Social Marketing is a process

Social media marketing is a long term game. To the initiated this is an obvious statement, but I still find it surprising how often social platforms are used to try generate spikes in interest – in other words used in the same way the “one way conversation” media channels such as television and radio are used. The only time I have really seen social media marketing fail is when it planned, executed and measured for the short term. So let’s examine how best to plan for the long game.

It’s beneficial to think of social media marketing as a process. Like any business process you plan, document, measure and get more efficient all the time. Seeing social marketing from this point of view makes it much easier to think and plan for the long-term. Taking the long-view also allows you to take advantage of the continual feedback loops that exist as your market lets you know what they think about your activity. As your understanding of your market develops, you will no longer see comments as a threat, but as an opportunity to continually improve your approach until you have it right – and create a significant competitive advantage in doing so.

As a practical step I recommend developing a rolling 12 month plan. It should detail the content that will be created, who will be doing it and what actions need to be taken to get it distributed online. Planning this far in advance allows your company to recognise the long term investment timeframe. It will also allow you to set appropriate KPIs. It is vital to realise that the plan is a tool. You will still need to be flexible and responsive to customer behaviour. It should form the foundation that drives the changes necessary to succeed, and so will necessarily take some time to develop .

Every phase in your social media communications process should build on the preceding one. This means documenting and reviewing what works and what doesn’t. This then becomes a cycle: plan your next communication, execute the program, check how effective it is, act on the data and then back to the planning stage. This continual improvement approach will allow you to gather data while also ensuring you are picking up “quick-wins” along the way.

Communicating with your market will always bea fundamental part of doing business. Social media has made this quicker and easier, but also turned it into a public conversation. You may be planning on using social media as straight forward marketing channel, a customer service channel, or a channel to reward loyal and influential customers. It really doesn’t matter what the communications strategy is as long as you treat it as a process. This is  your key to success.

Social media can seem like a chaotic environment full of risks and uncertainties, especially as you are starting out. Collecting and analysing the data you collect over time will see those risks fade. Then you are just managing a process, like any other in your organisation.

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