Monday, September 6, 2010

How Social is Your Social Marketing Strategy?

When pioneer social media tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn first became available, they weren’t all that 'social' by today’s standards. Early adopters were people who wanted to network with others like themselves and you could only connect with friends or colleagues who accepted you.

Blogs were more social because they enabled people outside of one's immediate network to read, comment and join the discussion. Early bloggers laid the foundation for the creation of myriad online communities.

Twitter was an important next step in the ongoing social revolution and has evolved into one of the leading tools for sharing ideas and one of the fastest growing mediums for employer, personal and product branding.

One of the things that makes Twitter seem like catnip to marketing professionals is that it’s the perfect vehicle for selective disclosure to a target audience, i.e., a tweet that costs nothing leads people interested in a particular topic to a website offering a product or service related to that topic.

Follow me home, baby, come to mama!

Ah, but laying a trail of bread crumbs back to your website in the hopes of inspiring a sale is not what social marketing is all about. Sure, if you sell a product or service you want people to visit your site and become customers so, yes, in that sense, it is what social marketing is all about.

But that’s not how it works.

If you view social media as a new platform for traditional marketing, you’re basically just doing advertising in a new (albeit cheaper) medium. And while the cost savings are nice, don’t expect your social media campaign to go viral with that approach unless you’ve got the Old Spice guy on the payroll.

One of the keys to effective social marketing is that it isn't social if it's all about you. Effective social marketers listen more than they talk. For example, they pay attention to what their customers and target interest groups are saying, which allows them to respond in a way that is responsive, timely and relevant.

The challenge, of course, is time. Building social communities takes significant time investment. Let's face it, one person in marketing is unlikely to have sufficient bandwidth to reach a wide enough audience to capture the benefits of social marketing.

That’s where the 'social' part comes in.

Some ideas to consider when developing a social marketing strategy:
  1. Define your objectives for social marketing: Drive sales? Engage with customers? Establish thought leadership? Attract qualified employees? Improve brand awareness?
  2. Create a social media handbook for employees outlining communication guidelines. Many of them are already active in some form of social media - are you prepared?
  3. Identify employees with relevant expertise who blog or tweet, or are interested in doing so. Review any existing employee blogs for content, appropriateness, style, tone, writing skill, etc.
  4. Establish a ‘champions’ team of employees with an interest and talent for social media. Communicate regularly with the champions team to share information and ideas around themes, product messaging, upcoming campaigns, etc.
  5. Identify areas of responsibility, which might include blogging, commenting, tweeting, joining conversations in expert forums, etc. Some people may engage in multiple channels, others may specialize.
  6. Encourage employees to have their own blogs where they can promote key themes in their own voice to their own followers.
  7. Champions should also be encouraged to support each other, with blog links, re-tweets, etc. Extending individual reach helps extend organizational reach.
  8. As you establish your social media footprint, reach out to customers, partners and thought leaders and invite them to be part of the team.
In other words, harness what's already there. People want to be heard. And don't forget to measure which channels drive traffic and lead to real conversations - you'd be amazed by all the ways people find you once you go social.

On a final note, if you're still wondering how 'social' your social marketing strategy is, take this short social marketing test:

Have you assembled a passionate team of evangelists who can’t wait to tell the world how great your product or company is?*

A. Yes, the synergies are amazing!
B. We're working on it but we don't have executive buy in yet
C. We're trying to hire a social media guru
D. Our PR team handles all external communication
F. Er... no

*The corresponding letter for your response is also your social marketing grade.

Picture courtesy of Fred Cavazza.


  1. I love the quote ‘it isn’t social if it’s all about you.’ I think an effective social marketing strategy is absolutely crucial to doing business today, and you've laid the framework for building the team to make that happen. Thank you!

  2. All of your suggestions are great -- IF you have buy in from your executive team AND your corp comms team. By letting employees talk about the company and their opinions, it equates to a loss of control over corporate image and messaging - which many companies are not ready for. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before it becomes commonplace, but I think not being able to control every aspect of the messaging to the world will be a very real challenge for many companies to swallow.

  3. Thank you, Armin, and you're welcome :-).

    Great point, Preludia! Social media means decentralizing contol AND sharing the limelight, two things corporate communications professionals exist to prevent.

  4. Social media is a hard way to advertise but a great way to let people in on news, if you have a following. I like it to meet people with similar interest, not sell stuff


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