Social media marketing (SMM) can be a great arrow in your quiver of marketing tools. To leverage it correctly, you must consider first what you want to accomplish. How will it fit in with, or complement your overall marketing plan?
Your SMM efforts will be more productive if you take time developing a plan or strategy. Lee Odden has a nice article about social media marketing strategy where he shares some ideas that could be useful.
Listen -- Conversation Mining
One way to develop a plan or strategy: listen to what's being said. Do some conversation mining. How do people feel about you and your brand? What are their points of view?
Identify who the key influentials are, and which ones should you cooperate with. What are the various topics? Is the tone of the conversation heated? Do people favor one point of view over the other, or is it mixed?
To start the conversation mining process, you should subscribe to RSS feeds of news alerts related to your company and brands on Google News, as well as saved searches on Technorati. Then identify other blogs, forums, or review sites that are related to your business. Where possible, subscribe to RSS feeds from these sites, so that you'll be able to keep updated on many sites at the same time. What you learn from this process will help you refine your strategy.
Social Media Types and Tools
At this point, it's a good idea to figure out the best social media type or tool to help your campaign. In Part 1, I reviewed four types of social media tools/sites. Decide which ones can best help you accomplish your goals.
Experiment with them and see how they work. Does one have the right features or seem to cater to a more suitable audience for your campaign? Do you need special technology in place before you begin? Do you need to produce a video or a podcast before you start the campaign? What kind of content do you need to create?
As you try to answer these questions, take a look at a very nice list of social media marketing examples that Peter Kim has organized. His list can be sorted by brand, industry, social media type and SMM example. This should help you as you decide which type is best for your strategy.
Start or Participate in the Conversation -- Engage
Armed with the right social media type(s), now's the time to start the blog or launch the Facebook page. Engage in the conversation and ignite a debate or express your point of view.
As you become a proactive participant, it's important to note here that you need to be prepared to invest the time to keep the conversation going. Social media marketing isn't something to get involved in for the short term. Make sure you have the resources and time available before you begin.
If you've found that your company is being discussed, especially if it's negative, don't be passive. Be respectful and state your case. Many times your critics might become advocates if you honestly address the complaints, thus turning a negative into a positive. This is one of the ways social media marketing can help with reputation management.
Measuring Social Media Marketing
The ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities and calculating ROI is imperative to any company's marketing strategy. Social media marketing isn't as easy to measure as other online vehicles, but it can be done.
If you've already identified your success metrics, then you're ahead of the game. Assigning monetary values to these metrics will help you in assigning an ROI value.
Depending on your success metrics, you might look at content consumption. Who's reading your content and where are they coming from?
You can also look at how much or little is being contributed and the number of visitors who are interacting with your content. Take a look at a click report to see how many people are adding you to social bookmarking sites like Delicious or StumbleUpon. To get an idea of who's talking about you, do a blog search on Technorati or search your domain name in the major search engines with "link:http://www.yoursite.com" (substituting "yoursite.com" with your actual URL, of course).
Because most SMM campaigns are designed to drive traffic to your Web site, you should get a traffic source report from your Web analytics tool. For more information, see my columns on Web analytics. From those traffic sources that are coming from SMM efforts, look at unique visitors, page views, time spent on site, frequency of visits and conversions.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Because SMM takes time to nurture and grow, it's important that you follow this cycle of listening, engaging, and then measuring. Then make course corrections to your strategy and repeat. I'm sure that social media marketing will become a very powerful marketing tool for you.
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