Part 2: Social Media Advocates – ‘The Social Media Plan’

Social Media InfluencersContinued from ‘Creating Social Media Advocates‘ – Part 2.

Where to start with your social media plan?

Now that we’ve gotten through the myths of social media, we can turn our focus to developing the plan on how to turn our online audience, including customers, into our evangelists and advocates.

Where to begin? Take your social media thinking back one step and figure out what you want your champions (advocates) to do to build loyalty and drive traffic, sales, conversations, etc. to your site or social presence.

Do you want them to give up video endorsements, spark or respond to conversations on the web, be the first adopters of a new product, provide support, produce written reviews, etc. This all aligns with the objectives you set for champions – what you want them to do!.

Next, find them. Set a plan to find your champions. This may include,  for example, building your Twitter following. But not just any followers. Target relevant users. Use Twitters features or relevant Twitter social tools to selectively target followers of other relevant users, by demographics, geographics, interests, etc. Be selective.

Other ways of finding your champions is to encourage the information available to be shared on your site, and entice engagement. Foster the conversations and interactions with regular, quality updates.  If necessary, provide some form of incentives to to attract the champions, or at the least to inject the audience into your online plan, then approach the latter methods. Research a blog out-reach campaign of those individuals who already are considered authorities in your blogosphere, and engage them directly.

With the above in mind, the goal is to attract your audience, then use a few of those methods to identify those people who can most effectively influence others.

Your social media plan should cover a variety of these key points. But start simple. Use the following as a guide or outline to creating your plan.

  1. Discovery
    Research who is creating conversations (blog postings, groups, videos, forums, tweets, etc.) about your industry and brand. One recent example is we helped a client build their ‘targeted’ Twitter followers from a few dozen to over 1,000 ‘quality’ individuals within a week.
  2. Review the feedback
    Review the conversations, tweets, feedback, etc. to get a feel how people feel about the industry, your product or your brand. Can you categorize the different types of conversations? Yes this may seem daunting as there is much noise in the social media space, but once you get through this step, the rewards are worth it.
    For instance, similar to Search marketing and keyword discovery of categorizing target keywords, the same can be said for users and their conversations. This will help you identify a  group of supportive, demonizing, adopters and neutral users.
    This will also bring visibility to the spotlight of what the audience feels, thinks and issues they have, which you obviously have the solution to fill the gap.
  3. Online / Offline Relationships
    While so much can be said and done in an nurturing and building an online relationship, there is something to be said about taking the next step and go offline with it.
    The online ingredient to the relationship really is just the start. Its the introduction and song-and-dance to plant the seeds of a potential relationship. The winners (no pun intended Charlie S.),  is moving the interaction offline as its the  best way to give it the glue to strengthen it.
    Take the next step – make it personal, and enrich the relationship.
  4. Juicy Carrots
    Champions need to eat, so offer them the resources and incentives they’ll likely respond to. Similar to retention programs in your business customer relationship cycle, think of enriching the champions (evangelists). For example, treat your most satisfied customers as your preferred customer, and give them things to help them, while indirectly and subtly helping you. Example – I’m not talking about sending left over swag, but give them first offers to a new product (adopters) for their personal feedback, or resources and tools that can help them do what they like to do best.

    You won’t win them all. There are some who simply aren’t interested or have their reasons to go with one brand over another. Go after the neutral users as they’ll be easier to persuade – and let these champions indirectly convert the dissatisfied guys.

  5. Map It!
    Build an influencer map. An influencer map helps you understand who your biggest supporters are and define their demographics, psychographics, and social graphics (the social media platforms that they use most often). Knowing where these supporters spend their time online helps you get in touch with them to strengthen your relationship. From there, you can create a list of evangelists and start to find ways to motivate them.
  6. Plan
    The resulting plan you create will vary from person to person, and agency to agency. In the end, the goal is the same – to 1. find and build your followers, 2. encourage engagement among current followers.
    I won’t be outlining a template to follow if that’s what you’re after. Its not that simple. While everyone plan is slightly different than the others, the #2 encourage engagement among current followers will be unique to every ones goals, and objectives.
  7. Manage The Plan
    Remember, this is a plan, not a campaign (campaigns have a start date, end date and summary of metrics). The plan is something you’ll set, and of course adjust as the needle sways in your marketing efforts. But it should be the road map to follow for the near to long term, just as your business plan, as success will take time.

    Once your social media plan is in place, how will you keep it running? The plan needs to be carried out consistently and efficiently to make an impact. Handing this to an administrator to send a few tweets a day, or an individual part time to write a blog post is not going to cut it. Assuming you have your commitment and resources in place, try developing a content calendar of important dates and events.Publishing a calendar you may find the quality of the conversations increase, and people are more willing to refer their contacts to the content. Deploy effective metrics.
    To gauge the success of your social media efforts, you must employ effective metrics. Social media does not have one definitive set of metrics—your approach depends on your company and its specific goals.

  8. Measure
    As with all investments into marketing, have your KPI (key performance indicators) created. What gauges will you use to track the performance of your social media tactics?
    Start with what drives business for your company, and then map back to certain social metrics. Remember that the most relevant metrics depend on what your company wants to do, whether it is to generate leads, increase brand awareness, build relationships, leverage customer feedback, or enhance product development.

    Always use multiple metrics, but not to many as to confuse how the performance is read. This will help create a more holistic picture of your social medias plan performance.

    Data collected from your efforts, look for correlations between specific social media strategies and their impact on specific KPI’s (ex. site traffic, leads, keyword lift, etc.)

  9. Optimization
    Just like any marketing plan or campaign, always seek to find discoveries of bottlenecks, barriers, successes to learn from, and build on. A social media plan is the same. Understanding what works and what doesn’t will help you improve your strategy.  Its an ongoing cycle that is applicable to any campaign or plan, but in the end it the continuous improvement and refinement will make your social media plan pay its dividends.

In summary, the above approach to building a social media plan will help guide you to towards succeeding in the social media goals you set forth. It won’t happen over night, or within a week or month. This takes time. It takes diligent and patience, and proper planning and execution.

There are a number of ways to approach and manage social media. And the ultimate goal is to encourage interaction with and among existing customers. This will help weed through the noise, and help you find and create more positive conversations and advocates of your brand.

Every business will have its own way of accomplishing this and has pros / cons to each. Whether its all centralized by a social media ‘guru’ you hire, or a shot gun approach with less centralized control (within some boundaries), ensuring that the conversations and your engagement is authentic and transparent is crucial. Your audience is smart after all right? They buy your product? So why treat them by anything less? They’re smarter than you, intelligent and expect transparency and authenticity by those people, and brands, they speak with.

Social media is great for business, but a mistake to mandate its control. This runs the risk of everything from poor messaging to inactive sites. To avoid the organic or “wild West” approach, select an agency, or an internal group or team, who understand social media. Then empower them to use it to your company’s best advantage.

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