Here's the thing about goals. They're well intentioned and broad in focus and we wave them around as if we're really proud of these lofty ideas we hope to achieve. But unless we take the time to create a plan of action to reach them, they rarely amount to more than warm-fuzzy inducing line items.
The problem with the way most people reach goals is that they do it without a proper plan. They establish a goal of increasing sales and then they rush off to social media sites to try and boost their sales. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't. Generally, it's dumb luck either way.
Successful Marketing Relies on Formulas
Think back to your days in advanced math in high school or college. Remember how it was never enough to get the proper answer? You had to demonstrate your work and show the steps it took to get there? There's a basic concept in both math and science that requires you to "reproduce" your work. This is why math and science rely so heavily on formulas.
The world of marketing is really no different. Yes, there's an extraordinary amount of creativity required in the creation of your message...but the processes are incredibly formulaic. Relying exclusively on the creativity with little regard to process will not only make it difficult to replicate success, it will also make it difficult to learn from you failures.
This is why your process can't move into the creative realm once you've defined your top three goals. It must move into the realm of supportive goals.
Break Down Your Primary Goals into Supportive Goals
Just like those annoying math teachers who wanted to make sure you understood the process, I want to impress just how important it is to follow a process when you are building your social media strategy. I've already written about the need to establish goals and even walked you through the concept of developing high level goals.
Today I want to explain how you take those top level goals and break them down into smaller, supportive goals. Following this process will help you reach the point where you can select your social media strategies based on what will help you achieve your goals rather than what "everyone else is doing." (If you haven't read my post "Understanding the Three Primary Goals of Social Media," you may want to take a quick moment to go get some background.)
Step One: Examine Your Top Level Goal
Let's say one of your top goals for social media involvement is to monitor the conversation around your brand. Perhaps you are launching a new product or perhaps you've been suffering from a lot of negative conversation online and you are ready to address it.
The temptation with this goal might be to jump in the conversation and start listening to everything that's being said. A better plan is to sit down and consider a few smaller goals first. Think about the various goals related to monitoring your brand. Your list might look something like this:
Each of these four sub-goals are a very important part of how your primary goal integrates into social media marketing plans. They're also necessary to define so you know you are taking the steps needed to actually reach the primary goal.
Consider how they all work together:
1) Select a Monitoring Program: It's not enough to simply want to monitor, you need to decide the depth if information you wish to collect and how you'll be organizing it. If you're a small company with a few mentions, a free tool like Google Alerts may do the trick. If you're a larger brand or you need the ability to sort mentions by sentiment, you'll need to research and purchase a more powerful tool.
2) Determine a Plan of Escalation: If you're taking the time to track the conversation, you also need to have a plan for responding to it. You need to sit down and ask yourself what deserves a response, who will give the response and how to track the follow-up and results.
3) Parlay Coverage via the Blog: One of the biggest benefits to monitoring the conversation is the fodder it can provide for your blog. Whether it's pointing out a mention, responding to someone else's thoughts on your posts or simply writing content to address common concerns or compliments, it's important to have a plan in place to use what you learn from the conversation.
4) Engage with Influencers: Another benefit to monitoring the conversation is seeing who is talking about you. Taking the time to review these conversations, research the person talking about you and then engaging them in conversation can be essential steps toward building the relationships that will help you improve your brand's online presence.
Each of these sub-goals plays an important role in allowing you to leverage social media to reach those higher level goals. If you move too quickly toward implementing your goals, it's easy to overlook them. While you may still experience a level of success without taking this step in the process, you'll decrease your chances of success significantly.
Don't rush into social media. Take your time and take it step by step. You'll find you'll build a fuller, more comprehensive strategy that provides better direction and more concrete results.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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