Nothing pains me more in my profession than seeing businesses pay big bucks for little social media work, or little bucks for little social media work. Notice I’m not talking about results and I’ll explain that in a bit. I’m talking about the idea that the right kind of effort should go into doing social media well.
From promises of $200-a-month social media plans to extensive blogger relations at an exorbitant price, there are a whole range of situations that play into the misconception that social media should deliver results of mythical proportions in short periods of time.
Truth is, social media marketing takes work. It can be a lot of work, or it can be a fair amount of work. The results are proportional with the effort and skills we put in. When done properly, it can double your website traffic, and leads, and bring extensive visibility to your brand. And it can be fun meeting new people online.
5 Points to Consider Before You Start
Here are some of the things to plan for when you consider social media work:
1. Social media is not branding. Social marketing won’t create your stories, but rather tell your stories in compelling ways. Imagine giving someone a blank sheet of paper and asking them to read off of it. What will they read?
A good social media plan will translate your stories into bits of compelling digital content. If there are no stories, there is nothing to tell. So it’s best to define who you are and what you stand for. An agency or a marketing strategist can help you (we know some of the best).
It is all in the details: finding the right contacts, finding what motivates them, defining your stories and creating a detailed content tree. All of those take care, and many, many details. So plan to put in some work, and know that it can be fulfilling work. After all, social media is about people.
3. Which leads me to the next point: If you don’t love people, stay away from your business’s social networks. I’m serious.
Maybe you’re going through a difficult period, or maybe you simply disprove of Americans (see image here). Or maybe you think customers are whiners and bandits? Do you think saying good morning to strangers is weird? That’s OK.
But, for the sake of your business, find someone who has love and excitement for the kind, the odd and the entitled, to run your social networks. Find someone who can handle even the most irate customers. Do not be like this Pigalle Boston guy. His posts in reply to a disgruntled customer led to a social media firestorm.
4. Social media takes time. All marketing, PR and SEO take time. Even email marketing takes time, especially to build a big email list. Then why is social marketing expected to drive results overnight?
There is beauty and opportunity in the time that it takes to build an audience. Go with the “test-and-learn” rule. During those first few months, you have the liberty to test much without risking large exposure to the masses if something doesn’t go quite right.
Use that time to listen and learn, to see what your audiences respond to. One of our clients was wise to change their menu during that period, in response to customer requests.
Use this time to build meaningful relationships, because once you build a large network, it will be a lot harder to maintain that same depth of relationship with each and every member of your network.
5. Find the right person or social media company. Don’t just go with Uncle Jimmy’s son, the new college graduate and because he has a Facebook account. Go with him if he’s able to think like a marketer.
How you present yourself to the world is too important to put into unqualified hands. In the best case scenario, you just won’t get results; in the worst case you can have a crisis on your hands. Either way, you shouldn’t waste time and money working with unqualified people.
If you’re not ready, if you don’t have the right resources, it’s OK. Just because everyone tells you you should be on social media, it doesn’t mean you should jump in with no plans. Social media is not just about tweeting, it’s about finding the right people in the online places where they spend their time and delivering compelling content that will help, educate and catalyze this audience. Can uUncle Jimmy’s son drive that for you? If yes, go ahead. If you’re not sure, keep asking, interviewing, testing, thinking and searching.
What are your thoughts on how to prepare to execute your best social media plan?
P.S. Big thanks to Mari Luangrath of @foiledcupcakes, Chicago’s famous gift cupcakes, for being a good listener. Mari helped me finish this post, by just listening to me. And that’s the #6 of social media planning: Spend some time listening and thinking, and listening some more. And be a friend.