Your strategy will depend on:
1) Your goals – SEO, PR, traffic ( to drive awareness? advertising click-thus? conversions?)
2) Your audience – where does your target demo hang out?
3) Your resources – you, you plus an intern, internal team, agency?
Here are 6 steps to help you design your social media marketing roadmap.
Step 1: Understand What Social Media Is
The best way to look at social media is to view it as one of many Internet marketing channels, one that has the amazing power to go viral. In the very least, it has the awesome ability to engage your audience in meaningful conversations about your product, issue areas, company, and brand.
The social media marketing umbrella includes sites that are both Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 – basically you want to be anywhere that enables discussions, sharing, and user-generated content (UGC), such as:
- Blogs and Forums / Discussion Boards
- Consumer Review Sites
- Social Networks / Online Communities
- Social Bookmarking Sites
- Social News Sites
- Social Music Sites
- Video and Photo Sharing Sites
Step 2: Understand What Social Media Can & Can’t Do
Social media can engage your audience, encourage online conversations that are user-generated, increase your web presence, expand brand awareness, generate publicity (both good & bad) and provide SEO benefits. It doesn’t convert.
For most marketers, social media has no ROI but is great for:
- Brand building
- Relationship management
- Product development
- Reputation management
- Customer interaction
- Customer feedback
- Customer support
- Community building
- Defensive SEO – Yes! Bury your bad press with positive UGC
In some cases, social media can convert – usually if you own the community, and have the power to strategically capture leads. But that’s like being the D&D Dungeon Master.
Step 3: Determine Where Conversations are Happening
You will need to respond to conversations that are already happening. To determine where conversations are happening about your brand, you will need to have some kind of buzz monitoring or online reputation management system in place.
Prioritize these discussions, then hop in.
Step 4: Divide…
Next, you want to expand into unchartered territory.
Before venturing out into the vast unknown, create your social media road map – a map of the social web as it pertains to your business. Gather all the sites that would be most interested in what you have to say and segment them by type (blogs, social networks, social news sites, forums, etc) and by target audience / topical interest.
Once you’ve done that, it will be more clear to you what your campaign specific marketing strategies and tactics ought to be.
Step 5: …and Conquer
Now comes the tactical deployment. Here are some examples of different kinds of social media engagements.
Blogger outreach & engagement– this is a top down, bottom up approach. To demonstrate a significant impact, this is best handled by a team. You will need to identify the A-List blogs, cultivate a positive relationship with as many as possible, persuade them to blog about your issue, or guest blog for them. You will need a team of conversation agents to fan out into the blogosphere and engage in MEANINGFUL conversations wherever conversations about your topic is happening.
If you have a call to action, relevant product, or web resource you are trying to drive traffic to, drop html links with target anchor text for an additional SEO lift (a % of the sites you will be hitting will be do-follow)
Disclose your identity, be courteous, informed about the subject, or you will be flamed, and that will live forever on the web.
Social networking– only hit the communities relevant to your issue, product, company, topic or you will get poor quality traffic, if any.
Are you infiltrating tight-knit interest-specific online communities? If so, you will need to ingratiate yourself into the pack.
Are you starting your own community on a hosted platform, like a Ning? You can drive conversation and awareness, your revenue options are limited (ad revenue sharing).
Do you own the community? Great – you can drive targeted conversations and include strategically placed calls-to-action, promos, ads, anywhere. If you’ve designed your site with SEO in mind, your users will create the content, and you will had an advantage in the SERPS, especially for long-tail keywords.
Social news marketing– thru social sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Newsvine. These sites also have a unique culture and will work for you if your news item relates topics favored by the community. Digg, for example, veers towards the geeky. Write for maximum click thrus – think “linkbait”. Popular stories here can get picked up by bloggers, which will also give you an SEO boost. Traffic can be huge and fickle like a tsunami. Don’t expect it to convert. Avoid marketing here – you will be buried.
Step 6: Trust in the Force
Finally, trust is a huge factor in social engagement. Understand that social media marketing is most effective when users in the community know you. The only way for the community to know you is if you spend a lot of time online and invest managing your social web presence across communities.
Social media builds awareness and drives conversation. It’s a powerful way enable communication between the company & customer. Always remember, selling is a secondary or tertiary benefit of social media.