Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan

Everyone is rushing to social networking sites, but do you really have a plan for how to best utilize this phenomenon for your business? There are millions of people online but only a subset of them are your prospects. You can waste a great deal of time and effort if you have not mapped out your plan for targeting your key prospects. I can tell you from first hand experience that you need to have a plan so that you can maximize your efforts.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Linked In are some of the most popular sites, but there are hundreds of others such as Plaxo, Meet-Up, Friendster, Flickr, Cafe Mom and Black Planet just to name a few. Here are some high level stats on the leaders.

Twitter – Founded 2007; Unique US Monthly Visitors : 21 million

Facebook – Founded 2004; Unique US Monthly Visitors : 87.3 million

MySpace – Founded 2003; Unique US Monthly Visitors: 62.8 million

YouTube – Founded 2005; Unique US Monthly Visitors: 87.7 million

Listed below are things consider when building social networking into your marketing plan.

What Image Do you want? The internet allows people to Google you, your company and gain access to a great deal of information about you with just a few clicks.

You must decide early on if you are going to build a personal profile, a profile for your business or both. I once had a prospect call our office who had already looked at company website, Facebook and linked in profiles before he decided to call me about my business. He knew a ton about me and quoted my background to me during our conversation. I was was confident in the information and profiles I had created online. In my case, I have both personal and business profiles on line but it all depends on what type of business you are in. In the business of consulting, personal reputation and experience is what your target cares about – they are looking for a marketing expert. Whereas if you are selling a product to consumers, the product should be the lead persona…unless your story is relevant to the product (i.e. testimonial) they really don’t care who created it.

Who are your Customers? Know who your target is and how to connect with them online. Don’t waste time connecting with the masses. I was advised to get on Twitter right away and to follow as many people as possible to get the word out about my business. I even joined tweet later to automate following folks who followed me. At one point I had up to following nearly 2000 people (the max based on followers) and had almost 1500 following me. I ended up with a global network of endless useless, chatter that was impossible to weed though. I had to un-follow a bunch of spammers in order to get and deliver more relevant tweets. The correct strategy would have been to selectively choose folks to follow by looking at the profiles of my prospects. See who they are following – media, other businesses – carefully look at their profiles before you connect. The automated twitter tools do not work well with a selective strategy…

Where do you customers hang out online? Your marketing research should reveal everywhere customers are online as well as offline. You need to know where do they shop, search, get news, weather, and chat. Is your target B2B or B2C and where are the best places online to market to them? Are they Gen Y’ers on MySpace or are they corporate professionals on LinkedIn? How do you find out this information? Survey current and potential customers and start to build a profile on them to understand their online habits and behaviors. Your target may belong to a social networking site but may prefer to network the old-fashioned way.

Understand the purpose and focus of the social networking site. Make sure you understand the nature of the group and make sure you understand the protocol and rules. For example, LinkedIn is not a generally a place to just sell…you can easily lose valuable connections. LinkedIn connections may be considered a higher honor than a Twitter connection. Twitter friends are more accepting casual chatting and open sales pitches due to the nature of the site. Be clear on the rules and learn how to play them.

Where are your competitors? Find out which social networking sites your direct competitors are on and make sure you are there as well. Become a fan or follow them to see what kind of activity and comments they are getting to ensure the strategy makes sense for your business. Analyze the content they provide and determine how you can differentiate yourself from your competition.

What is your communications strategy? What kind of content and information are you going to provide? You should have a communications plan that includes that what, when and where of your messages on social networking sites. For example, will you provide valuable secondary information to your target or will you deliver a direct sales message? If you have created a business profile, make sure your message is strictly business related – don’t start posting unrelated topics or personal thoughts on random subjects. Whatever profile you build, you want to keep the messaging consistent. Determine how often you will communicate and plan fresh messaging so you posts are relevant and timely. The important point is to be consistent.

How do you measure success? The channel has yet to truly prove a return on investment, but lots of businesses are banking that the awareness generated will impact sales. Consumers have an incredibly high level of engagement on these sites and spend more time on social networking sites than on email.

If you decided to jump on the bandwagon and engage in social networking for your business be sure you have researched your market and that you have a plan to communicate and measure results. Be patient! This is a new channel and you dont want to miss the boat – you’d better believe that your competitors are engaging in social networking so you should develop a strategy that differentiates you from your competition.

FREE sample Social Media Marketing Plan! Visit http://www.GoKeyPoint.com

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