Many look at social media as another outlet to pump their marketing messages into, especially companies which have found that success in other channels of marketing such as SEO, PPC, e-mail, or traditional marketing outlets like TV, radio, or print have slowed or come to a virtual standstill. They read that Foursquare is the next "Internet darling" of social media and is being used and touted by early adopters.
Facebook fan pages, MySpace accounts, Twitter streams, blogs, YouTube channels, Digg submissions, Flickr accounts, Wikis, even rating and review sites are all social media marketing tactics you see commonly touted as efforts companies "should be doing." Have you ever stopped to even ask why?
Why should your company have a Facebook fan page? Is it because everyone else does? Maybe your competition does?
That old saying, "if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" is just as true in social media. While it may seem cool and hip to be able to say you have all of these different social media accounts, are these the marketing tactics you need to be doing to be successful in social media?
Marketing Tactics without a Strategy is Like Doing Nothing at All
It's a common practice to toss up a MySpace account or Facebook fan page because it's free, easy, and everyone else is doing it. While businesses should secure accounts on social media sites for their company or brand names, don't automatically jump in and devote massive amounts of time to one particular social media marketing tactic just because of the above three reasons.
Implementing social media marketing tactics for any reason without a sound strategy in place will ultimately lead to confusion, and then disappointment in your efforts in the social media space. It's a lot like throwing darts blind. You're throwing them without knowing what or where the bull's-eye is. Once in a while you might hit the dartboard, and it would be a miracle if you hit the bull's-eye.
Any ad agency, public relations company, or search marketing firm that comes to you and says "you need a Facebook fan page" without any reason other than "it's new and you need it and we know how to put it together for you," you might want to stop and ask yourself why you're using this particular agency.
Social Media Strategy Involves Much More than a List of Marketing Tactics
Your agency might come to you with a laundry list of social media tactics they say you should employ as a "strategy." Unfortunately, it isn't a strategy. It's just a list of marketing tactics they've become well-versed in and want to be paid for deploying for you.
Again, it comes back to answering the question "Why?" Why should we be doing this?
Social media strategies involve much more than just putting the accounts together and sending out a press release saying, "Hey, we're now in XYZ social media site." The members of these social media communities don't care that you announce your presence. What they care about is if you give them valuable, quality content.
So what does a social media strategy involve? What should you be looking for? How do you avoid failure? These are just a few things you should consider before wildly deploying social media marketing tactics.
- Answering the "Why?": Your social media strategy should fully answer why you're using a particular tactic. Is it because your audience is there and interacting already? Is it because the potential for branding and exposure is there? Do the research.
- How to Deploy: How do you gain respect in social media? Do you go in guns blazing, or do you sit back and get a feel for what you're about to embark on? Is it an approach of asking questions first and then offering advice? Do you want to ask for submissions from the audience or start by writing valuable content? Your strategy should fully answer these questions before you start.
- Defining Your Goals and Measuring: How do you know your efforts were successful? What is your company expecting as a return on your time and resources spent on your marketing efforts in social media. If there isn't a clear set of goals to be measured for your efforts, how can you justify your tactics? Do you have clear ROI for your social media efforts?
- When to Re-evaluate?: Companies forget to define when they should re-evaluate their efforts. They get into the mode of "we're doing this and we'll just keep doing it because we have the budget to." What if something isn't working, and you aren't meeting your goals? What if something else is working really well? Set points in your strategy for re-evaluation. Remember, nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to social media marketing.
Meet Liana Evans at SES Chicago on December 7-11, 2009. Now in its 11th year, the only major Search Marketing Conference and Expo in the Midwest will be packed with 70+ sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, video optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an exhibit floor, networking events and more.