Social Media Strategy from A to Z

Social media might be old. It might even be a dead buzzword. That’s why you need to paint a picture that’s more meaningful and encompasses what “social media” as a label really is.

Some of us have been thrust into social media simply because the online landscape showed potential for online conversations. Others have been there for over a decade. Regardless of the many years of experience you have in the online space, the ideas behind social media and social media marketing are applicable to everyone. Let’s take a look at some lessons, takeaways, and tips.

Always be Listening. Social media rocks because it’s one of the most amazing tools for “free” market research. Your investment is merely that of time. Take the time to hear what people are saying about your business. If you’re the frugal type, take advantage of the free alerts from Google, YackTrack, Social Mention, BackType (which gives you alerts from blog/article comments, which other services do not include), and Trackur.

Blogging. Who said that blogging was dead? Perhaps 140 character streams have replaced regular blogging, but I’ve been blogging more than ever lately. Blogging helps you build community (especially via comments), establish thought leadership, bring links to your website (both internally, perhaps to products or to other articles on your blog, and externally, when people like what you say and opt to link to you), and get you some nice traffic. If you can blog, you should. And read these tips on how to become a great blogger.

Customer Service. The letter “C” could be a lot of things, like “content,” “consistency,” and “community,” but customer service is a big part of the evolution of social media. This shift is becoming increasingly more obvious. The role of customer service online is becoming equivalent to social media marketing. If you use the online space to offer customer service, you are essentially marketing yourself. Showing a public interest in your customers and genuinely offering help helps nurture a positive perception of your brand.

Drive Leads through LinkedIn. Lead generation and client acquisition can be had on LinkedIn, especially in the B2B space, just as long as you’re active and engaging. Linkedin lead generation requires commitment to answering and asking questions on Groups/Answers, taking advantage of the deep searches, and connecting directly with those around you in your network. Effective use means more business.

Engagement. It’s not enough to broadcast. “Look at this! Twitter! Let me port my RSS feed to it and be done with it!” Nope, that’s the wrong approach. Engagement requires regular interaction between you and others. These are conversations, not broadcasts. You may not want to do it super frequently, but you should do it everyday. Be responsive. Offer value. Give to your community.

Friendships. Thought I was going to say “Facebook?” Sorry. The best types of social media marketing arise from genuine concern as if your customers are true friends. How many of you have made true friends from merely engaging in this space? Exactly. There’s so much to gain from being networked, and you’ll find that there’s a real reward in finding out that these relationships turn into something much more.

Goals. You shouldn’t jump into social media just because “everyone else is doing it.” There’s a lot of potential, of course, and it looks mighty appealing, but setting goals is advisable as well. You might want to consider the SMART formula for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals. Whatever goal methodology you adopt, don’t jump into social media without having something you want to gain from it.

Human Business. Social media marketing is what you might call “human business.” I often use explain it as follows: “social media marketing is all about ‘leveraging’ the social through its media to market to your constituents.” “Leverage” may sound a tad too exploitative, because the idea is to build genuine relationships that put the customers first before promoting your own agenda. As such, it’s important never to lose sight of the “human” in the business. Social media marketing recognizes the fact that this online space allows millions of people to congregate and to communicate with one another, and it’s not much different than sitting in a real room talking to real people. Never lose sight that the online space is a human medium.

Influence. Social media gives you an opportunity to exert influence onto customers and prospects. If you’re active in any particular medium, you become influential. That influence often translates to interest; people want to hear what you have to say. Here are tips on becoming an influential blogger.

Join the Community. It’s not enough just to sit back and relax and hope that people notice you. Joining the community, and more importantly, participating, is crucial. Everyone needs to do work — real work — to reap the benefits of social media marketing. You can’t hope that someone remembers you when you’re not aggressively and actively doing that which makes you remembered. You need to court new customers. You need to keep your current customers happy. By joining various communities, you have the opportunity to meet with prospects and build relationships with current customers.

Kirtsy and Other Niche Social Networks. Did you know there’s a social news website catered to women called Kirtsy? There is. For any interest in the world, there’s an online community for it. You just need to look. Kirtsy is a social news network; there are also forums and even Yahoo! Groups. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these communities and not to focus merely on the big players. Your target market might be hiding in a niche forum somewhere out there. Start digging and maybe you’ll reap some serious rewards.

Location. People always ask me what the “future” of social media is. I think that where we are will continue to evolve, but we’re seeing that face-to-face connections have a role in social media marketing as well. FourSquare, Gowalla, Loopt, and other location-aware services are social networks, unifying real connections. Beyond that, though, there’s the potential for businesses to run with special promotions, bringing more people to a business location and maybe even cultivating new friendships as well.

Marketing Beyond the Social. This is a blog post intended to address social media strategy, but social media marketing is not a panacea. It alone is not the only marketing solution. There’s display advertising, print/TV ads, SEO, PPC, email marketing, snail mail, etc etc. Focusing solely on social media might be nice, but your marketing reach should be a little more extensive than focusing on Twitter and Facebook. That said, marketing beyond the standard mediums (see letter K) should also be a given. I’m going to bet that 99% of you have not tapped into some the most powerful online communities that can serve you or your own clients.

Nurture Perception. Sure, people don’t want to lose control of the conversation. That’s one of the biggest reasons for companies not to engage in social media at all. They like dictating and broadcasting, and they’re afraid of a two-way conversation and the potential negative impacts of engaging. They’re especially worried when people are already saying negative things about them. That’s where you as a business, one that genuinely cares about building true relationships, can shine. You may not be able to change perceptions overnight, but you can certainly nurture those perceptions and give customers reasons to give you a chance in the future.

Opt-in, not out. Using social media is a privilege, but someone friending you on a social network doesn’t mean they agree to receive unsolicited messaging. This explicitly references the LinkedIn or Facebook connections that give you access to a person’s precious “commodity,” his email address. Just because you have access to it doesn’t mean he wants your newsletter. A relationship is not a newsletter opt-in, and quite frankly, it’s spammy. If I give you my phone number at a dinner party, it’s probably because I want to know about you, but I’m not inviting you to start hounding me with sales calls. Don’t opt someone into communications just because they’re your newest LinkedIn contact. Do it because they want to be a subscriber and explicitly opted in first.

Participation is Marketing. This term was coined by Chris Heuer five years ago and still rings true. The idea is that when businesses participate in social media (and do so because they want to actually be members, not marketers), their sheer presence and activity on the service translates to marketing. What does that mean for you? By engaging, being yourself, being altruistic (and coming bearing gifts, looking to offer value and not to receive), you’ll gain some followers and fans, and maybe even customers.

Queen. That’s what marketing is, according to Gary Vaynerchuk. Content is king, but marketing is the queen, he said. (I even have the shirt.) Content alone is not enough. Blogging is wonderful, but if you’re not going to market those blog posts, you might as well not be blogging at all. With billions of pages of content and yottabytes of data, marketing is how you’ll get people to see what you have to offer to the world.

Reputation Management. If you’ve seen a negative search result for your business name, social media marketing might be able to help. By creating social media profiles, updating content regularly, and actively participating on social media networks, you may be able to successfully push down those negative mentions of your business name.

Simplifying with Tools. One of my favorite things about social media marketing is simply the many tools that make your life so much easier. Tools that especially help consolidate the actions across social networks in one single location are quite helpful. Social media doesn’t have to be a challenge thanks to tools that help you track measurement, assess the reach of campaigns, give you updates when someone talks about you, and more. I’ll go into some tools in future posts (and we’ve seen some great listening tools under the letter A), but it becomes obvious that those of us involved in the social media space are quite fortunate; our jobs are made much easier thanks to so many software applications out there. Of course, never forget that this is human business, and the tools aren’t supposed to replace relationships.

Time. Want to be an “overnight success?” Sorry, that’s not something you can do in social media marketing. Sure, you can have viral campaigns that truly rock, but at the end of the day, it’s all a substantial time investment. I’ve said it before; social media is not a silver bullet. While some campaigns are formulated to broadcast and promote on social channels quickly, true social media marketing relates to building relationships with customers and constituents. That takes time. It won’t happen overnight and you shouldn’t expect it to happen in one month’s time either. If you’re in it to win it, you better be doing it for the long haul.

Understanding Your Community. Three years ago, I wrote that owning your community requires understanding of who they are. People love the prospect of submitting to Digg, for example, and some immediately submit the spammiest articles to the service. I’ve seen press releases, non-English releases, and everything else in between. Before you jump in, you need to actually observe and understand the culture on these services. Learn the rules, the language, and the things that make them tick. You can’t succeed in social media without understanding the community.

Value. Your success as a blogger and promoter really comes from offering value to your audience. It’s not about regurgitating content through twitterfeed, and it’s not about summarizing a post from Mashable without giving additional insights. Value-add comes from injecting your own thoughts, opinions, and feelings. It’s about giving someone else an education and/or leaving them with something to think about.

Word of mouth marketing. Social media is a big part of word of mouth marketing. After all, you’re using social media to talk, but hopefully you’re also working harder to get people to talk about you. People listen to their friends’ recommendations. In fact, are you surprised that Google now takes advantage of this in the form of social search?

Xperiment. Okay, that’s not a word. But experimenting is critical for success. You won’t know until you try. You can always run with some tests, get some feedback, and see if you can run with it full scale. Use the feedback others give you to improve or to go ahead with it. And don’t be afraid if you fail. Just consider that an opportunity to grow and do better the next time around. If you as a newcomer to the space see social media marketing as an experimental pilot program and use any feedback you receive as input for tweaks, you’ll consistently see improvements.

YouTube. YouTube now has 2 billion views per day. It’d be silly to ignore YouTube as a potential medium for marketing your business. It would also be silly to limit distribution of video by preventing them from being embedded onto other websites. That’s how the message spreads. If you’re considering video, do something creative; look for the traits of the most successful videos and do it better. And of course, don’t only focus on YouTube; there are other video syndication sites that you can spread your message to.

Zealous. Let’s put it this way: the most successful social media marketers are both passionate about what they represent and the act of marketing. They don’t shy away from putting their best foot forward — they know that the fact that your favorite search engine does not forget means you need to be on your best behavior always. This doesn’t get to them; they’re still offering service with a smile.

Sure, this only scratches the surface of social media marketing, and there are only 26 takeaways, but hopefully these tips, tricks, and tools will be able to get you thinking. What other social media ideas would you add to the list?

Photos by Shutterstock.

Tamar Weinberg is a hustler and juggler. She is the VP of Marketing at Ruxly Creative, a creative marketing agency. She's the Director of Sales at Internet Marketing Ninjas, a 100+ employee search engine marketing agency located in upstate New York. She also rocks global sales at financial media publication Wall St. Cheat Sheet. Finally, she is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. Oh wait, and she's also the community manager at Namecheap. Yeah, like a boss.

56 Comments

  • May 28, 2010

    Hugo from Zeta

    Great stuff!

    I think that your point on “Opt-in, not out” is so crucial. Marketers have been getting this wrong since the heyday of direct mail, then continued (and continue) to get it wrong with email marketing, and are now porting over that same old broadcast mentality in social networks.

    • May 28, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks Hugo. Sadly, people don’t get it. They want to spam you first and ask forgiveness later. I’m at the point where I’d rather just call them out. And I never do that on this blog.

      Last night I was going through an old guest post pitch from a good friend who called out certain PR agencies for their stupid pitches. I told him I couldn’t run with the piece because he explicitly named the individuals and their agencies and I wouldn’t call them out. I’m starting to think about changing my mind. Some people need public embarrassment to be silenced.

  • May 28, 2010

    Rob Diana

    Tamar

    Thanks for mentioning YackTrack! I always appreciate some good publicity. It may not be obvious from the UI, but YackTrack does support email notification on blog comments. If you think you have it enabled, then maybe there is a bug and I would just need some details. Feel free to send me an email.

    Rob Diana
    YackTrack.com

    • May 28, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks Rob – I’ll have to explore further. BackType is known to do this exclusively which is why I pointed it out, but it’s good to know that you’ve got it covered too. :)

  • May 28, 2010

    Susan

    Hi Tamar,

    Great article about social media.I love your realistic approach because so many clients we talk to do not realize the time commitment needed, or the imperative of providing VALUE to their customers.

    Thanks again.
    Susan

    • May 28, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks Susan. It’s hard work. This is so straightforward (to some) but it was a lot of work to even write.

  • May 28, 2010

    Kristi Davis

    Fantastic. I’m just starting our company blog and great rules to live by!

  • May 28, 2010

    Dana Lookadoo

    This is award-winning and should be read by new and experienced marketers. I especially like your emphasis on time, listening and community engagement, which runs contrary to the standard (human nature) mindset of broadcast and me, me, me.

    Your A-Z list could be a mnemonic device to memorize the essentials. I’m challenged to do so.

  • May 28, 2010

    Joel Libava

    Tamar,

    You outdid yourself on this one. Jonathan Fields was nice enough to Tweet this out, and I am so happy that he shared.

    Wow.

    The Franchise King®

  • May 28, 2010

    Jimmy D

    Excellent content and advise – I like the Opt In and Opt out as well!

  • May 29, 2010

    Jonathan Volk

    Really great, detailed post. Thanks Tamar!

  • May 29, 2010

    Seth Grimes

    Tamar, “I” is taken for Influence, but what about Integrate, as in link your social media work to enterprise customer-relationship (CRM) systems, demographic & customer data, competitive intelligence research, product-design and quality initiatives, and the whole range of other corporate efforts? If you don’t at least start working to integrate social media with other enterprise systems, you’ll be treating social media as a siloed information source and you’ll miss out on an opportunity to both improve those systems and your social-media responsiveness.

    Seth, @sethgrimes

    • June 3, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Seth, “I” can be a lot of things, and I tried to allude to the fact that there are multiple meanings for many of these letters when I explained why I chose “C.” But very good point — integration is incredibly important.

  • May 29, 2010

    Gemma Craven

    Tamar, great advice. Particularly re the silver bullet comment. There are still many folks out there wanting 2 million views on this or 1,000 extra followers there without really thinking about why they really want to achieve those numbers. Your SMART guiding principles, are in a word, very smart!

    Look forward to talking more!
    Gemma

  • May 29, 2010

    Kwame

    Excellent!

    Tamar, I agree with all your points here and I want to add that social media involves human psychology. For example, people need to learn the art or laws of persuasion in order to foster their relationships with their clients or followers.

    People need to know when to get personal and when to get professional. Social media is not all about ‘just having fun’, neither is it about ‘being serious all the time’ with your customers or followers. ‘Serious all the time’ is boring and ‘having fun all the time’ is unprofessional. There should be a balanced mix of both.

    Where is the other half of the baby in this post :) ?

    • May 30, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks Kwame – so true. It’s not just psychology though but sociology and other disciplines as well.

      And haha, that was a stock photo – that’s all I got!

  • May 30, 2010

    Elizabeth

    AWESOME post!! Out of curiosity, what happened to “J” ?!? :)

    • May 30, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      LOL, I have no idea where it went! I’ll have to update that! Good eye!

  • May 30, 2010

    Hayley McClellan

    All this information in the one place. Very informative.
    Thank you.

  • June 3, 2010

    links for 2010-06-03

    [...] Social Media Strategy from A to Z Some of us have been thrust into social media simply because the online landscape showed potential for online conversations. Others have been there for over a decade. Regardless of the many years of experience you have in the online space, the ideas behind social media and social media marketing are applicable to everyone. Let’s take a look at some lessons, takeaways, and tips. (tags: socialmedia socialmediamarketing socialnetworking seo marketing) [...]

  • June 3, 2010

    Scott Dylan

    Were currently researching Social Media Marketing, this is an interesting article, got a few good pointers. Thanks alot Tamar.

    Scott Dylan

    • June 3, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks Scott. It’s fun. You’ll love it :)

  • June 3, 2010

    Alexandre Viveiros

    Beautiful article!

    In my opinion, a good summary to everything you say is: Be your own true media.

    • June 9, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks – and yes, so true. Great way to put it.

  • [...] Social Media Strategy from A to Z by Tamar Weinberg [...]

  • June 5, 2010

    See below

    Tamar

    Great collection of thoughts. Seen a few posts touching on bits and pieces but this seems to be well thought out and more concise than anything I’ve seen.

    A couple places people seem to get stuck – broadcasting and engaging.

    Edited: Thanks for your thoughts, reactorr, but I’ve edited your name as per my blog policy.

  • June 7, 2010

    John

    Good article! Tamar, thanks for intersing information

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  • June 12, 2010

    sindi

    very helpful!

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  • July 26, 2010

    Beth S Miller, ABC

    Tamara: You just rock. I’ve been researching the steps of developing a social media policy for an F-100 company and you laid out the A-B-Cs so clearly. As a marketing communications consultant I’ve been evangelizing social media as another tool in the kit. This post totally validates the need to integrate not segregate its power. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  • September 13, 2010

    Kimberly Juchnowski

    Great article yet again! The info you share really help people like me who are just starting out. I feel like I have some guidance now:) Thanks Tamar.

    • September 14, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks! :) I really am happy to know you like it, Kimberly!

  • September 20, 2010

    pligg.com

    Social Media Strategy from A to Z » Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg…

    Social media might be old. It might even be a dead buzzword. That’s why you need to paint a picture that’s more meaningful and encompasses what social media…

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  • February 15, 2011

    John Carraway

    Really in-depth article. I think there is a lot of sound advice and will look to implement some of this on my websites.

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  • March 21, 2011

    Greg So

    I totally agree on your stance in engagement. Just listening is not enough, you also need a strategy to be directly engaging in both your customers and also in criticism.

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