social media marketing

Social Media Marketing

 

Social media marketing is not a new branch in the marketing mix but rather the extension of existing corporate communication to social networks. For this reason, social media marketing cannot simply be put into the hands of one social media marketing manager. It rather is a challenge for the full marketing organization, ultimately for the whole company. It has to learn how to life in the categories and according to the principles of social media.

Many – not only medium-sized – companies still avoid using Facebook and others. This checklist is designed to give them a first idea, a rough orientation as well as practical tips and knowledge about tools.

It is based on our experience introducing social media marketing strategies, especially in medium-sized companies. Such a strategy must always be designed individually for every company, according to the respective goals and starting conditions.

This is why our checklist can only be a small assistance for developing a strategy and cannot replace an individual process.

Numerous links lead to tools, tool overviews, tips, and background articles on all aspects of social media marketing, published on our blog or on SlideShare. The market for effective tools, however, is constantly changing and no one can guarantee that tools recommended today will still be available in a couple of years. What is more, the respective license agreements must be carefully read to determine whether commercial use is possible at all. See this blog post for an overview of all tools used by vibrio.

We look forward to your feedback on this checklist – write an e-mail to michael.kausch@vibrio.de or call us at 0049 89 321 51 70.

We regularly publish tips for social media strategy design on our blog and in our newsletter. Please visit also our YouTube channel, for example an interview by CIO magazine with Dr. Michael Kausch:

1. Definition of goals

Social media efforts are not ends in itself; and no one has to join Facebook because all others do. Before considering social media activities, an analysis of the corporate communication status quo should be conducted and goals should be defined. The following questions are crucial:

  • How important is an increase in brand recognition?
  • How important is the development of new markets?
  • How important is new-customer lead generation?
  • How important are existing customer relations?
  • Do you want to engage in direct customer dialogues via social media?
  • How important is recruiting support?
  • How important is an increase in the efficiency of internal and external business processes (including supply chains and partner communication)?
  • What is your target group for all these tasks (sectors, company specifics, personal specifics)?

2. Location of resources

 

Social media marketing requires resources: work time as well as specific qualifications. This is why it makes sense to begin with an analysis of internal resources. One good starting point may be to host a barcamp for all employees that privately use blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media.

Have a discussion on which benefits your company may reap from communication via social media. Try to handle this un-conference-style and impose as few limits on the discussion as possible. The goal is to identify individual team members that can support social media steps and contribute their experience (monitoring, editing, technology, topic management, etc.).

3. Motivation, not regulation

Social media communication is different from what may be called communication 1.0. Social media marketing lives from employees and partners that largely act independently. This can stir up fears of losing control not only on the side of the management but often employees are scared of taking on this responsibility as well: What am I allowed to say? What not? What happens if I say something my company doesn`t like? This is the main reason for drawing up and implementing social media guidelines – irrespective of concrete plans for social media marketing measures. Please click here for a (German) suggestion.

4. Research first

Before thinking about opening a social media group, starting dialogues on Facebook, or send out opinions on Twitter, everyone should establish accounts and start with a thorough “listening”. It is not only legitimate but very reasonable to first get an account and start by reading and observing, trying to get a feeling for who communicates what, and how in the respective channels.

However, this individual first step should be aided by professional monitoring, that has three goals:

  • Finding statements on your brands, competitors, and partners;
  • analyzing topics that may become the foundations of corporate communications through an issue management strategy;
  • identifying opinions and opinion leaders on the topics and brands of your company.

 

The easiest monitoring step is Google Alerts: Search terms can be entered as permanent “search requests” and Google automatically sends an alert (by e-mail or RSS feed) to the person in charge. We have introduced other tools on our blog some time ago. However, a much more comfortable alternative is the creation of a monitoring portal in which Google Alerts are combined with additional search requests and neatly arranged. See this blog post for an example of such a monitoring portal.

5. Content over design

When you have a provisional definition of goals in place, researched your resources, and taken a first glance into social media, don`t throw away your caution and good judgement: establish a “Social Media Strategy Map” first. Usually, you will not be able to do this alone; this is where agencies come in. The crucial point here is that you must not approach this like a web-1.0 project where you simply identified the most “creative” – i.e. strong on the visual side – agency to task it with an attractive, visible, and fast website. What you want to find here is a partner who is strategically competent, who puts integration and content before design. Your agency must understand your business objectives, know your resources, integrate your social media activities into the existing communications mix, and support you in developing content strategies. If you have no experience with this kind of agency, find a “pitch consultant” who helps you draw up specifications for your pitch. Such a consultant pays, and will be cheaper than delivering a “wrong” brief to the agency – which will leave you unsatisfied and the agency feeling not responsible because it wasn`t correctly briefed.

6. Content means storytelling

Social media communication is dialogue-oriented publishing. This is why every channel needs its own content and topic management plan. Before starting in a channel (see below for more on channels) you should have such a plan in place that will carry you through at least the first three months.

Your topics are generated from a wording strategy, combining messaging and issue management.

 

The different social media channels can at least partly be kept with single portal solutions. Here are three examples for free solutions that allow you to work with multiple accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn: Tweetdeck, Hootsuite und Bottlenose. A fee-based alternative that integrates editing, monitoring, and approval processes is AGNITAS Social Media Manager. All these services also feature automatic link shortening to create more compact tweets or postings. As an addition, however, we recommend using bit.ly for statistical click analyses to identify your most successful posts or tweets.

7. Integration creates strength

Usually, social media communication is pull marketing. You analyze topics that are relevant to your target groups, use these topics for your positioning, and work that your contributions to the discussions about these topics are found by your target groups. This means that you do not actively communicate “into” these groups, as it would be the case with a newsletter or classic advertising (push marketing), but that you are in for building a long-term, sustainable relationship with your audience. For this reason alone, social media marketing must be integrated into larger communication strategies that include, but are not limited to, newsletters, event and trade fair marketing, as well as dialogue marketing. Some examples for such an integration are:

  • Do not publish videos directly on your website but use a YouTube channel and embed these videos on your website.
  • The same applies to your flyers, talks, and presentations. Use a service such as SlideShare.
  • It can make sense to use pictures in a similar way, working with services like Flickr or Picasa.
  • Integrate possibilities to subscribe to your newsletter into these videos and documents.
  • Advertise your social media channels on your website and continuously inform your employees, partners, and customers.
  • Use every channel to promote the other ones by linking to or at least mentioning them. For example, use Twitter or Facebook to promote uploads to SlideShare or YouTube. Much of these processes can be automated.
  • Every description of a presentation, a picture, or a video on either one of your platforms should contain a link to your website to optimize its SEO (search engine optimization) possibilities.

8. Focus on what`s important

 

There are countless social media. Choosing the right ones for you depends on your goals and your resources. To give you an idea, we have created a matrix that ranks the most important media according to their relevance for reaching important goals.

In most cases, we recommend the following measures:

a) Reserve your brand names as addresses in all relevant social media;
b) Having a monitoring tool in place is crucial;
c) The same is true for a bit.ly account;
d) Create a YouTube account if you have videos;
e) Create a SlideShare channel – we recommend a fee-based one to be able to fit it to your corporate design and get statistical analyses (the Silver Account is 19 $ per month);
f) A corporate LinkedIn page is a must-have for international companies;
g) You can use LinkedIn groups for acquiring new leads, especially in the USA or Great Britain;
h) Viadeo Groups can help you acquire leads in Asian markets as well as in France;
i) You may create a corporate Facebook page
a. If you are looking for qualified young employees;
b. If you engage in B2C communication with a target audience age 40 or below;
c. If you want to create an open, modern, and accessible image;
d. If you have the resources for maintaining such a page in the long run.
j) With Google+ set to becoming important for search engine marketing and SEO, you should have a longer-term plan to establish a presence there;
k) Using Twitter is optional
a. As a trade fair marketing tool (e.g. a Twitter Wall);
b. As a current events analysis tool;
c. As a B2C sales instrument;
d. To support other social media marketing activities.
l) Build a corporate blog as a news part of your website that is easy to integrate with social media.

9. Resource requirements

Social media marketing is time-intensive, despite the fact that many tasks can be automated. However, there are activities that do not need much time; see some in this overview:

  • Ensure your brands by establishing social media channels: less ressources
  • Monitoring: medium
  • bit.ly: less
  • YouTube: less
  • SlideShare: less
  • Xing and LinkedIn Corporate Profiles: less
  • Xing and LinkedIn Groups: medium
  • Facebook Page: huge efforts
  • Google+ Page: huge
  • Twitter Account: huge
  • Corporate Blog: huge

10. Monitoring and crisis communication

 

The monitoring described above is crucial also because no company is completely immune to suffer a reputational catastrophe on the internet. A so-called “Shitstorm” can result from ignorance or wrong reactions to criticism in social networks. We have developed effective strategies against trolls and for dealing with customer criticism.

11. Defining goals, measuring successes

 

For an ongoing refinement of social media activities, goals should be defined for each year and results internally reviewed. Such goals may come as ranking values like Klout or Peer Index, or as followers or friend numbers. We recommend assessing the Twitter follower quality using Social Bro. Other possibilities include assessing transfer rates from followers to newsletter subscribers, or the number of direct contacts from LinkedIn relationships.

Klout is one way to assess the relevance of people in social media. However, all analysis and statistic tools should be critically examined for their compatibility with one`s own possibilities and activity levels. In short: There can be situations, where it is more productive to interact with a small number of Facebook followers than to use contests to collect Likes without relevant dialogues.

12. The social media strategy map

During the previous months, we have helped numerous medium-sized companies on their way to social media marketing. Doing so, we are always using an open social media strategy map. We work with the client to draw up a plan, the details of which are subject to ongoing revision based on our prior experience.

The social media marketing strategy map is based on a step-by-step building of social media competencies, coordinated by the marketing department in cooperation with sales, HR, and other areas.

In this process, marketing creates a toolbox for social media marketing that defines the following for each measure:

a) Value proposition;
b) Resource intensity;
c) Internal organization development requirements;
d) Time schedule with milestones;
e) Criteria for definition of goals;
f) Methods for success measuring

Together with the departments, the realization of individual measures will be decided on. Project leadership will be installed according to the nature of the project. Single flagship projects will be initiated and coordinated directly by marketing.

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