Regardless of the reasons, “The Powers That Be” selected you to write the social media plan for the company. You may not have even asked, but you know social media is big and getting bigger, and so you desire to convince your organization's management to get involved.
The reasons can vary greatly of why you were selected to write the social media plan for your company, but here you are. Now what… [insert sigh here]. Maybe it’s because you’re in marketing. It may also be because you’re from the younger generation that grew up as a digital native and are assumed to have a close connection in this arena. Or possibly you’re already experimenting with social media and your success has been noticed.
So what is step one?
Following is a compilation of ideas on the key topics you need to cover creating an impressive, yet practical social media plan that garners executive backing and a clearer path leading to success.
1. SHOW THE BIG PICTURE LANDSCAPE OF THE OPPORTUNITY IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Start your social media plan with some startling statistics and pithy quotes about the huge shift away from traditional publishing towards social media.
If you wrote this plan two years ago, you would have leaned on the endorsement of old media with quotes like this:
“Consumers are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds. And they are leaving a lot of marketers behind.” – The Wall Street Journal
But now you can tell the big opportunity of social media by just relying on social media’s accomplishments. Include nuggets like:
- 4 of the top 7 highest-traffic websites (Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Blogger) are social media websites
- With over 400 million users, if Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world
- Two-thirds of the global internet population visit social networks — Nielson, Global Faces and Network Places
- More than half of all people in the U.S. over 12 have set up a social media profile
- Twitter now has 110 million users and is adding 300,000 per day
Add with a flourish a quote or two from a top social media book, such as Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, or The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott.
2. BE CLEAR ON WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA MEANS
Because social media is such a nebulous thing for many, you need to put concise parameters on what it is. However, don’t start your plan with the definition of social media because it’s not as exciting as the first section about the big opportunity. Get their attention first, and then you can go Webster on them. Include something like this:
“Social media is user-generated content on the internet. It’s created with free or inexpensive technology, is easy to update, and can reach a niche audience or millions. It can be mere words in a blog, but also user-generated videos, photos, and audio. It can be interactive with unfiltered comments from visitors. And as user-generated content, it does away with controls associated with traditional media – and most of all, it removes the need for big media.”
3. CREATE CONCRETE BUSINESS GOALS
If you don’t already have a social media plan, it’s very possible that your top management fears that social media is only a plaything. You have to show them you mean business. Tell them how you will use social media activities to:
- Increase web site traffic
- Improve search engine rankings
- Drive traffic to your trade show displays at events
- Generate leads
- Build awareness
- Strengthen relationships with clients, prospects, and influencers
- Better understand your buyers
- Improve customer service
- Identify new product ideas
- Generate sales
To be clear, you don’t have to promise to do all these things. And preferably your goals will match top management’s goals. But whichever goals you choose, make them attainable, and include a measurement plan. Ask for a grace period (a few months) for learning and experimentation until you have to start proving tangible results.
4. BE REALISTIC WITH EXPECTATIONS
Because social media revolves around so many free tools, and because it has become the darling of marketing hipsters everywhere, expectations run high. So you also need to help your team understand there’s no guarantee it will be a silver bullet. Tell them things like:
- There is a substantial learning curve of the technology, language, and culture of the various social media sites
- Social media is always evolving, so successful methods can stop working
- Success may require effort from a team, not just one person
- Social media is not a panacea: if your company or product sucks, social media is not going to make that go away
- While many of the tools are free, it can take a substantial investment in time and consistent effort to build up a loyal following on the main social media sites
- Social media is not just another advertising channel – old-school product messages will go down in flames
5. CREATE STEPS FOR YOUR TIMELINE
You can’t just push a button and have a full-fledged social media marketing program running full-swing. But management won’t wait forever, either. Give them an idea of what your steps will be, which may include:
- Create a time block in your days to define goals, objectives, and strategy
- Get trained on social media
- Determine the team, either internally, choosing a social media consultant, or both
- Setting up accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube
Finding your existing community of clients, prospects, and influencers on the main social media sites listed above, on niche social media sites, and on established industry blogger sites (if you determine your clients are not yet on social media, you may not have a plan!)
- Set up your own blog
- The sequence of social media sites for which you will concentrate your efforts
- Block time needed for listening to each online community
- Time to develop a following
- Set aside time to create content, such as a blog (which is ongoing), videos, white papers, podcasts, and more
- Seek out time-saving tools such as RSS feeds, Hootsuite, Bitly, and more
- Dates of pre-scheduled progress reports
Write this timeline of steps on paper, not in stone. This is a working plan that you use every week, and change as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
6. FIND AND RECOMMEND WHO DOES SOCIAL MEDIA FOR YOUR COMPANY
Step one in choosing who does social media for your company is deciding between doing it internally, hiring a consultant to do it, or a combination. You can shorten your learning curve with social media consultants who can train you and help identify online communities where your clients already gather. In the end, your social media activity really should be done by people who work for your company. Try as we may, it’s just too hard to hire an outsider to be the authentic voice of your company.
Then figure out who does social media within your company. Just remember that while the youngest member of your marketing or customer service team may be the most familiar with social media, they may not be the best choice to represent your company in social media. You want someone who has:
- Good people and communication skills
- Comprehensive knowledge of your customers, industry, products, and company
- Exemplifies the personality of your organization
- Insatiable curiosity
- A quick study on technology
- Very strong work ethic
That person, of course, may end up being you.
7. REQUEST RESOURCES NEEDED
Getting this plan accomplished will require resources. Don’t be shy, ask for help, be it training, people’s time, or budget to pay for consultants, website hosting fees, a video camera, or useful web applications you later determine you need. Because social media requires near constant attention, tell them you need a laptop with broadband access, and a smart phone with an unlimited web access plan, too.
And ask for something free but priceless: For your top management to share their buy-in with your plan to help you get more cooperation from the rest of your company.
8. END WITH A CALL TO ACTION
While similar to how you started your plan, you want to finish with some more strident points that create a sense of urgency. End your plan with things like:
- “We no longer control our brand – it is being shaped by our customers in social media with or without us, so we must engage with them to protect and enhance the brand.”
- “Social media is where our communities are shifting their attention; we ignore them at our peril.”
- “If we delay our entry too long we risk being left behind by our customers and our competitors.”
9. MEASURE THE RESULTS
Depending on what strategy you selected, measurement will look different from each part of social media. The key is to find KPI (key performance indicators) that allow you to measure how you are doing against other forms of marketing you are currently utilizing. It also allows you to compare against some benchmarks from your industry or from social media standards.
The universe of social media is vast in its networks of cultures, communities, and ultimately for the marketer - choices. I do hope that these 9 areas of writing a social media plan will help spark your organization to get socially involved with your customers, influencers, and prospects via social media.