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21 essential ingredients of a social media plan

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 24 Feb, 2012
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To celebrate the launch of our new social media strategy guide, Dave and I thought we'd share our top 21 tips to help with social media planning. We'd love to hear your thoughts from recent experience, too…

This post follows on from the new research on how businesses use social media from the CIM we summarised yesterday. It showed  that while some companies have a clear champion or a dedicated resource for social media, few have this focus. That's where our recommendations start.

Social media marketing plan recommendations

1 - Have a purpose and a vision - why are you doing this, what are your goals? Is it a marketing directive, or are you evolving into a social business? Make sure the vision is communicated across the business so that people are comfortable and understand who, what, how, when and why.

2 - Have a plan! Of course we'd say that, yet it matters.  It's been said before; "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail". The CIM report shows many aren't getting the hoped for returns. A tactical attempt at social means you're very likely not centring around people, their needs and motivations - and the point is that this is social media, so people first.

3 - Define personas - start with understanding how your customers and relevant influencers use social media. Do you know who are they, what are they like, what inspires and what motivates them? This point is vital by some distance - it's the key to the rest of social media marketing. Again, people first.

4 - Personality must be included - a personality in social media marketing is paramount, people speak to and buy from people. Brands and advertising talk just make people hate you. Have genuine personality even if it's a character like Old Spice Guy or the famous Aflac Duck (if you're American). If you haven't read it, check out Rohit Bharvaga's Personality Not Included site or book. One of the most important points of the last couple of years, we think.

5 - You need a content strategy - we all know it, content fuels social media interaction and sharing. Yet if you're reactively posting status updates to networks and the quality of  content isn't good enough to encourage sharing you're not going to get much cut-through. We created our 7 Steps content marketing strategy guide to help with this process.

6 - Have a big idea - some call this a campaign, I'd call it a strategy that's executed with a super-relevant, creative and engaging execution that inspires your audience and is 'on-brand' in terms of brand personality and linking to commercial results. It may have campaigns supporting it, it can run for years, it can even scale bigger as success dictates.

7 - Measure the benefit - it doesn't have to be commercial (though ideal) but at least measure the related KPIs so that you can compare social media marketing to other tactics and discuss the relative merits with management. You'll get minimal support or credibility otherwise.

8 - Take training seriously - you've maybe heard of how seriously Dell take social media training? Though you're not Dell, the point is that at least basic training is needed for people who are opening up to your audience (especially those who work with the media). The core principles are a must, advanced media training is for the pros. We've all seen the frequent social media firestorms that happen when staff don't get it.

9 - Branded content is your fuel - great, relevant content that educates, inspires, motivates or generally meets a need is what drives social media marketing more than anything else. It's why videos, especially, work so well. It can be great text posts, images, graphics, videos, podcasts, webinars or ebooks. Without a doubt though, visual content leads the way in social media effectiveness. Oh, and keep content creation to a plan! Trust and credibility is born from producing consistently good stuff. This is your content strategy.

10 - Have a brand hub - branded content needs to live somewhere and/or have a place to drive traffic back towards, a place where 'engagement' takes place, connections are made and data capture is ideally possible. If you are mainly posting to the social networks you're not connecting with visitors as deeply as you would if they're on your site(s).

11 - Maintain relevance - keep awake to tying your content back to what's going on in your market, or indeed the world.  What's popular, relevant, interesting or timely right now? Can you out-wit the competition with smart ideas to pitch new or existing ideas in topical ways?

12 - Community insight - how are you being received, the easiest place for social listening or monitoring is on your hub or key outposts where you publish. What are the noises? What's loved, loathed or just liked? What content types and topics get the most shares? Do you collect feedback at all? How is your brand perceived, how you'd hoped?

13 - Competitor insight - the public nature of social media is that everything that you can listen and learn from regarding your brand, you can do for everybody else's. What is worth filtering and learning from - good and bad?

14 - Define influencers -  monitor industry trends and news, who are the people behind all that, what influence and respect do they have? Do they talk about your brand? Could they? What do they care about and how might you influence them to help you?

15 - Thought leadership - here's the holy grail or output of all the hard work. You're the influencer, the brand people turn towards for insight and information! The sales process is so much easier when you've already been granted the permission by your audience. To figure out how influential you are work out your share of voice in the market, and how positive that voice is.

16 - Make content work for different levels of engagement fro Fans, leads and prospects to customers - they're not a different name for same thing, and you mustn't treat everybody like a sales prospect, because they're not - at least not yet!  The more you market in social media be conscious that there's a huge chance people have not heard of what you do, let alone your brand. Consider ways that you might organise content differently for different levels of the buy funnel. For people showing purchase intent, find ways to data capture or present key product lines. The Eloqua Content grid infographic is a great way of considering how different forms of content work for different levels of consideration.

17 - Special attention for customers - social media is the perfect tool for customers to help get you more customers, this is probably the #2 most important point on this list. Customers are the most informed and fore-armed to share what you do, they're more credible than you are to get the attention of other prospective customers, they've often got content or the ability to generate content for you, and they're naturally the easiest audience to inspire purchase and most motivated to help you. Assuming that you've a great product/service and have delivered on your promises, of course.

18. Acting on the data - by collecting and using the data generated (monitoring keywords, hashtags, using trackable URL's) the skill is in keeping the information usable and accessible so that your team can act on it. Analytics are a challenge at the best of time, the unique thing about social media is it can be kept human, don't loose the sentiment or the narrative amongst the facts and numbers.

19 - Automate whatever possible – our experience is that it's worth taking the time to select the best tools that you can to make sharing, monitoring, listening or publishing as painless as possible. This way you have more time to do what matters, that's strategy.

20 - Crowdsource - ideas generation for product or service innovation is a goldmine area for brands to tune into. Offer people in your market space to share their aspirations for what you sell, what  they would like to see and get improved, what they hate and want to see less off. It's another obvious dimensions to tie thought leadership to - since only thought leaders have the confidence to ask for feedback and be motivated to then act upon it.

21 - Controversy is good but play nice - clearly not everybody is your target customer and being tribal is therefore a good thing. This may mean ruffling a few feathers is absolutely inevitable. Getting passionate about your subject matter is both engaging and demonstrates confidence and thought leadership. That said - know your community and exercise your brand personality in a way that balances engagement and sparking debate with common sense. Of course some topics are easier to have fun with than others...


Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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