggest strategy challenges within social media marketing? At a strategic level, we all know social media marketing is about much more than getting more Likes, Follows and Shares...

So which activities, which need to be managed as part of social media marketing strategy, are the most important challenges (or you can look at them as opportunities)?

Looking across different types of organisation, there seem to be some common issues everyone is grappling with to try to work out how social media can be applied. I think every organisation has to decide how to best manage these 6 core activities as part of social media marketing strategy.

So I asked how you rated these challenges - thanks to everyone who completed the survey

What to include from our informal poll? It seems that:

  • The different business aims of social media are proving challenging to many!
  • Reputation management, measurement and getting cut-through and engagement are the biggest challenges
  • Applying social media for acquisition is a greater challenge than using it to existing customers

While our poll was running my friend @conversionation alerted me to a survey of marketers in Belgium which also looked at perceptions to how social media is used in organisations.  I thought I'd share it here - it's also useful for thinking about your overall social media strategy.

The 6 Key challenges for social media marketing in 2011

Here is a little more detail on the opportunities or challenges and outline of how they can be achieved as we see them. What do you think?

1. Managing reputation. Use brand monitoring tools to review customer conversations and then respond to these based on the sentiment expressed.

2. Delivering customer service. We have this interview with Guy Stephens on the options for delivering customer service through social media.

3. Acquiring new customers. New audiences can be reached through social media marketing by mentions and recommendations from other contacts in the social network, but how effective is this in practice.

4. Increasing sales from existing customers. Many see the sweet-spot of social media as encouraging engagement with existing customers. But how does engagement translate to sales.

5. Increasing engagement with brand. Creating the right content and having the right offers to get engagement maybe the greatest challenge for many organisation which aren't selling online.

6. Harnessing insights (Analytics, ROI measurement and learning about brand preferences). Measuring return on investment is often mentioned as the biggest challenge in social media. This may also include social listening to learn about customer likes and dislikes, so it overlaps with 1.

Let me know how you find this breakdown - which are the other activities forming your social media strategy.

Share your thoughts

  • Jon Simmonds commented on May 16, 2011

    Hi Dave,

    I think we’re actually saying the same thing – a chunk of my first paragraph got eaten by the gremlins. The missing bit made the same point about the resource problems of trying to get a local representative to spearhead social. That’s always likely to be a hurdle. The translation point was really just about the posts themselves, compared to more wordy forms of communication.

  • Hi Jon, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s interesting you’re also interested in the International Marketing dimension.

    While it’s good this is your experience, I’m surprised that you say that it’s more straightforward – I can see localising announcements could be quicker, it’s extra work and the landing pages for campaign announcements still need to be created.

    You also have to create a local “Social Outpost” for each country which may be fine for larger organisations, but that’s a resource ache for smaller ones.

  • Jon Simmonds commented on May 16, 2011

    I’m currently working to expand social media campaigns beyond English-language and involve multiple regions and languages. The main challenge is of getting buy-in from all the regions, particularly those in which social is not so mature. We already know that one of the biggest challenges with social in any form is the sheer amount of manpower it can take to monitor, engage in and update the conversations. Attempting to gain that support from countries where social is not yet recognised as a key route to market can be aist, but the average social post – be it for a blog, FB, or major headache.

    In terms of content creation however, I’d suggest that this is actually less problematic than it is in a ‘traditional’ digital campaign. The same localisation requirements exist, but as social posts – whether for a blog, FB or, most obviously, Twitter – are generally far shorter than for an email campaign or microsite for example, it’s both quicker and cheaper to localise.

    Even better, once you have the local individuals to support your SM campaign, have them create the posts directly, using your original as a base. That way you get a piece that directly addresses a local audience.

  • When I look at the 6 Key Challenges, it all boils down to one common denominator. Conversion rates. I think it’s so important for companies to determine which key metrics are most important to them, and then create campaigns to overcome those challenges. At the end of the day, most everything boils down to conversion rates. Keep testing, refining, and trying new ideas. If your key metrics are meaningful, they will result in more leads, buyers, or whatever is important for your company.

    • Interesting POV Jon, but I have to disagree that success can be simplified to conversion rate optimization. Yes, for each of the challenges you do need to test, learn refine to improve, but conversion is a short-term point-of-view. Achieving longer-term engagement and interaction with a brand is the big challenge for me. It’s not conversion, unless you look at it as multiple conversions of touchpoints over time!


  • Alex commented on May 12, 2011

    Everything is so English-centric. I’ve hardly ever read an article about international campaigns and working in a multi-language environment. It’s much more than just translating every article but, for some reason, it’s never covered. Factors such as working with regional social networks, translation versus copywriting and regional relevancy are ongoing issues that I’ve had to face but they never seem to be considered, even though online is global community now.

    • Hi Alex – I agree I’ve seen little on International campaigns too. Can anyone help here.

      It’s similar to digital marketing generally – little on International marketing – on the web or in books. We were discussing this in our Linked In group earlier and I mentioned – saying there should be more guidance like this – it’s an old book.

      By chance I was chatting to someone today who has recently run a couple of international campaigns with big social element – hoping to get her to write more on this soon so watch this space. Does anyone have any pointers to good guidance on running International Social Media campaigns?


  • Through social media you can quickly build a network of core supporters, which is essential for any up and coming business to keep growing and expanding.

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  • Thanks Rachel + Trevor – you make a great point advising not to treat the 3 major social channels as equal – they each have different audiences, vibes and opportunities.

    If it’s practical I’d agree it is best to form separate posts, discussions on each of them. But for many, the resources may not be there to manually post to each one. We’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past, but are trying to interact separately on each network more now.

    I think many folks in our area co-consume Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Email and RSS even (although they will have a preference), so some overlap is inevitable.


  • Trevor commented on April 28, 2011

    Agree with Rachel, think people see social media as one channel, when its actually many channels all with there own approaches. Theres nothing I find more of putting then gettings a tweet with a FB tiny URL..If I’m on FB then I would have seen the post already, if I’m not and I’m faced with a logon demand I leave.

  • I think the biggest challenge for a lot of non-technical business people is understanding how the different channels work and how best to use each of them. I see too many people who have their networks set up to automatically post the same updates to twitter, Facebook and linkedin simultaneously. At the very least it makes for boring reading, but it’s also a wasted opportunity.

    I’ve written a blog post on how to approach each of the big three at I hope it’s helpful.

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