Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Social Marketing Program

July 5, 2012


In case you haven’t heard, social media marketing is not free. While it’s a free for all in terms of barrier to entry, the effort it requires to make your brand stand out in the noise can be tremendous. It takes time, a consistent stream of effort, and intellectual talent.

Every day marketers are faced with decisions about how to carve out budgets and focus their people to make a dent in the universe. The realization that social marketing is a bigger effort than taking five minutes to set-up a Twitter account often comes too late. As we tell clients, social media is like adopting a puppy. It looks cute and feels like a good idea at the time but, after you get it home you realize it’s a big commitment. That little puppy named Twitter, blog, Facebook…needs to be fed, loved and watched over every single day. Some breeds require more effort than others and have different needs. The same applies to different social networks.

So, how do you determine where to spend your resources? Take yourself through a strategic planning exercise to determine how to best satisfy your business goals while reaching your target audiences in the right channels. Then, determine what it takes to be successful and whether or not your organization can support the resources to do a good job at it. Here’s a simple formula.

Determine Simple Objectives

Social media overlaps with just about everything that touches the organization from PR to customer service, SEO and marketing. There’s no denying that. Keep in mind that in order to become successful at something you have to give it a real go. Spreading your resources to thin and doing a bunch of different things half ass and hap hazard will not help your brand. Focus your social media strategy toward one or two key objectives. Give it your all and collect as much data as possible to hold your team accountable to their activities. Lack of a clear goal creates an environment of action without intention (or no action). Lack of intention results in lack of good data. Lack of data leads to lack of accountability.

Find Your Audience

When you discuss social media with people in your organization does it turn to remarks like this?:

  • “I don’t know why we’d be on Twitter. I don’t get the whole thing.”
  • “We need to find out how Facebook can generate leads for our sales team.”
  • “The CEO read an article about Pinterest so we created one last week.” 

When it comes to the social media discussion, organizations tend to think tactically before strategically. There is no reason to be on any social network if your target audience isn’t there too. Your audience might include customers, people you want to reach who are influential around your brand’s topics, PR contacts, leads and the communities of people surrounding your specific industry. Start by assessing what your brand topics are and defining who you want your target audience to be online. Then run a social media audit to pin point what social media channels they participate in and how they like to get their content. Reassess who your online audience actually is vs. whom you want them to be as you collect this data. The question is not “Why would we be on Twitter?” It is “Is our audience using Twitter?” It doesn’t matter whether or not your or I personally like to use a particular social network. A talented marketer seeks to understand how their audience uses it and determines how to connect with them.

 Assess the Effort

After you’ve determined who you want to target and where to reach them, you will want to assess how much effort it will take to do it successfully. Make a spreadsheet with a list of all of the social media channels and tactics you are considering in your program. Next to each, determine how often the brand would need to post updates per the norm of the social network. For example, it is perfectly normal to see one or two updates from a brand on Facebook. That same audience would keel over if they saw the normal stream from Twitter of ten plus updates per day. Be sure to include time for getting in there and engaging in conversations, responding to people and posting ad hoc updates as they occur. Assign hours to these activities.

Next, assess your content assets. Do you need to create original content or are there assets within the organization that can be repurposed or promoted? Not all content is created equal. Something that is perfect for your website doesn’t always go off well when posted to a blog or social network. If you’re thinking of posting your press releases to Facebook you will want to go back and do more research on what types of content work in different types of channels. I guarantee you that it doesn’t matter how much content your organization produces, you will need to repurpose, rewrite and re-assess it for social media. This takes effort. Add that to your hours.

 Resource the Right People

After you uncover how much work your puppy will take, who will do it? In families it inevitably ends up being mom. In organizations there is no mom. It usually ends in an abandoned effort and in turn the brand abandoning its audience. Don’t let that happen! Take a look inside your organization to consider who can and should participate. Social media is best executed as a collaborative effort but keep in mind that at the end of the day someone has to own it. Determine a lead and consider forming a social media committee within the organization. If you bit off more than you can chew, explore getting some help from talented social media people outside of your organization. This approach can empower you to scale your efforts without committing to a permanent hire. Here’s the caveat on both sides of the coin – never, never, put your brand in the hands of untrained people. There is no excuse for dumping it on the desk of an unsuspecting, inexperienced admin. The person tweeting, Facebooking, responding to blog comments and reaching out to bloggers is on the front lines of your brand. They can make the brand look good or they can make your brand look incompetent. At worst, behaving inappropriately enough to cause a firestorm. Or, risk performing so poorly that it tanks your entire social media program.

The industry is ripe with snake oil salesmen and agencies who claim to provide social media services on the cheap. The truth is, many of these people are not experienced marketers. One too many times I’ve witnessed agencies throwing it over the fence to an intern because they themselves have not built this specialization out. It’s true, even your favorite PR or brand agency could be more ignorant about social media marketing than your own organization. Yet, they’ll still sell it. Look for an experienced social marketing company, or individual, with the ability to lead strategically and execute tactically with specialized talent. It should be an integrated effort with the rest of your organization.

By putting instituting parameters and not biting off more than you can chew, you can focus your team and budgets in the right places to execute an effective social media marketing program. Not to say there is no room for creativity. Be creative with your brand communications. Find ways to integrate social to all of the other marketing activities. Brainstorm fun ways to engage and entertain your audience. You will know now whether or not something is a good idea because you’ve set the ground work.


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  • Reply Miguel Salcido July 5, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Great post, and really the basics of any good SMM campaign. But yet many people fail to do these things.

    For me what really resonated was your last point on resourcing. Throughout my career its been my ability to pull together the right resources at the right times that has set me apart and allowed me to have success. It is something that is tough to teach it seems, and is more of an instinct I believe.

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