Every business plan, campaign, or project comes down to Tactics, Tools, and Strategies (hence the subtitle of my book). To conceive, develop, and implement a sound social media marketing strategic plan that will be successful needs to have those three critical components.
The order of execution may vary depending upon the person developing the plan. Some people do better with looking at lots of tools and asking themselves “How can I use these tools to accomplish my goals and which ones do I use?” While others may look at tactics that have been tried and proven successful and determine which tactics best apply to them and their goals. And, many start with developing a sound strategy, then determine which tactics and tools best suits their needs to accomplish their goals.
For this example, I will take them in the order of Strategy, Tactics, and Tools. So let’s begin by looking at the three levels of strategy necessary for developing a strong successful social media marketing plan.
Strategy - High Level
The first step in developing a successful social media marketing plan is to first develop a 50,000 foot level or high level strategic plan that will achieve the goals you’ve set for your campaign.
To begin, you may need to do some homework, look around the web, get some thoughts, read a book or two (like The Social Media Bible), and read some blogs. This will provide some exciting ideas about where you would like to start the process of developing your plan.
When you begin to develop your high level strategy you will find that multiple strategies will immediately emerge. You may identify two, three, four, of even a dozen different, sound strategies that will achieve your goals. Continue to develop all of the possible strategies you can until you have either exhausted all of your ideas or developed a list of strong candidates to choose from.
The next step is to explore each possible strategy you developed and weigh each one for their ROI (Return On Investment). You’ll need to estimate the amount time needed to develop and execute, the associated costs and expenses, and determine the return on each, based on your particular conversion strategies. Once you have determined the cost/value for each, you will know where the best ROI or bang-for-the-buck is for each possible high level strategy.
Now that each strategy has been identified and the ROI for each has been determined, the next step is to prioritize your list. In most cases you simply don’t have either the budget or the human resources to fully develop and execute every strategy scenario you came up with. You will have to choose, one or possibly two strategies to begin with.
Before we get any further into the theory, let’s apply these concepts to actually developing a social media marketing strategy. The idea is to increase revenues by augmenting your existing marketing strategy by adding social media as a significant component to your plan.
Step One - High Level Strategy
To begin, we first we need to develop several high-level strategies. Let’s say that after some research, discussion, and introspection, we determine our top three, high level social media strategies.
• Increase Awareness (develop brand)
• Build Community (engage prospects), and
• Generate Publicity (free-ink)
While these might also look like “goals”, they are strategies too. The primary and ultimate goal in any successful business strategy is to increase revenues. Each of the three strategies above are dependent the one another. They are all directly connected to each other and any one; will drive, increase, and improve the remaining two.
Let’s suppose we decide to start with a grass-roots approach by choosing “Building Community”. Be aware that Building Community is more than just a buzz-word. It refers to actually developing a following and engaging our customers and prospects in each of the social media platforms from blogging to microblogging, to Facebook or MySpace, to RSS feeds and comments, to more email list sign-ups.
Step Two - Mid Level Strategy
The second step in our strategic plan is to develop a mid level strategy. This is accomplished in the same way as we developed the high level strategy. We start with chosen the high level strategy “Build Community” and look at each of the possible social media strategies that will best accomplish our goals. We must realize that Building Community is probably the most ambitious and most resource intensive strategy in the list, while also returning the most significant pay-off of any identified.
When we take a close look Building Community and determine our mid level strategies we might find the following list.
• Build Your Twitter Following
• Drive Traffic To Your Blog
• Increase Your Facebook Fans
• Double Your Email List
• Generate Link Love, Google Juice and Other SEO Enhancements
Be aware that you could have chosen any of the other high level strategies and continued to follow this outline to develop a social media marketing plan developed around that strategy. Given enough resources, you are wise to go back and develop an integrated plan that includes all of the high level strategies you have identified above.
Step Three - Low-Level Strategy
The third and last step in developing a sound social media strategy is to now choose one of the mid level strategies. For the purpose of this article, we will choose “Drive Traffic To Your Blog”.
So, at this point we have determined that:
• To ultimately increase revenues, we need to augment our existing marketing plan by utilizing social media marketing.
• Of the high level strategies we developed, we’ve chosen “Build Community (Engage Prospects)” to develop first.
• Of the mid level strategies we have chosen “Drive Traffic To Your Blog”.
To fully develop the third step, low level strategy, it is helpful to use the old rule from cub-journalism, The Five “W’s”; Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Let’s look at each.
• Who’s going to do it?
• What’s going to be done?
• Where are we going to do it?
• When are we going to do it?
• Why are we doing it? And,
• How are we going to do it?
Lets’ rearrange the Five “W’s” to make it more logical to follow and actually insert the proper strategic answers.
What: We are going to develop and implement a social media strategy that will “Drive Traffic to Our Blog”.
Where: We are going to implement that strategy both on and off line to fully integrate our existing conventional marketing strategies and our newly developed social media marketing strategies.
When: Once our plan is fully developed we will begin implementation immediately.
Why: We need to connect with our audience, demographics, community, customers, and prospects to get them engaged in our brand and increase awareness, which will ultimately increase revenues.
Who: We will execute this strategy with in-house staff with only a little assistance from our external marketing company.
How: We will utilize all of the available tactics and tools that social media and the Internet has to offer.
O.K., our three levels of Strategy are complete for this one high level / mid level campaign. Next comes the Tactics.
Step Four - Tactics
When developing successful Tactics for each low level strategy you have identified, you must have some knowledge of what’s available to you in both existing tactics and their corresponding tools. This requires some research on your part or the assistance of someone who understands what’s available and how they have been used successfully.
If we know that we want to increase revenues by building community, by driving traffic to our blog, what are all the many ways the ways you can do that? Let’s take a look at a few of the actual tactics you can apply to drive traffic to your blog.
While this is an extended post about how to develop a social media marketing strategy utilizing proper tactics and tools, I want take the liberty to discuss some actual tactics in detail so you will have solid, specific take-aways from this article.
When you look at “driving traffic to your blog”, you need to look at the most basic and important component first; it’s content. Many have said that the term “content is king” is dead. Well the news of the death of the king has been greatly exaggerated. Your content must have a strong “What’s In It For Me, WII-FM. It has to have an “I Didn’t Know That!, IDKT response. Good content is why people read your blog. Good content is why people come back and read your next blog. Good content is why people RSS feed your blog. And, good content is why people refer your blog to friends, colleagues, and potential customers. It’s all about good content. Period.
In the early days of web development when bandwidth was at 300 bits per second, not the 256,000 to 768,000 bits per second it is today, most every web site only contained text and maybe an image. As bandwidth increase so did the web page content. We continuously added new media such as midi-music, then mp3’s, then movies all of which we called “rich media”.
Great content today needs to include as much richness as possible. That’s the power of the Internet and “hyperlinks”. In your great text you need to be sure it is rich with links to embedded video, audio podcasts, different or larger graphics, links to supplemental text such as jpg’s, Word docs, pfd’s or even other web pages. It’s all this additional interactive content that makes your blog “rich” and gives you great content value.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Because your blog resides on the Internet in the form of an html web page, every rule that applies to standard web pages still apply to your blog, if you want your posts found and indexed by the search engines. A very basic rule of driving traffic to your blog is the ability to be found; first by the search engines, then by your customers and prospects.
When completing your blog, you need to perform several of the housekeeping rules that us web programmers follow. The good news is that as a blogger, you don’t have to be a programmer to execute them. Many of the technical necessities are either fully automated or are provided to you in the form of a widget or plug-in.
Image Alt Tags
When the blogging platform ask you to give a brief description of your image you are uploading, there several reasons, so don’t skip that step. The first reason is, if there is a problem with your image and it doesn’t appear in you blog, you really don’t want a big blank box with a red “X” to appear where your image is supposed to be with no explanation. If there is a problem with the image, the “ALT” or alternative text will show up in its place.
The second reason is that the search engines will read these alt descriptions and factor them into the overall keywords for your blog and you will get extra points in the search engine page ranking if they match the content.
Keyword Meta Tags
Just like standard web pages, the search engine is looking for a keyword list in the header of your html code that tells the search engine what you think are the most important list of keywords that it should use when someone types their keywords into the search engine query. The search engine looks at your keywords and the words used in your content and if they match, you get more page rank points.
So be sure you have one of the automated keyword suggestion tool plug-ins installed so all yo have to do is look at the suggested list of keywords it provides on your blog post and select the ones you think are relevant. There are even plug-ins that search the Internet and look for associated words and popular keyword combinations (or keyword phrases) and provide those suggestions for one-click addition. That’s all there is to it! A couple of clicks and a ton of extra page rank points! Remember, if you want your prospects to find you, you have to make it easy for them!
You can even increase you page rank points if the documents you are linking to such as a Word doc or pfd document also use the same keywords in their titles. And if that wasn’t enough, you get extra points if those same keywords are actually used in the documents themselves.
Be sure you have installed a widget or plug-in that will perform automated SEO Optimization on your blog site. These are free and generally only a click to get them to work their magic.
While many believe that deliberate trademark or keyword sucking is unethical, I believe that if it’s done right and done ethically, it can be a huge element in driving traffic to your blog site.
Trademark sucking is when you mention a popular trademark (that isn’t your own), or uber-popular keywords of the day in your blog content to deliberately trick the search engines into believing that your blog is about those keywords. An example of this would be to include words like Apple, iPad, Facebook, or Google gratuitously in your blog just to get the search engines to use them as keywords or make those words a priority so that when people type Apple iPad Social Media into a search engine request, your blog comes up in the SERP (Search Engine Result Pages).
While using these gratuitously is unethical, working them logically into the content when appropriate would certainly help your page rank and drive you to the top of the search engines.
You can also climb to the top of the search engines by simply having a lot of content. The more content you have which contain the same or similar keywords, the more likely you will come up on page one of a google search for those words. My Google Juice is currently topping 128,000 individual pages that reference my me personally. There are a lot of Fortune 1,000 companies that don’t have that level of Google juice.
So just by continually creating and posting your blogs, commenting on other blogs, and encouraging others to mention your blog, you gain Google Juice. It this case, more is better.
The next factor you should look at applies almost always when incorporating social media into your conventional media mix, and that is Integration. Nearly everyone forgets this very simple exercise; integrate your conventional marketing with your new social media marketing. For some reason we continue to think of social media marketing as something separate from our conventional marketing when it’s not. Social media marketing is identical to conventional marketing, but for only two reasons; social media marketing is two-way communication and it uses different tools.
Here are a few ideas to get you started with integration:
• Are all of your social network links on your stationary?
• Is your blog address on business card?
• Are all of your social media addresses in your email signature?
• Is your blog address on return mailing label?
• Is your Twitter & blog address in all of your advertising?
• Is your blog address on brochure?
• Is your blog address in the company and mobile phone voice messages?
• Is your blog address in your videos?
• Is your blog address in your podcasts?
• Is “Visit Our Blog At...” in your direct mail pieces?
• Is your blog address in your email blasts... etc.
You get the picture.
You can further this exercise by creating an Interactive Email Signature where you add all of your social network and blog site links to your automated email signature while being sure to add the “http://” to each so your reader only has to click to get there.
You can Tweet your blog address and encourage your followers to stop by your blog for better, more complete insights that are greater than 140 characters. This post would have taken more than 30 individual Tweets to send. Something like “If you like my Tweets, you’ll love my blog! http://bit.ly/9vWnXV”.
Also be sure that your blog site is clearly mentioned and obvious on your Facebook Fan page, your LinkedIn profile, and any other social network you are participating in. And when you send out an email blast, be sure you blog address is not only in your automated signature, but also in the content of your email. Tell people to visit you blog. They won’t think to do it if you don’t tell them!
Cooperative & Comment Marketing
Another successful tactic to driving traffic to your blog is Cooperative & Comment Marketing. Be sure to set your Google Alerts for all of the keyword phrases you use in your blog. Note which web pages and blogs are returned. Use the Google Blog Search feature from Googles’ pull down menu to identify all of the top blogs being written in your industry using your keywords.
Go to each of the top blog sites and participate. Read the blogs and place valuable comments on those blogs. Add new information, a different perspective, maybe argue a different point of view, but participate. Listen first, then participate. It’s similar to going to a networking event. You would never walk up to a group, interrupt them, and begin telling them what you sell. That would be completely inappropriate behavior. Step up to the group, listen for awhile, and when you have something of value to add, wait for the right time and add it. You are now part of that trusted micro-community.
By adding your comment and having your blog site part of your registration on the comment and occasionally mentioning a similar blog or similar topic on your blog site in the comment and giving the URL; you are building Link Love. When the blogger reads your posts and think they are worthy of linking to, you are building a trusted relationship and building Link Love.
You can also ask the blogger if you could post an excerpt or all of one of their blogs on your site with a link back to their original blog. When you do that, you are building Link Love and you cooperatively marketing each others blog sites. A true win / win!
You can also build relationships where you can blog on high traffic industry specific blog site like this one and also build relationships, build trust, build Google Juice, build Link Love, and ultimately “drive traffic to your web site!”
Step Five - Tools
The last step of this process is to identify the tools you will use to accomplish each of these tasks. In this example you would want to take some time to identify or depending upon your expertise have someone identify the best tools available to execute each of your tactics. An example would be:
Content & Rich Media
• What blogging platform will you use; WordPress, Joomla, other?
• What word processor will you use with the best editing, grammar, and spell checking tools; Word, Pages, other?
• Where will you post your video so it can be efficiently streamed to your blog; YouTube, Vimeo, TubeMogul, other?
• Where will you post your photos; Flickr, PhotoBucket, other?
• What keyword plug-in’s will you use; Quick META Keywords, Search Engine Keywords Plugin, other?
• What SEO Optimization plug-in do you use; All in One SEO Pack, HeadSpace2 SEO, other?
• What tool will you use monitor your tweets; Tweetdeck, Seismic Desktop, other?
• What tool will you use to send out scheduled Tweets, Hootsuite, Twuffer, other?
And so on.
Once you have gone through the above exercise and have reached this point you have completed a fully developed, one successful social media strategy, which can now be incorporated into your existing marketing campaign. Now comes the real effort, the implementation. The best advice I have for this is to stick with it and don’t give up. Remember success, even while using social media, and developing a killer strategy, won’t come over night. It takes work and it takes time. And, you’ve only developed one strategy. Once you have successfully implemented this strategy and are fueled with enthusiasm by the results, go back to the top and start again with either a new high level or select one of your mid level strategies and start the process over again.
Implementing any successful strategy will increase your awareness, build your brand, engage your community, drive traffic, and ultimately increase your revenues!
Below is a graphic of what I have been discussing for all of us out there who are visual. The graph below is a minor over simplification of the intended final product.
- Lon Safko. Author of The Social Media Bible