Social media is more than just a fun way to engage and communicate with friends. It can be an extremely powerful business marketing tool if strategically implemented. A common mistake businesses make is failing to develop a formal social media plan. Having a plan for social media is just as important as it is any marketing strategy. A savvy business owner does not buy traditional advertising without developing a plan, and the same applies with social media.
A social media marketing plan includes many of the same elements of a traditional marketing plan. Research into target markets and consumer purchasing is a must. Identifying brand strengths and weaknesses is also important.
Once you’ve conducted research, it is time to start outlining strategies and developing your plan. Heer is your 6 step social media marketing strategy plan.
1. Identify a social media manager
With the many tasks involved with running a successful business, social media can fall by the wayside. Before your business embarks on a social media campaign, it is a good practice to identify a person or multiple people who will be in charge of monitoring and posting content. It is important for the social media manager(s) to not only ensure content is posted on a regular basis, but also monitor and respond to all comments and feedback. The assigned staff should be willing to monitor the company’s social pages 24/7, which can be easily accomplished through e-mail alerts and mobile apps.
2. Create branded pages
Once you have identified your manager(s), it’s time to create branded pages. First, determine which social media sites you want to use. Small businesses should consider Facebook, Twitter and Google+ at the very least. In some cases, other sites including LinkedIn, Pinterest and Houzz may also be appropriate.
It is important for all of your social media to have the same look and feel as your company website as in the example below:
Facebook cover pages do have some flexibility and allow you to have some very specific elements can be incorporated for maximum impact:
Use color and photos
Integrate your profile picture into your cover
Incorporate a call to action
Point out where people can call or contact you
After you create your social pages, be sure to include links on your website and invite all of your customers and friends to join your pages.
3. Develop a planning calendar
Now that your social sites are “live”, it is time to start developing a planning calendar. Ideally, this should be done on a monthly basis. Your planning calendar may outline the following:
Number of posts per week
Time the post will be made (you should vary your posting times)
Identify content for each post (this will be discussed in depth in the next section)
A planning calendar lays the foundation and ensures you are maintaining your social sites and posting on a regular basis. Of course, you can also post other news, tips and ideas as they arise. The biggest pitfall businesses run into are they generally have a lot of excitement when they first establish their social media presence, but the momentum quickly fades. Having a monthly planning calendar will help keep your social media efforts moving forward.
4. Generate engaging content
Now that you have identified a manager, set up your pages, and developed a planning calendar, it is time to start generating engaging content. Once you generate content, you can plug it into the dates/times you have reserved on your social media calendar to compose posts. As you consider content, think outside of your company and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What type of information is not only engaging, but is something followers would like to share? Creating sharable content is one of the quickest ways to pick up new followers.
Let’s take a look at some content ideas:
Weekly tips and advice
Post something humorous (in good taste)
Highlight and recognize your customers
Incorporate “social media” only offers
Be interactive – ask questions people will want to answer (i.e. “We are considering adding this new Italian chicken dish to our menu…what do you think?)
Photos and videos
Coupons and contests
“How To” videos
Sales and special events
Below is an example of a company posting a “How To” tip on Facebook:
Remember, maintaining the attention of your followers will keep them engaged.
5. Monitor responses and track your results
It is imperative to monitor all comments and respond in a timely manner. Good or bad, all feedback needs to be addressed. If someone praises your product and/or service, thank them. If they have a complaint or concern, reach out to them. It is important to investigate the validity of the negative comment and address it immediately. Customer feedback can help you better understand reaction to your products and/or services (we will discuss further in next section).
Also be sure to incorporate a good tracking system. This can really provide important insight into your customers and their behavior. Companies such as Global Response provide excellent outsourced social media analytics programs that can be easily incorporated and integrated into your social strategy.
6. Use results to better understand consumer behavior and reaction to your products/services
What better way to gauge customer demand than to ask them yourselves? Don’t be afraid to engage your followers and get their opinions. Doing so can help identify both areas of strength and weakness. As we discussed earlier, prompt response to comments is key to developing a relationship with your followers. Even big box stores work to maintain open and responsive communication with their followers:
As you can see in the example above, Wal-Mart does an excellent job addressing customer concerns. The first comment cues them in to the fact that that there is a high demand for a certain product because it is sold out at the local store. Wal-Mart directs the customer to a site where they can search other stores for the product. The second comment indicates a customer concern about order fulfillment. Wal-Mart addresses it and directs the person to a site where they can make suggestions on how the company can improve.
I find in my marketing practice, social media intimidates many small businesses. If you approach it like any other form of marketing and develop a plan, it can become a very useful and effective tool which complements your traditional marketing strategies. Good luck!
Guest Author: Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications. Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.
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‘He’s been taken in for questioning by the police.’
Woh! This was the outcome of a comment on Facebook that had been posted less than 24 hours before. A straightforward Facebook update generated a string of friendly banter — until one, very nasty comment. It was violent and sexually explicit.
The person monitoring the page immediately took a screenshot then hid the comment, the user was blocked and the issue escalated to the relevant parties including legal advisors. They then notified the police, who responded accordingly.
This was one of those very rare occurrences, but we were prepared for it. We had put in place a comment grading system, with appropriate responses and processes mapped out for each level. It was crystal clear what needed to happen when the comment was posted.
It’s sad that the process was required at all, but the potential for damage in social media comes from the unknowable scenario, the wild card, not just your regular complaints or what you’ve dealt with in the past.
There are 3 key factors here:
Someone was monitoring the page and saw the comment.
House rules were set on the page.
A social media response plan was in place for all comments.
There are a ton of different tools that you might use to manage your social media. Here are some you might like to try:
Hootsuite – is a great starting point. It starts off as a free tool and you can always upgrade to the premium paid version once you’re up and running.
Mention – is an awesome way to monitor what is being said about you online both on social and on websites. It also has a basic free version.
TalkWalker Alerts is a free service to fill the shoes of Google Alerts. They are a really simple (and free) way to keep an eye on what is being said about you online. For example I keep alerts out for “Bluewire Media”, “Toby Jenkins” and “Adam Franklin”.
Facebook Pages Manager mobile app – iTunes, Google Play – this app is a great way to manage and monitor the pages you administer.
“House rules” are your social media commenting policy which helps to set expectations for anyone wanting to get involved in your community.
We keep our House Rules very simple on the About Us tab on our Facebook page (feel free to copy):
Thanks for your interest in our page!
We really appreciate you leaving comments, photos, videos, and links here. However, we will review all comments and remove any that are inappropriate or offensive.
Thanks again for sharing and contributing.
Toby and Adam
Here are a couple of other examples I like:
Coca-cola’s Facebook page is a good corporate example with T&Cs that come with it:
This is your Fan Page and we encourage you to leave comments, photos, and videos here. However, we will review all comments and will remove any that are inappropriate, offensive, or contain external links. We will leave what you share that relates to the subjects covered on this Page. Please understand that comments posted to this Page do not represent the opinions of The Coca-Cola Company.
Tim Ferriss sets a simple standard for comments on his blog:
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)
So what are the 6 critical types of social media comments you must plan for?
Let’s use a burger joint to work with as an example.
Any comment that’s favourable.
Eg: “My burger was awesome!”
It’s always nice getting positive feedback, so use these opportunities to strengthen the relationship with that person. A simple ‘thanks’ usually does the trick. You can also share the love internally with your team.
A comment that is neither good nor bad.
Eg: “I’m having a burger for lunch.”
Responding to this kind of comment is up to you, but we recommend it. It’s a great excuse to engage in a conversation with a customer but if you’re way too busy, it’s also fine to let it go.
3. Negative – respond
This is a genuine negative comment.
Eg: “My burger was cold and took forever.”
Genuine complaints typically make up 99 per cent of negative comments, so it’s very important to have a clear process on how to respond. It’s good to keep a record so always remember to screenshot the comment. If you acknowledge the issue, apologise for it and then act to resolve it, you’ll have gone a long way to sorting it out. Try to follow up to make sure the issue is resolved too. These can be great opportunities to create what David Meerman Scott calls “badvocates”. These are people who’ve had a bad experience with you that, through great customer service, become advocates for your business.
4. Negative – ignore
This is a negative comment by a “troll” (a deliberate trouble-maker).
Eg: “Burgers are evil and so are the people that eat them.”
As in the Level 3 example above, keep a record and screenshot the comment. The unfortunate reality of the Internet is that trolls exist and they crave attention. So the best approach is to ignore them. The rule of thumb is “don’t feed the trolls“. Responding to them only gives them the attention they desire and deleting their comments only throws fuel on the fire and gives them an incentive to comes back under a different alias.
5. Negative – remove
This is a comment that is offensive, malicious or spam. That is, it breaches your “House Rules”.
Eg: “My waitress was a %^&*.”
Screenshot the comment then remove it and explain that it has breached your “House Rules”. You can warn the offender or block them if necessary.Either way, it’s a good opportunity to enforce your expectations and set the tone for your community.
These are comments that have legal or criminal ramifications (eg. threat of violence, breach of confidentiality, defamation, PR disaster etc).
Eg. “I’m going to burn this burger joint down.”
Screenshot the comment immediately and then escalate it to police, legal advisers or management for further advice as necessary. Hopefully you’ll never need to use this response, but having a plan in place to deal with it is the most important part. Then you’ll know exactly what to do if the time ever comes and you’ll be able to respond well under the pressure.
When I joined Facebook and Twitter in 2008 the key attraction was that you could gain attention and market on social media for free. There was little social media advertising available and it was usually not an easy task and not self service.
Brands started building tribes, followers and likes. Brands focused on growing “likes” on Facebook.
This allowed them to reach their customer for free without paying for a TV campaign, newspaper ad or radio advertising. The other attractive aspect of social media was that it also had global reach. Never before had there been a way to reach a global audience for free. It was unprecedented.
Smart phones added fuel to the fire
Added to the evolving mix was the increasing use of smart phones as they reached critical mass. This led to the rise of social networks that made mobile their focus. Instagram picked this trend and started as a mobile app and today is the fastest growing social network with a growth rate of 23% in just the last 6 months and is not far behind Twitter with over 200 million users.
Mobile and social has continued to be a manic mix that continues to add fuel to the fast moving social media marketing landscape.
Facebook “like gating” is gone
Just last week Facebook announced that it was changing the rules (again) on how brands can build their fans on their network.
So what happened?
They informed their customers and users that they were going to stop marketing apps “like gating“. So this means that apps and brands will no longer be able to “incentivize visitors to “like” a page to receive a discount, coupon or to even access free content.
Why are they doing this? Facebook’s take is they want to improve the value of a “like” so that only genuine fans are liking a page and not just to get a discount. A more cynical take on the news is that it competes with Facebook advertising.
Facebook in the last 12 months has continued to tighten the screws on organic reach with few as 2.71% of fans seeing your updates in their newsfeed.
Organic or free reach tactics are getting harder to achieve. Here is a chart showing the decline of organic reach in just 5 months.
The combination of more users, increased noise and declining organic reach means that paying for attention on social media is starting to become essential. It also means that you will need to be both smart and creative with your organic reach and marketing tactics.
8 paid social media platforms
As social media has moved from a perceived fad to an embedded trend that could no longer be ignored the evolution accelerated. Platforms started offering self service advertising. Today we have 8 of the major social networks offering social media advertising.
The cool calculation of your competitors weaknesses is easier than ever on a social web.
Had Zuckerberg ignored areas that he felt MySpace guys were doing wrong, or had Twitter founders relinquished the idea of creating ‘the SMS of the internet’, the World Wide Web as we know it might have been very different.
So many successful players in the internet marketing fold reflect the growing importance of competitive marketing analysis. What this information reveals to win on the web has become more crucial than ever.
Healthy competition and rivalry is fast growing into an essential fabric for success in the quickly-changing technology and marketing led businesses. The success mantra has evolved significantly over the last few years, especially when we look at the emergence of many game changers, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.
This is how the contemporary internet marketing practices changed, and competitive analysis strategies employed traditionally aren’t necessarily as effective today as they were before.
Competition analysis – vital for professional excellence?
Competition stresses better emphasis on perfection in your niche service fold. Success and professional excellence thrive on a hale and hearty competition, which is why knowing and understanding your rivals remains crucial to modern marketing tactics. Further, without a thorough comparison model and perceptive analysis, it is hard to determine whether your marketing strategy is earning great dividends or driving your hard earned marketing budget down the drain.
A vigorous competition watch kills two birds with a single stone – helps with better understanding of rival tactics and opens a window through which you can see your own problem areas. Further, I’m sure you’d agree that knowing where you stand at the moment is highly important.
Still looking for reasons to use competitive analysis in your internet marketing campaigns? Read through the following reasons and find out yourself.
Identify opportunities to serve newly acquired and prospective customers.
Determine size of the market – identify service gaps and areas for self improvement where competition is exploiting at the moment.
Find the tried and tested ways to cater the target market.
Identify and promote your unique value proposition.
Conclude if your marketing and promotions strategies are effective or not.
Knowing where you stand at the moment is very important. Competitive analysis on it.
Discover your rival’s secret success recipe
1. How are they filling the gaps in their service portfolio?
Extrapolate customer engagement signs for success/loss, understanding their campaign tone – peppiness implies confidence, seriousness implies pragmatism and orthodox approach suggests they are afraid to try new things.Look for behavioral patterns – campaign restructuring and changes (too frequently implies campaign failure, while occasional changes imply a campaign is working well.)
2. Investigate their customer acquisition approach
Look for rivals’ social media engagement – how frequently they respond to their clients, are their social media reps doing a decent job or not and subtle indicators of customer acquisition via self promotion. For example – “XYZ celebrates 500+ customers with free $100 worth of consultation/service free of charge.
3. How actively they are using social media and for what purpose?
Social media drives are different as we go from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to Instagram or Pinterest. Hence, try to find the purpose behind each one of them along with the common objective.
4. Their unique value proposition
Learn how your rivals are playing the game, so you can beat them at it fairly. The unique value proposition sheds light on the fraction of clients that your rival is fixated on.
5. What to find about your competitor and where?
This is a point where you really need to understand that a local store is not your competitor online if they don’t offer their service via internet. Your competitors based online could be entirely different. Examine new and emerging players in the market. Use tracking tools such as Google Alerts, Talkwalker, Mention, etc.
Evaluate the premise of your rivals – if you share similar ground, look for areas where a certain edge can be established and nurtured.
Competition analysis – How to do it effectively
Taking a sneak peek at competitors requires a little undercover work from the safety of your desk, and we are not talking about corporate espionage or anything. As fellow digital natives, I feel it’d be great idea to share my favorite competitive marketing analysis tools. We love marketing tool compilations, don’t we?
1. Dig their keyword prioritization – Dissect what your rivals are targeting and why. Look for those hidden keyword prioritization patterns and compare with yours. Dig deep and improvise to beat the rival opposition at their game. Keywords can be identified and worked using SEMRush, SuggestMtrx, Ubersuggest or SEOchat, amongst others.
2. Breakdown competition’s rankings – Something very important for in-depth comparison and easy to monitor. My favorite tools for the purpose are Authority labs, SERPs, Positionly, for their comprehensive filters and direct comparison.
3. Monitor their online reputation and visibility on search engines – It gets difficult if the competition works globally and you don’t. Other than that, reputation can be monitored with some brilliant tools like MOZ ToolbarSERP overlay view, OpenSiteExplorer, CognitiveSEO and MajesticSEO, for simple link data analysis and customizable reports.
The 6 step competitive analysis checklist
Avinash Kaushik has a fantastic piece dedicated at web data analysis, which I personally have extrapolated to execute a full-blown competitive analysis mix. Avinash has effortlessly broken down the web data analysis into ten simple steps. I use 6 of them. Here are the steps for analyzing your competition.
Step #1: Visit the website.
Make notes and focus on both good and bad items.
Step #2: How good is the acquisition strategy?
Breakdown and analyze direct, organic, referral and other traffic sources to find what’s working for them and what’s not.
Step #3: What is broken and fixable?
Look for problem areas – low performing landing pages, bounce rates, etc. Here’s another 25 point website usability checklist by Avinash for you.
Step #4: Are they doing content marketing, is it producing results?
Identify and drill down their content strategy. Check what’s attracting social shares and what’s lying unutilized in the bottom fold.
Step #5: What of the marketing budget?
Ideas for marketing budgets can be guessed from your rivals’ paid campaigns, be it Google Adwords or Facebook pay-per-click. Further, a simple comparison with your marketing campaigns would shed light on the campaign budget of your rivals.
Step #6: Unknown variables working in tandem or against business goals?
Search and discover areas that your competitors are exploiting well. It could be a service gap, untapped audience section or anything that is bolstering your rival’s industry footing. Make a note of it and start working at your end.
Importance of monitoring yourself
Gauging performance of your peers is almost as crucial as analyzing your own campaigns. It is important to take the attitude that your competition is analyzing your business and taking ideas from your hard work and that the tables need to be balanced.
Wrapping it up
Without an analytical market analysis, it has become hard to survive the heavy competition, even if your rivals are targeting different locations or niches to you – there is a lot to be learned. Figure out who can pose either stiff opposition to your brand, or teach your brand something, and pay especially close attention to them.
Guest Author: Vibhu Satpaul Currently the head of operations at Search Eccentric, an internet marketing firm which he also co-founded, Vibhu Satpaul is an avid believer of transforming contemporary systems having developed a number of paradigm shifting attributes for new technologies.
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One of the most popular terms used in the world of content marketing is the phrase “evergreen content.”
People get all excited about evergreen content because you only need to put in the work once and you reap the rewards over and over and over again for months if not years to come. Evergreen content keeps on giving, mainly because it is not time sensitive and is going to always be ‘in-date’ regardless of current trends.
This is exciting because producing good content takes time. The problem of course with evergreen content is the time is takes to come up with a concept for your blog posts that will withstand the test of time. But there’s one form of content that doesn’t take too much effort to conceptualise and will continue to produce traffic, leads and sales for the foreseeable: Case Studies!
Case studies not only add a huge level of authority to your website but are also one of those incredible ways of generating long term traffic. Let’s take a closer look at why case studies are as good as I say they are:
1. Case studies are very niche specific
The great thing about case studies is that they are never a filler. In other words, when people go to your website and read your case studies, they are clued in directly to the niche that you are covering. It’s hard for a case study to be a bit vague (if dealt with correctly of course). Case studies go into detail about your experiences of a particular activity. For example, you own a website selling the ultimate car valeting guide book and have a blog. Every month you could publish your method for perfectly cleaning particular elements of a car from the alloy wheels through to the engine bay.
It would be hard to discuss your experiences of cleaning an engine bay without talking about cleaning an engine bay and therefore car. You get the idea.
2. Case studies focus on your audiences problems
The reason why case studies are so respected and sought after in any content marketing strategy is that they are an easy way to link between yourself (and brand) and your audience. You can start your case study off with a story to draw in your audience and ensure you’re not just another brand selling stuff. A properly written case study lays out the issues and lays out principles that are applied to the issues and facts. Formatted this way, case studies are not only easy to read and follow, but it’s also very easy to extract value from them. This is why they are so powerful, popular and effective.
3. Case studies display the process
There are many different people in your audience: Some people in your audience are just looking for answers. Some people in your audience are just looking to be assured that whatever situation they are going through, somebody has experienced that as well. Many are just reassured of the stories that case studies bring to the table. However, a significant number of those people are actually looking for processes. They’re not looking for specific answers because they probably already have the answers, but they’re looking at how the answer was arrived at and why the answer is the answer.
Case studies are excellent sources for these people. Why? Case studies can be written in a process intensive way. Think of a process intensive case study like your Algebra problem sets in high school. Your teacher would always say “show your working”. Your teacher doesn’t care about the answer. Your teacher is more concerned about how you got to the answer. Case studies can walk the audience member through the process that produce an answer which leads us onto…
4. Case studies enable your site to stand out as an authority
Well-written case studies really shine. Anybody can write How-To Guides or FAQs. Anybody can compile interviews. However, case studies take a lot of work. Case studies, at the very least, require paying attention to certain common situations experienced by your audience members.
More importantly, case studies apply a deeper level of analysis so that the process is made clear and options are laid out. This level of detail and analysis help your website truly stand out as a source of authoritative content in your niche.
It goes back to the ‘show your working’ phrase again. Anyone can come up with the answer to a problem (and some will make that answer up solely to sell). If you can come up with a genuine answer and a set of processes (workings) that took you to that answer then your reputation in the niche will certainly sky rocket.
5. Case study presentations are modular and manageable
Another great factor going for a case study as a powerful example of evergreen content is the fact that it’s often formatted in a very modular way.
Since most internet users have a very short attention span, this modular presentation enables them to not just identify the answer quickly, but also wrap their minds effectively around the process that produced that answer. This enables you to present valuable information in a very modular, compact and manageable way.
6. Case study content can be easy to create
As powerful as the case study format is, you might think that it’s intimidating. You might think that it takes a lot of work to create. You might even think that it costs a lot of money to put together. The good news is that with proper tools and proper data gathering strategies, case studies can be put together quite easily.
If you cover a niche that has many established message boards and forums, you can actually base your case study on questions asked by forum members and get your answers from the responses. There are many resources like Yahoo answers that are great sources for case study elements.
The case study template
But here’s a quick template of how you could go about structuring your case studies:
The Story or Problem: The first part of your case study needs to explain what it is that you’re going to be solving. For example, if you were focussed on the grow your own niche. Your problem could be “Carrot Root Fly” a common problem when growing carrots. You would of course pad this out with your story. Explain that you’ve just started to grow carrots and so on… You could even do this story part as a reader’s question who emailed in.
The Potential Solutions: You then need to explain the potential solutions you could use. List 3, 4 or 5 ways you’re going to explore solving your issues.
The Testing: Now you’re going to put those solutions into practice and try each of them out to see what works.
The Results and Conclusion: This is the meat of your case study. You need to pick the best solution and explain why it is the best solution and also why the other solutions weren’t quite as good.
It’s a simple structure but it works. You could of course break your case study down into multiple parts that are drip fed to your readers over the course of a week or even a month depending on how in-depth you plan on going.
If you are looking to make your blog or website stand out from your competition, you might not need to look any further than the case study format. Case studies enable you to present solid information in your niche, show off your authority and also publish something that will stand the test of time and continue to generate traffic. Keep the considerations above in mind as you craft together your own particular strategy for producing case study content.
Guest Author: Lewis Crutch is the owner and main contributor to the blog at Marketing Bees that provides a range of free advice on an array of online marketing topics including SEO, social media marketing and content marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Marketing_Bees.