It’s not atypical for a company to decide to launch a Facebook page or begin Tweeting because they’ve seen others be successful in such campaigns. However, selecting your “tool” should actually be the sixth step in your process, not the first.
If you sell B2B (business to business), just look at your B2B competitors and their misguided efforts to employ Facebook and Twitter. Someone in their Marketing department may have heard that these services are hot (and indeed, both are among the top 10 most trafficked websites on the planet, but dominated by business-to-consumer (B2C), media/press, and personal applications) and followed like lemmings. Even a B2C company must make several decisions before selecting the most appropriate social tool(s) for its purposes.
Here are 10 steps for planning a social initiative that has a higher probability of success for a business:
Step 1 – Define Your Objective(s)
Describe the high-level objectives of the program. What are we aiming to accomplish? What constitutes success?
Step 2 – Analyze Your Competition
This step is the most interesting. Use www.SEMrush.com (free) to see which of your competitors has been gaining the most web traffic since early 2009, and to see which organic (free) and paid keywords they’re using to attract visitors. Breaking into their offices and rifling through their filing cabinets won’t generate insights this amazing.
Step 3 – Identify Your Target Audience(s)
Succinctly define your target audience(s). As a rule, addressing multiple audiences with a single initiative will fail. As the saying goes, “Chase two rabbits, catch none.”
Step 4 – Select a Compelling Value Proposition for Each Target Audience
Describe how you will provide value to your target audience: Benefits may include one or more of education, entertainment, saving money, alerting them to key issues (without giving away your services), filtering and sharing high quality information in your area of expertise, etc. Be as specific as possible and be brutally honest about value from your customers’ perspective. This is the most important facet of your strategy and is the reason that most social media programs fail.
Step 5 – Select Your Keywords
Half of all Internet traffic starts with a search. Social content is a great way to improve your search rankings. Use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to identify roughly a dozen phrases to focus on. Use these phrases consistently in web and social titles, content, and URLs
Step 6 – Select Your Specific Tool(s) and Budget
Identify the platform/tool (e.g., WordPress blog, Facebook page, Yammer group, Ning Network, UserVoice exchange, etc.). The dollar budget for these tools may be zero or close to it, but the time budget won’t be.
Step 7 – Specify Owners and Content Sources; Ensure Accountability
Specify who is responsible for overall execution and if appropriate, identify the domain experts who will contribute content. Domain expertise rarely resides primarily in a company’s Marketing department. While Marketing can drive your social program, identify all of the other potential content contributors inside and outside of the organization, including partners, customers, third-party experts, industry bloggers, etc.
Step 8 – Develop Activity/Participation Metrics
Outline program tactics including frequency of participation, target response times to audience interaction, etc.
Step 9 – Develop a Promotion Plan
Describe how you will promote the social initiative and attract your target audience to this program. It may be the best initiative EVER but if they don’t know it exists, well… Think about where they’re already engaged (i.e., LinkedIn Groups, blogs, technical forums, etc.) and meet them there.
Step 10 – Measure Your Results
Describe the expected value to the company, and optionally to individual participants, along with the specific measures of success linked as directly as possible to the program. Remember that your website and social initiatives constitute a conversion engine. Measure and optimize your conversion rates.
These are your 10 steps to social success. My guess is that in business, you rarely charge off on a new initiative without a plan. The same should be true for you social initiatives. Document these 10 steps in writing, in just 1-2 pages, to both think through and inform everyone on your team of your strategy and associated tactics.
And keep in mind that social is just one component of your overall marketing plan. Remember to keep investing in your website (make it mobile-friendly), product brochures, customer forums, tradeshows, email marketing, PR (public relations) and good ol’ IRL (in real life) networking that comprise an integrated sales and marketing strategy. In a world of mouth, every component has a role, even as the resource allocations shifts among tools. At least you’ll have a well-considered plan.