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How to start your social media marketing campaign

Hopping on to the social media marketing (smm) bandwagon, you’ve decided that social media marketing (smm) is the way forward. But what happens next?

Clients often ask which social media marketing channels should we focus on? do we dive straight in or do we take a softly softly approach?

Personally I favour the strategic and structured approach to all methods of online marketing – which means that much needs to be considered before you can actually do a thing.

While getting started may therefore take a little longer, it means that everyone involved is 100% clear what we’re trying to achieve, how we’re going to get there and who’s doing what and when. ultimately that’ll save everyone involved both time and money.

For social media marketing (smm) the following strategic approach works well:

1. listen up and listen good
a key part of your situational analysis (and indeed your ongoing strategy) is to take time to listen to the conversations going on across the world wide web by monitoring what is happening in blogs, forums, social networks and other social media channels. try to establish:
• where are your target audience already active?
• who is saying what about you and where?
• what is being said about your industry and competitors?
• what is the compeition doing in the social media space?
• who are the key influencers in your sector?
• what do your customers like/dislike, what they want and need?

2. establish some key objectives
the only way to measure any marketing success is to know where you were to start with, have a clear idea of where you wanted to be and, of course, know where you are now. so, what are your objectives?
• are you looking to increase the percentage of positive brand mentions?
• do you want to drive an increase in traffic to your main website?
• do you want to generate conversions such as new site subscribers or even new customers and sales?

Always try to be “smart” with your objectives: they have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. for example: “to generate a 10% increase in email subscribers via smm channels by december 2008”.
one of the great things about the internet and online marketing is that it’s usually quite easy to monitor performance, so if you’re clear about where you’re going you can check your progress.

3. Join in
when you know where to engage and with whom, the next step is to participate. there are varying degrees of involvement and it’s generally a good idea to start simple.
• introduce yourself: be transparent about who you are (include a company name where applicable, and even a url – that’s great for search engine optimisation!)
• show some personality – noone wants to hear bland corporate claptrap.
• thank people for positive comments and reviews. even if you can’t resolve an issue there and then, it at least shows you care.
• manage any crises by responding quickly to any negative comments, reviews or feedback
• build relationships with the influencers out there – ask them to review your latest product
• generate your own positive word of mouth about your brand, products & services
• request feedback about your brand, products & services

4. get your own blog
creating your own social media marketing channel can be a bold but positive move and, although they can be free to create, will usually require a lot of time to setup and maintain going forward – who’s going to create and add all those weekly posts? all that aside, blogs are incredibly powerful tools for:
• showing how much you know and care about your industry
• encouraging dialogue with new and existing customers and employees
• sharing new brand information and new products & services with new and existing customers and employees
• influencing media coverage – the first stop for a lot of journalists these days is the good old internet.
• getting input and feedback for new product and service development
• improving search results (think of all that keyword rich content!)

5. Are you facebooking at me?
there are already several hundred million facebook users all over the world, in several languages and that’s one hell of a captive audience. that said, far from being a place to push corporate messages, facebook needs to be seen as an opportunity to engage and add value. there are a number of opportunities for businesses on facebook (the majority of which are free to use), including:
• facebook pages
create a free dedicated brand or product page and (with a little persuasion) people will sign up as “fans”, and help you to generate content by adding comments, uploading pictures and video. you can even send out news and event updates to fans.
• facebook platform
create new (or use existing) custom interactive tools for your users for free, to improve their user experience while on your page, including video, reviews, games and so on. interactions also show up as user activity or ‘social stories’ which act as a powerful member-get-member function.
• facebook insights
facebook’s in-house tracking solution reports on activity metrics, demographics, ad performance and trends.
• facebook polls
a quick way to get answers to business-related questions from a highly targeted demographic sector (based on gender, age, location, interests and so on). you can set up and get responses to a poll in as little as half an hour!
• facebook ads
quick and easy to set up, facebook ads are paid-for, text-based adverts, targeted to a specific audience, and managed on a daily budget basis. they appear contextually within the news feeds as well as in the right hand ad space. you can pay on a cost per click (CPC) basis or on an impressions (CPM) basis. in conjunction with this you’ll get facebook insights’ performance reports.

6. Success? What success?
well you’ve been running your social media marketing (smm) campaign for a while now, but how are you getting on? have you achieved any of your objectives?
as I mentioned earlier, one of the great things about the internet and online marketing is that it’s really easy to monitor performance, but you must do it and do it frequently:
• track your website and campaign activity
tracking solutions such as google analytics canidentify where traffic came from and what they did when they arrived. for instance, did your blog drive new email subscribers?
• monitor online mentions of your company, products and services
using technorati and google blog search, check out how many there were? what percentage were positive vs. negative? how many negative comments were successfully resolved? how many happy punters were thanked?
• measure interactions with your own blog
again, how many were there? what percentage were positive vs. negative? how many negative comments were successfully resolved? how many happy punters were thanked?
• check your blog’s ranking
technorati is a leading authority on smm and watching your performance on their ranking is a good way to see how popular your blog is.
some final thoughts

If you are considering social media marketing for your business your first question has to be whether or not your target audience are even mildly interested in social media. if they’re not, and are unlikely to be in the near future then you have to ask yourself is smm really worth the effort? personally I would recommend at least dipping your toe in, even if it's simply creating a profile on linkedin for now. 

Assuming you do want to go ahead with more involved social media marketing activity, and you’re serious about it, be sure to promote your presence elsewhere: on your website, and even in your offline marketing materials. there's no point creating something wonderful for people if they don't know it's there!

It’s definitely a good idea to allocate responsibility for your social media marketing (smm) to a dedicated internal team or agency as this can prove to be a highly labour-intensive process.
check out google blog search and technorati to find blogs and other social media relevant to you. get yourself a blog/rss reader such as feedburner too so you can keep up to date with websites, blogs and so on that are relevant to you. but, don’t simply focus at blogs, also check out facebook, myspace, youtube, linkedin and so on.

Please note – and this is worth re-iterating again and again:
Whatever level of activity you choose, make sure you’re 100% transparent! as well as being considered best practice from an ethical point of view, by including a company name and url where applicable, it will generate links to your website and that’s simply great for search engine optimisation (seo).

Happy sailing!

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