==== ====1 Wierd News They Dont You To Know...http://tweespi.com/socialmediaguide==== ====The hype is what often kills any effort to incorporate social media into a marketing plan; and thehype has been huge. Expect the initial wave to die down, as serious marketers get serious aboutsocial media as a tool to listen to and communicate with the customer.There are a lot of great articles on the web about social media; how to start it, how to convince theCEO you need it, how it is not a panacea for bad marketing; the list goes on and on. Its getting ahuge amount of attention and many people have developed strong opinions (read love/hate) aboutsocial media. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is a tool that needs to be as seriouslyevaluated as you would any new business initiative.The best way to evaluate social media is to make a business case for using it. Use your existingbusiness plan as your cornerstone. There are two areas where you will focus your efforts:marketing and customer service. By targeting prospects and customers you will be better able toevaluate its potential for a meaningful impact on the bottom line. Lets get started.Step 1: Do your HomeworkFirst get the facts as you would any new initiative. This will form your summary overview topresent to others in your organization, if you decide to move forward.1) Gain a working understanding of the tools: Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog sites, Facebook, YouTube,SlideShare, Foursquare, Tumblr, etc. To monitor activity, popular tools are ViralHeat, Radian6,Spokesignal, etc. Each has its unique niche in the user community. Make sure you know the prosand cons of each. While I dont normally recommend Wikipedia, it actually has a good section onapplication examples. Just wiki "Social Media" and youre there. There are links from eachexample that provide more detail.2) Understand the trends as they pertain to your demographic. Its easy to find. Nielson puts outquarterly reports on social media as do other agencies. Put together a couple paragraphs and achart or two, just enough to prove to yourself that social media is real and is actually used by yourtarget demographic. The latest Nielson report for Q3 2011 can be found on their website.3) Query at least 10 customers. This is key. Social media, used properly, is not about broadcastingcommercials about your company; its about your customers. Talk with them. Where do they gettheir information? Would they visit a Facebook or LinkedIn group if you provided them with usefulinformation or special coupons? What kind of information would they find useful? Make sure theyare willing to join a LinkedIn group. Would they sign up for Twitter? Would they view a demo ortraining class over YouTube? This is important as you begin to build your communities. Userswont connect if there is no value. You need to find the best way to encourage involvement.
4) Conduct a quick check on your competitors. What social media are they using?Step 2: Insert Social Media into your Business PlanThis step is critical to assess the fit of social media within existing initiatives and to put it in itsrightful place, alongside traditional tools.1) Highlight all areas of the plan that touch on communications with prospects and customers. Thisis where your social media entrance points will be. As an example:a. Customer communications: surveys, newsletters, focus groups, feed-backb. Prospect communications: advertising, press releases, trade shows, TV spots, radio spots, e-mail campaignsc. Although social media is not a replacement for any of these programs, it needs to be presentalong with these traditional communications tools so that it can be properly implemented andmeasured.2) In each of these areas, insert the best social media tool to compliment or extend existingcommunications tools.a. Example: As an extension to a newsletter sent to end users once a month, you mightrecommend a monthly WordPress blog, targeted to users. The blog can be set up to encourageresponses and comments. It can be authored by one of your customer service reps or a technicalperson.Each new blog can be announced via a LinkedIn group that is set up for end users only. It canalso be posted as a link from your website. The value-add is that now you have a "circuit" thatencourages discussion and interaction, in place of a single one way newsletter event.Step 3: Create an Implementation PlanHow will the program be executed? Key is content, consistency and measurement.1) Decide who will own the social media program. This is not easy in that everyone should ownthis and there are many good articles that passionately make this point. The truth is that it is veryhard to change the mindset of senior executives if they are wary of social media. Please do notassign this job to an intern! It must be connected to at least a mid-level marketing person, withoversight by an executive. This individual will be responsible for the schedule and tapping in-house talent for content.2) Who will own the monitoring piece? There are plenty of tools available to help companies tunein to what customers are saying about them. Some are free, others have a monthly charge. Youneed the involvement of a customer service manager to coordinate with marketing in that area.For more reading on the subject you might want to visit this site:http://www.informationweek.com/thebrainyard/news/social_crm/231400038.
3) How will you build your communities? Include a plan for getting membership for LinkedIngroups, Twitter accounts, Facebook friends, etc. Use the data collected from your customerqueries. These customers can become your first community members.1) Who will provide content? If you do not have buy in from people who can produce qualitycontent, all your efforts may be in vain. Thinly disguised "commercials" in the form of tweets andblogs will quickly be dismissed by your audience. Content should come from marketing, customerservice and at least one senior level manager, ideally your president or CEO. If thats you, great. Ifnot, remember, your CEO does not have to have his/her own WordPress and Twitter accounts,but there has to be a commitment to provide content on a regular basis. Be clear that you are notasking executives to blog or tweet. You are asking them to share their knowledge and expertise atleast once a month. This can be achieved via a short interview with a marketing person, over acup of coffee. It is an excellent opportunity for them to share their thought leadership --- somethingthey should be doing anyway!2) Set a preliminary schedule.This will depend on the social media tools you use. Twitter generally requires multiple daily posts.Blogs can be written monthly, as long as there is consistency.3) How will you measure impact?Take time to understand measurements that make sense for your company. There are a lot ofarticles about social media metrics. Find one that fits your business model.Step 4: Make a final assessmentAt some point along the line, as you learn more about social media, which customers are using it,what your competitors are doing and what the industry trends are, you will form an educatedopinion as to its feasibility within your organization. There are few industries today that cannotbenefit from using social media to engage their customers and articulate their unique value to theircommunity. If you are the top executive of your business, your decision will carry the weight tomake it happen. If you are at a mid-level spot, youll need to put together a report or presentationto properly communicate your findings. Either way, you have the confidence of knowing thatyouve evaluated it seriously and in context of your existing business plan.Step 5: Present your findingsRegardless of your personal thoughts and opinions, your work should take a format that can bearticulated to others in your organization and should contain the following:1) A short overview containing the statistics, metrics that pertain to your markets, customer inputand competitive use of social media that you collected in Step One. Its important that othersunderstand what social media is --- without the hype, of course.2) Breakout of the pertinent portions of your business plan, indicating where the social mediawould fit within the goals, objectives and tactics already outlined therein.
3) Implementation section, including who would run the program, how content would be created,schedules and measurement metrics. The way you measure your social media efforts will be keyin assessing its value. There are many articles on the subject of measurement. Here is one fromTopRank you may find helpful: http://bit.ly/pWEnsF.4) Closing summary which reviews the main points, articulates the pros and cons; the potentialvalue and the tasks required to implement, manage and measure a social media initiative. If yourecommend social media for your company, as stated earlier in this report, it is critical to getcommitment from the highest level of the organization and down through everyone who will haveinvolvement. To be effective, the use of social media must be consistent, involve quality content,and encourage two way communications with your customers and prospects.Wow! Why go through all this work? If and when you get to the point of recommending yourprogram, you will already understand the unique place social media holds within your business.Furthermore, you will have answered many of the key questions and demonstrated the tangiblevalue of integrating social media within your business plan. You will have a sense of how toimplement the program, along with who will provide content and a method of measuring itseffectiveness downstream. Finally, by placing social media within the business plan, youvevalidated its importance as a critical tool to reach beyond traditional marketing and customerservice activities.Not all marketers would agree with this approach. Some experts argue that social media is aphenomenon that cannot and should not be inserted into business plans. Others would assert thatyou "just do it!" and not over analyze it. This may be true. But our business plans form thecornerstones of our organizations. Social media, as a unique communications form, is being short-changed if it does not hold a prominent place there. And thats no hype!Good luck. Let me know where your evaluation of social media leads you.Sue SaldibarSusan Saldibar is an enthusiastic, results-driven marketing executive with over 20 yearsexperience in helping small businesses profitably grow to the next level in Orange County,California. Her expertise ranges from branding and positioning of start-ups to life cyclemanagement for mature product lines.Article Source:http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Susan_J_Saldibar