How To Build an Effective Social Media Program

Given the rapidly changing nature of social media, it is not surprising that most marketers treated their 2010 activities like straw houses, unsophisticated structures with little hope of surviving much less gaining traction with consumers. Aghast at the resources consumed with limited impact, marketers are now seeking a more sophisticated if not durable approach. To address this challenge, here is Renegade’s Social Media Success Pyramid (see detailed illustration here), with guidance on how to build an effective and enduring program brick by brick. (Note 1: This article appeared on MediaPost early this week so you can stop here if you read that. Note 2: This is a topline overview with details on each section to be added soon enough.)

Establish your Foundation
Having a solid foundation that includes these five essential planning elements doesn’t guarantee success but it sure as heck increases the odds:

  • Audit: A comprehensive review of competitive activity, best practices, internal risk tolerance and input from all possible stakeholders. In addition to gathering critical data, the audit serves to engage management and foster cross-departmental consensus, both of which are essential to long-term success.
  • Brand voice: In all likelihood, your interns should not be the voice of your brand. Defining your brand voice takes the same strategic discipline as any other marketing effort and should result in not just identifying who can represent the brand but also establishing a clear and differentiated point-of-view.
  • Resources: Despite rumors to the contrary, social media is not free. It consumes mass quantities of time for listening, responding, creating, monitoring and reporting. Resources, whether internal and or external, need to be dedicated. Ideally these resources have experience getting things done across all the departments social can and does touch.
  • Product News: The old adage, “nothing kills a bad product faster than a great ad campaign” applies doubly to social media. If your product or service is not as good as it could be, either fix this first or make this the goal of your social activities. If your product is already highly competitive, then it will be still worth bringing something new to the party since social thrives around news.
  • Road Map: With all these other building blocks in place, you can now prepare a clear road map, defining overall social media goals, setting priorities by channel and establishing key performance indices. A good road map should also include test elements as well as potential risks along with a roll-out schedule for selected tactics.

Create the Blueprint
With the foundation in place, we move closer to execution by creating a strong blueprint including these four critical steps:

  • Design: Whether you are a billion dollar brand or an ambitious start-up, design never stops mattering. Even if it’s “just a Facebook page,” look for an aesthetic that is consistent, engaging and clearly your own.
  • Keyword Research: With the search engines now tracking Facebook and Twitter, the link between SEO performance and social activity is growing stronger by the day. Make sure you know the keywords that matter.
  • Editorial Calendar: Based on your keyword research, map out an “editorial calendar” that defines what content needs to be created, who will create it, where it will run first and how it will be amplified via social channels.
  • Disaster Plan: Since the fit just might hit the shan when you least expect it, do yourself a favor and outline a few what if scenarios and potential responses. Even if nothing bad ever happens, you’ll sleep a lot better.

Gather your Materials

Moving up the pyramid, its time to gather all your materials and execute with earnest.  In the process, you’ll want to focus on these three areas:

  • Analytics: With so many free and paid measurement tools available, measuring what matters is easier said than done.  You’ll need to work with pros to figure out what’s right for your situation.
  • Content: The center building block of a strong social program, content is indeed king.  Make sure your content is engaging, enlightening and or entertaining, representing your brand in all its glory.
  • Channels & Hub: Since context goes hand in hand with content, choose your channels carefully based on your target and the quality of your content.  Also, to optimize the SEO potential, archive your social content, especially Facebook and Twitter feeds on a “hub” within your website.

Measure your Progress

Since the goal of any business is to acquire and retain customers, to be taken seriously, social media must play a role in both of these areas.  Thus the penultimate building blocks of a successful social program are the following:

  • SEO Improvements: With the right content in the right places being shared by the right people, a comprehensive social program will yield improved SEO results over time as long as you remember to set benchmarks at the start.
  • Leads & Referrals:  While listening can yield leads and referrals can occur naturally, integrating social content into your CRM program will significantly enhance overall impact.  

Reap the Rewards

Ascending the social media pyramid is not an easy affair but it is certainly worth the trip.  Hard-earned consumer trust will be rewarded with increased loyalty, stronger word-of-mouth, higher value per customer, lower cost per acquisition and even lower churn rates.  You may even start measuring CPE or cost per engagement, given the relatively low cost of engaging fans once acquired on Facebook and Twitter.   Knowing that the original pyramids weren’t built in a day but have lasted 4,000 years, think about your social program as a permanent part of your go to market strategy and enjoy the view from the top.

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