If you’re thinking about embarking on a social media marketing program then the first thing you need to do is ignore the hype. Just like the Internet back in the late 1990s, everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon without fully understanding what they hope accomplish. Consequently there are a lot of abandoned blogs and stale profiles on social networks sitting around. Reminders of good intentions with no follow through due to lack of a proper needs assessment. Jumping into the social media fray is very easy and quite tempting. But an effective social media marketing program will include an effective strategy. Developing and executing your strategy should be the first item on your list as you ponder jumping in.
The first step in developing an effective social media strategy involves understanding your expected returns. You must be able to quantify what you hope to accomplish. Even if you are not able to quantify what you hope to accomplish, you should be able to describe exactly what it is you hope to achieve. For example, is your goal to build awareness for your products and services within a niche market segment? Or, do you hope to have a certain number of bookings in your sales engine by the end of the year? In some cases it may be that you are attempting to counter-market a competitors successful social media deployment? These are all worthy goals. Goals can be radically different. The point is that you have a goal in the first place.
Once you have identified the goal for your company then you need to understand how your target audience interacts with social media. It’s not just important to know that they have a profile on MySpace. It is imperative that you know your customers social footprint. You should know the percentage of your customers that use social networks and their level of activity on these domains. A thorough social footprint analysis should also include demographic information. This level of research will help you determine the mix of social media outlets to deploy in your marketing program.
Only after you have adequatly defined your goals and listed your audience characterisitcs can you begin to develop an effictive social media strategy for your company.