By Ross Taylor, MD digitaltmw, a Creston company
Many companies are launching exciting and creative campaigns to engage with their target audiences via social media, for example using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Whilst they generate an initial buzz, criticism is quick to follow as people believe they are gimmicks designed to exploit the popularity of the social networking sites.
Whilst stunts such as this attract attention, I have to question the long-term strategy and what it is actually offering the brand. One of the most difficult aspects of engaging with people using social media is getting more than your initial fifteen seconds of fame. I believe this is because social media is still seen as an afterthought to traditional marketing, and if companies want to deliver real value they must incorporate social media at the planning stages of a campaign.
Here are five steps for companies to consider when looking at social media campaign planning:
1- Understand the opportunity
Before rushing into social media, companies need to ask themselves some questions. What is the potential of the brand in the social media space? What are the customer’s sentiments towards the brand? How are they behaving towards the brand and towards social media? What are the company’s business objectives? What is the competition doing? And what is the company’s current online activity?
2- Prepare a social media campaign plan
The company needs to consider the responses from the initial research, to help define the social media strategy. Importantly, this must incorporate an understanding of the target audience’s motivation for using social media, to ensure the activity does not make the audience feel like their personal space is being intruded. The campaign planning must be included in the planning for traditional marketing activity to ensure it’s aligned, and finally must establish clear objectives and KPIs.
3- Define a brand proposition
Brand managers are used to defining a brand proposition, but the rules have changed. Brands no longer have control over what is said about them online as consumers now actively take part in the discussion. In creating an effective social media strategy, it is essential to create and adhere to a clearly defined social proposition: what value does the brand introduce to the social space? What is its role in creating interaction? What is the brand doing to compel active engagement? What does it want the consumer to think, feel and do as a result? The answers to these questions will help companies find the best strategy, tactics and online platform for their brand.
4- Execute the strategy
Once the social media proposition has been defined, brands will need to step into action. The first thing is to listen to what is being said online about your brand; then to join the conversation and stimulate the discussion. Challenge your customers: pose a question. Finally, own the debate by hosting the conversation directly. Whilst doing these actions will require efforts, it will enhance the brand’s credibility and increase the potential for a reward.
5- Measure and Evolve
As for all marketing campaigns, evaluating the success of a social media strategy is essential. There is still discussion within the industry on the best way to execute this, but by ensuring clearly defined objectives and KPIs at the planning stages will make the process simpler.
Whilst these five steps are along the same lines as the planning stages for traditional marketing campaigns, it is vital they are also applied to social media campaigns. By planning a strategy in this way, companies will ensure they approach social media in a way which delivers long-term engagement with the target audience. This will in turn deliver longer-term value to the brand.
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