How to Create Social Media Strategies That Rock

Nov 27, 2013

Article ImageAshton Kutcher (aplusk) has more than 15 million Twitter followers. Harvard Biz Review (@HarvardBiz) has 1.2 million. Peggy Anne Salz, founder and chief analyst of MobileGroove has about 4000. EContent Magazine (@econtentmag) has 2600. What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing!

Evaluating social media effectiveness based on "the numbers" is like evaluating whether or not the television ads run during the Super Bowl are "good" or "bad." Unless we're privy to the strategy behind them our opinions are pretty much irrelevant. And while many are still enamored with the numbers - of likes, pins, retweets and +1's - the truth is that in social media, as in any form of marketing communication, it's the real results that matter.

It's tough, though, for many-even those in the marketing world-to get their arms around strategy. Responses to input about effective social media marketing strategies included such comments as:

  • Track your leads from social media by tagging your URLs.
  • A great content strategy for social media is user generated content contests.
  • My favorite thing to expand my reach with my content is to have a pin or each of my blog posts on my Pinterest account.

While these may be effective tactics-they are not strategies. And that's the problem with much of the social media content that flourishes on the web today. It's an amalgam of presumably "good ideas" promulgated and perpetuated by those with good intentions, but without a solid strategy.

"Many businesses make the mistake of jumping on digital/social media platforms and thinking that covers their digital strategy," says Mike Street, a senior digital strategist based in Harlem who has worked with top tier brands such as Breaking Bad, Oprah Winfrey, Turner Broadcasting, and BET Networks. "These are companies that fail and don't see a real ROI for their efforts."

Developing a sound strategy, says Street, involves:

  • Research and insights. "Discover who your target audience is and is not, then look to see what platforms they are using and how you can reach them."
  • Competitors. "Look to see what your competitors are doing. What's working for them and what's not working? What can help make your social marketing efforts different from what they are doing?"
  • Success. "Define what success looks like and what the overall key metrics are that your business needs to elevate to be successful."

In short, sound strategy involves establishing measurable objectives, clearly understanding the target audience and their media consumption habits , and monitoring and measuring results. Importantly, as Street suggests, these results need to be based on ROI-return on investment. Millions of followers or friends is not an ROI measure. Sales and subscribers are.

New followers, click-throughs, and requests for information can, though, provide an indication of downstream impact, suggests Christopher Penn, vice president, marketing technology, with SHIFT Communications, an integrated communications agency with offices in Boston, New York City and San Francisco, notes. Marketers, he says, can assign values to various actions based on current outcomes. For instance, he says, "You should be able to assign a value to the newsletter subscriptions, with the understanding that it may not yield revenue today but it's going to be revenue down the road," explains Penn. The same is true of any other levels of engagement that people have with you, such as visits to a landing page or requests for information.

"Tag everything so you know what you're looking for," he says. "That will allow you to understand the value of all of the activities that anyone can take." It is the combination of the various actions that people are taking online, relative to your social media communications, that can drive results, he says, including paid, sponsored and earned media. "They're all individual threads of the tapestry, but you have to look at the big picture via statistical analysis to see what's working with your efforts."

But, you won't know what to measure if you don't first have a strategy. That's the starting point-the price of admission for those who wish to drive real results through their online activities.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)