As the social web begins to grow and evolve with time, there are still companies with a loyal customer base who are not effectively leveraging the immense power of this media.
With the ability to get instantaneous feedback, viral exposure for your brand, and the freedom to create a worthwhile profitable engagement experience for your customers, a company with a loyal customer base would be crazy to not focus on using the new media.
With all of this being said, companies who want to leverage social media to grow their business fall into two specific camps.
You are a company who already has an established customer base, and have grown some roots in the market you are serving. You are already generating revenue, and are looking to grow into a bigger more profitable company.
You are a startup that doesn’t have any customers right now, and you plan on using social media as the launching platform to build a loyal customer base, and also help you virally spread your brand to other people you can serve them effectively depending on what your product is.
For this post specifically, I am going to outline the process in creating an effective social media strategy for clients who are in Camp #1.
In my next post, I will cover the process I go through for those who are in Camp #2.
You may be asking yourself why I am only focusing on Camp #1 for now. The truth is that there is not a one-size fits all solution that will serve both camps in an effective manner, because those companies in both camps are dealing with completely different issues, and have completely different goals.
Most social media experts fail to approach creating a social media strategy with these two different camps in mind, and in doing so, cause the client a lot of frustration in the process because what they recommend doesn’t bring the results the client was promised.
When creating your social media strategy, you have to think about all of the moving parts of your company, and create something that is effective, profitable and worth your time to invest activity, time and resources into.
To create an effective social media strategy if you already have a business and customer base in place, be sure to follow the guide below…
Step #1) Determine what your goals are for using social media.
Before jumping into figuring out what tools you will be using in your social media strategy implementation, along with all the other key moving parts to the puzzle, you must first take the required amount of time to figure out what your goals are.
What do you really want to accomplish by using social media? What bottom line end result do you want to create by using these powerful tools? How does the social media strategy align with the goals for the entire organization?
Here is a sentence that you can fill in the blank to help you get started with your goals.
We want (YOUR COMPANY’S) social media strategy to __________________, and ______________________.
We want The John Smith Corporation’s social media strategy to generate more loyal paying customers for our product XYZ, and further help us reach new markets that need our products that we don’t directly have access to yet. We also want our strategy to have pieces in place that help serve our current customers, and give them an opportunity to get help in a more effective way.
Step #2 – Figure out the specific tools you will use, how you will use them, and how the activities you choose to implement are connected to the entire sales and marketing process.
In this step, you will decide what tools you will be using to serve your goals, and at the same time will figure out how you will use them to achieve the results that you want to create. You must make sure that all of these are connected to your marketing and selling process somehow, so everything is in alignment, and nothing falls through the cracks.
John Smith Corporation is going to use a blog as part of their strategy, and with their blog they will put out content that will attract their customer through a search engine searching for these specific terms (term 1, term 2, term 3.) Once the visitor reads the piece of content, we want them to see banners for the products we sell on the right hand side panel, and at the bottom of the blog post.
The example above may be only one part to their social media plan. Depending on what your goals are, will depend on how many pieces and mini implementation strategies will be a part of the overall strategy.
Step #3 – Figure out the various things you will implement to engage your audience to help spread your brand’s message and products to new people that will then turn into fans, leads and ultimately customers.
Think about this step in a way where you you imagine already having all of your customers plugged into the platforms, and now you get to create specific things that you do that will engage them. The engagement that you have with them is strategically engineered in that it will then get your customers to spread your message to their friends and networks on your behalf in exchange for something else.
There are many ways to go about doing this, but there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all companies. This is where the creativity of your social media strategist who understands marketing and the technology really pays off in the long run.
A couple of examples could be: add retweet and facebook share buttons on the blog content on your site. Create a customer referral program where only your social media fans who are customers can refer friends to you, and get a discount on their next order.
…Again the possibilities are endless.
This step will come in handy after you complete step #8 below.
Step #4 – Figure out your metrics and benchmarks.
For you to know if your social media strategy plan will be successful, you will have to determine your plan to measure the success, so 3-6 months from now you can see the improvement. Depending on what your goals are, will determine the main metrics you use to measure the success of your social media plan and strategy.
For some companies it will be the sales numbers, for others it will be the amount of qualified leads you generate that eventually turn into a sale. Another metric that may be tracked is the traffic through the website via social media channels if you are in the publishing niche.
There are many things to measure, but the key is to figure out what is important, and not important, while keeping the achievement of goals as the main focus
Step #5 – Determine the personal leveragable assets the company has at their disposal.
This part of the the social media plan will come in handy when you reach step #6 of creating your plan. I define a “Leveragable Asset” as any piece within your company’s organization that will either give you direct access to your customer base to communicate to them in a strategic way, or something that will help persuade a future prospect to do business with you.
Your customer list (addresses, phone numbers, emails, etc.), strategic partnerships with vendors suppliers and raving fans, customer testimonials, tools that you use to reach your customers (voice-blasting software), distribution of your product that will be placed on a retail shelf.
These levaragable assets will help you integrate your current customer base into the various social media platforms that you have decided to use in the implementation of your social media plan.
Step #6 – Determine what specifically needs to be changed or added into your marketing and sales process to support the integration of your social media plan and strategy.
Depending on what your goals are in your social media plan, will depend on the specific things you must have in place on your website. This also means that your physical marketing materials must be changed as well for the program to be as successful as possible.
If you have a fantastic plan, but don’t have the specific moving parts in place with them being seamlessly integrated into your entire marketing and selling process…you will just spin your wheels and not see any return on the time invested.
In certain instances, your website may have to be redesigned, and your marketing materials may have to be reprinted to integrate the various social media websites and programs you have added to your marketing mix.
On your brochure you have a link to a specific place within your Facebook page that have a list of over 100 testimonials from happy satisfied customers who use your product. You know this is important to have because it creates social proof for the potential prospect you are selling, and further will give the potential customer confidence in your ability to deliver a superior product experience.
This step is probably the most crucial one of them all because those that only think that by “being on the various social media websites putting out content is enough…” need a huge reality check.
Things only work when they have been seamlessly integrated from the beginning to the end of the sales and marketing process. Those without a strategic marketing funnel in place will die a very slow death, or waste a ton of money jumping into this new media.
This is why having a key social media strategist on your team who also understands how to create and implement strategic activities in the medium to create positive marketing results on the back-end is so important.
Most social media strategists only focus on getting clients set up on the tools, without taking a detailed approach to figure out how the client will generate a positive ROI on the time and money invested in the plan they create for them. For most of them (the social media strategists,) it isn’t their fault because they just haven’t been put in the pressure-situation where they had to generate a return from the time invested in the medium.
They (most social media experts) typically justify their actions in a way where they tell the client “Your customers are there, don’t you want to be?” There is no talk about any ROI, or past proven experience, just fairy tail promises that what they will create for them will work, and that social media “isn’t really trackable to a proven ROI…but that you just have to be there because ‘everybody else is.'”
See my testimonial page to learn how I have helped companies (startup and businesses with a customer base dominate their market using the internet)
The key takeaway that I want you to get here is the company that integrates their social media plan the best, will generate the best results over the long term. To do this, you need someone with proven experience in generating a return with the technology to set up the strategic flow of activity and events, instead of just someone who can set up your facebook, twitter page, or blog and tell you what content you should publish.
Step #7 – Implement your plan by first plugging customers into your platforms.
After you have your platforms set up, and your marketing materials integrated with the strategy you have in place, the next step is to start integrating your current customer base into the tools, so that you can start the conversation in the medium with them.
You do this strategically with the leveragable assets that you listed in step #4.
There are many creative ways to do this, which is why having a social media strategist who understands marketing on your team is crucial. You can either hire this person as an independent contractor, or bring someone on board that understands how to do this in a way that will generate a positive result.
This process should happen over a 1-2 month period, depending on the time table you have created in the social media strategy.
Step #8 – Nurture customers and fans in the platform.
Once your customers and fans start to add themselves to the various platforms you have set up for your plan to be successful, then it is time to start engaging with them in the way that you felt would be best that you figured out in step #2.
On top of this, you should also implement the specific parts to your strategy that you figured out in step #3 to start creating the viral exposure within the medium. When your customers who are in your platforms start to engage their friends who don’t know you, and you give them an incentive to do so…that is where the magic happens with social media.
As you can see, to make “the magic” happen though…you must be strategic about it, and have the key moving parts in place with the right strategy to make it happen. Simply posting cute status updates and quotes to your twitter and facebook pages…is not enough. You must be more involved than merely posting stuff for the sake of posting stuff because that is what you see “everyone else” doing.
Step #9 – How will we generate a ROI for the time and money invested?
This step piggy backs off step #6. In step #6 you made sure that your marketing tools were in alignment with your strategy, but with step #9, it is about strategically thinking about, “How do we really generate revenue and a positive return on investment in time and capital.”
This comes down to ensuring that your marketing funnel is sound, and that you are treating the exposure and traffic within the social media platforms you use strategically, so that any and all exposure you receive in the medium creates a predictable measurable result in dollars and cents on the back-end.
I define a marketing funnel as the process by which your prospects follow a predefined marketing and sales process created by you, and in going through that process there is a reason for doing so…which usually equates to selling something in return, or to generate an interested lead to want to know more about what you sell.
The true art in creating a strategic marketing funnel in social media is that you can’t create it like you would in a traditional business. This is why again having a proven social media strategist who understands marketing on your team is crucial if you really want this to work.
Let me give you an example to further communicate what I mean so that you understand it better…
In step #2 John Smith Corporation was going to launch a blog on their site, and they were anticipating that the majority of the traffic to their blog posts would come from search engines. Within the blog post on the side bar and within the content there were going to be banners for their products…and if you noticed I stopped the example there. Step #9 focuses on what happens when they click the banners and enter the 2nd phase of the marketing funnel.
The first part of the marketing funnel was getting them to the blog post, and the second part of the marketing funnel is strategically setting up the process after they click one of the banners…that normally results in something being sold, or having a lead being generated wanting more info.
In this step, think about how you are going to leverage the traffic coming into your platforms, and the engagement you will have with fans, while strategically selling them through the process in a way that they don’t mind being sold. To most website visitors, they know by clicking on banners it will typically lead them to a sales or lead generation page where they will be encouraged to buy something, or sign up for something.
This again is why you need a social media person who has a proven track record on your team, if you really want to dominate your market using the social media channel. They will know how to think like this so that your front end social media processes don’t come off as “spammy,” but will also be set up in a way that once people are plugged into your platforms, the sales process you take your customers, leads and fans though will be set up in a way where the customers/prospects don’t mind being sold in the fashion that you have set up for them to consume the marketing messages.
Step #10 – What are the specific focused actions you will take on a daily and weekly basis to make your goals a reality?
This step piggy backs off of the work that you did in step #2. In step two you figured out what tools you would use and how you would use them.
In this step you want to drill your activities down to bite sized chunks that you can stick to actively executing each and every day throughout the week.
Rather than try to explain it to you, I am going to give you an example.
In step #2 one of the things you put down was this sentence: “create a twitter account and post quotes, pieces of content relevant to my audience, and links to company videos.”
With this statement you have to drill down to figure out, what days during the week will you do this, and at what time of day?
So taking that all down you come up with this…
I will put out tweets two times per day from Monday through Friday in the morning and afternoon, and will post a video to twitter once per week via YouTube on Wednesday as a third tweet. The video content will be something valuable for our audience with a subtle call to action to check out more information about our products at the end. We will make the video on Monday, edit it on Tuesday, publish it to YouTube on Wednesday, and after it has finished uploading to YouTube we will tweet it out during the middle of the day (on Wednesday.)
The paragraph above will queue specific actions you can put into your calendar or planning mechanism during the week so that you ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, and so that you stay consistent with your activity in actively engaging and listening to your customer and fan base!
This again is why you need a proven social media strategist who understands marketing who can think like this for you, and even help you implement it over time to reach the goals that you determined in step #1.
Step #11 – Create and come up with other one-time marketing tactics to implement after everything above is in place and complete.
This is the step that takes everything to the 3rd level of your marketing and social media plan.
The first level is first getting your customers plugged into the platforms you are using.
The second level is getting your customers to push people who are not already customers to you.
The third and final level is using tactics and marketing strategies that start to approach the cold market in a way that works best with you.
Here are the various examples below.
TV Ads, Radio Ads, Magazine Ads, (Any Other Ad), Blog Reviews, Sponsorships…etc
This will be the “cherry on top” to your entire marketing plan. By implementing these various strategies and tactics, your new fans generated from these activities will enter into your entire funnel at step #8 (The nurturing and engaging part.)
This creates a closed marketing loop and the ultimate leverage in successfully implementing your social media plan.
This process shouldn’t happen until month 6 or later, but it is important that you create it now with the flexibility to change it later.
Step #12 – How will you exactly measurement and analyze results?
The final step to creating your social media strategy if you already have a customer base is to use the right tools to measure and track your activity
Depending on what you are tracking in step #4 will depend what you use to track the effectiveness of your campaign over the lifetime that you use the tools.
Most companies use google analytics for traffic and site behavior, and also use their shopping cart software to track sales.
Depending on the size of your company, will depend on the metrics you use to determine if your social media strategy is working or not.
As you can see, when creating a social media plan that generates results…it is more than just creating a twitter page, facebook page, and blog and posting content to them. This is a very involved process that you shouldn’t go down, unless you are truly committed to making the right changes that will yield the bottom line business results.
In simple terms you can’t half-ass it.
You have to either go all-in, or not go in at all.
Those companies with an already loyal customer base have an advantage to those who are just starting a company and using social media to launch it. I will go more into detail with this in my next post addressing the very same issue of creating a strategy for companies who don’t have a customer base.
In the end, if you want the best results, you want to hire the best people to create and implement it for you. If the people you are talking to are only focusing on helping you “increase twitter followers,” or “increasing Facebook fan base numbers,” turn the other way and run as fast as you can.
As someone who takes pride in helping companies and organizations follow this process that I have laid out above, I have helped various organizations create and implement plans that generate bottom-line-business oriented results.
If you are interested in potentially working together, and want to learn more about who I have worked with, and how I have helped them, please feel free to see my list of testimonials.
If those resonate with you, and you would like to talk further, please feel free to send me an e-mail to contact[at]scottbradley[dot]name.
I look forward to serving you, and hope that this post brought you some valuable insight and guidance if you are ready to either jump into the social media game for the first time, or already have a strategy in place that you know now needs to be fixed or modified.
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