A couple of weeks ago I replied to an email request of a friend who asked me, for a presentation to its client, if I was able to help him out with a brief check-list for social media operations. Not so difficult, since I always tend to create such lists for my clients, as a list – a decalogue in this case – is generally easier to remember, mostly when built in a progressive sequence of logical points.

Of course designing, planning and managing a social media marketing campaign is not as easy, as each of the points in my decalogue include plenty of sub-activities and campaign modules, so don’t think things are going to be easy as counting to 10. First of all, like Spinal Tap, my Social Media Marketing Decalogue has 11 points instead of 10. This is why I think there must be some sort of “ground zero” or “zero step” from where taking the first step, before actually do that step – and the zero step of course is the definition of social media marketing goals! But let’s see all the step of the process!

0) Define business goals for the online and social channels
As we have seen in many of my social media marketing presentations, the definition of business goals, and not just of channel goals, is the very first step of the process. The image here below shows some of the most common business goals companies should be pursuing online and on social channels.

social-media-marketing-goals

1 – Define competitors, benchmarks, social media strategy, target audience and, most of all, e-fluencers
Before “jumping on Facebook” or any other social media portal it is suggested to study good benchmarks from your industry and run an accurate online competitor analysis. Also be sure to engage where your target audience is. Define your target audience and investigate on its online social behavior – most important, try to figure out who your e-fluencers are, you are going to need their help a lot. This is also where your social media strategy starts to takes shape.

2 – Choose and customize all strategic social media channels
Once your preliminary analysis is complete, it’s time to take possession of your social media spaces. The Conversation Prism designed by Brian Solis and Jess3 (image below) shows you how the online conversation is often fragmented, with clusters of your target audience everywhere, not just on Facebook. Optimization and customization here are key – you’ll need to create customized profiles whenever it’s possible, full descriptions with links and all, pictures, videos, customized maps, interactive tabs, custom apps, vanity URLs and all that it’s needed for a performing and relevant social media presence.

conversation-prism

3 – Allocate resources (people, time, and knowledge to be shared) and make sure that all strategic communication processes converge on social channels
A company, specially a big brand, cannot face the volume of time-material work needed in social media marketing to monitor, engage, produce content and run all day by day operations. A dedicated team is needed and, in some cases, also the support of a dedicated, professional social media marketing agency. Also, this is not just the job of a Marketing department guy – or IT, or else. Non only the entire company should be involved in the new social media presence, but it is also important to make sure that all communications intended towards outside the company find also their respective, optimized social media output. It’s a long work that might require a redefinition of the communication processes, some guidelines and procedures, and of course good training.

4 – Define a social media policy for your employees, and run intensive training sessions for your social media marketing team
Training is key for your social media team, but also for A-level executives who should participate to the process (starting with the business goals definition), as well as any other employee. Generally a social media policy can help set the things straight, but the social media policy alone is no use if it introduction is not supported by intensive social media marketing training sessions to the management, the marketing team, the internet and social media marketing teams, the PR, communication and IT teams and, whenever possible, extended to all employees. As a matter of fact, good social media policies should be shared also with clients, business partners and suppliers, the entire “business ecosystem” of your company’s communication.

social-media-marketing-time-resources

5 – Define and share editorial and engagement plans
Once your social media marketing profiles are set up and ready to go, what’s the next step? Listening to the online buzz every day, sure. And engaging, but how? Make sure you create a valuable form of engagement for your target audience. If you keep talking only about yourself nobody wants to listen. It is important to define, create, optimize and share on social networks content that can be appealing to your target audience, and possibly also that produces feedback/interaction. One other important thing to take in consideration is the convergence of all communication needs (from institutional/corporate to commercial, promotional and social communication) and their roll out calendar. It is important to create an editorial plan for the content you want to share, in order to make it easier to plan its production and distribution. You’ll also need an engagement plan, that should take in consideration a lot of interaction on “other profiles” (users, pages, groups) instead of staying bunkered on your owns. This is in general beneficial to a very effective engagement with your target audience.

6 – Define specific KPIs for each channels, and for different goals within each channel
Both your editorial and engagement plans should state specific goals and KPIs and social KPIs, possibly defined by channel, and of course proportional to the effort that your social media marketing plan is dedicating to each channel.

7 – Roll out of all engagement initiatives towards the target audience – pages, groups, tags, hashtags, apps, social ads, etc.
Wow, we are finally ready to go and launch! We had to wait until point 7 of the decalogue, but the preliminary work and the organizational and procedural work of goal setting, analysis, optimization and planning will certainly show its results! Now define a plan of actions that is tied with your editorial plan, engagement plan and overall goals, and you are on your way to success!

8 – Integrate across your social media channels the core messaging of all other communication channels, and social media content across all your communication channels
Easy to say, not so easy when it comes to actually implement this point. Yes your teams all across your company had their social media training, and your company might have also rolled out a social media policy and a set of procedures, but – will your company reach well to these changes? Sometimes it is difficult to change consolidated internal procedures (or just “habits“), but if you want your company messaging to be consistent, effective and pervasive, you need to make sure Integrate across your social media channels the core messaging of all other communication channels, and social media content across all your communication channels.

9 – Measure your results and re-evaluate your KPIs and Social KPIs. Integrate with Social CRM systems and methodologies.
All the above is useless, specially the definition of goals and KPIs if there is not a strong focus on the analytics of your social media marketing efforts. Many companies are still stuck to the “basic” old-school metrics of “visitors” and “page views“, which are useless in the social media arena. It’s more effective a very receptive, active and influential group of 1,000 power users than 1,000,000 fans who just press “like” or drop the occasional comment. It’s more “social” a video (or other content) that has been shared 1,000 times than the same content being “liked” 2,000 times. Don’t take these figures for granted, they are just ballparks out of my experience on clients’ projects, but at the end it all depends on your KPIs and social KPIs. Assess the effectiveness of your plans, initiatives and resources towards such KPIs and take action – change plans or even KPIs or goals, if needed! If your company has a CRM system already in place, it could be a great idea starting integrating all the social media marketing data in your CRM, making it evolving into a more dynamic and accurate Social CRM. Your CRM is a pachyderm with a closed environment that doesn’t allow to integrate new modules? No problem, today Social CRM platforms are practically an off-the-shelf solution, with plenty of solid options to choose from.

10 – Keep testing new social media marketing channels and strategies
The social media landscape is constantly evolving, to a point that it is difficult to forecast what the scenario will be in one year or even more. After the first wave of blogs and wikis (1999-2003) it came then Linkedin (2004) and YouTube (2005) before Facebook exploded (2006), followed by Twitter (2007-2008), while now we are in the full bloom of the geotargeted social networks, such as Foursquare, Gowalla and, again, Facebook Places, all in full mobile/smartphone integration, while our society is moving fast into the tablet and almost “wearable” computers and digital devices. [Note: the dates refer to when the portals / services started being popular, and not to their actual launch]. New communities keep popping up successfully, think Instagram, the community based on the geolocalized exchange of pictures taken with the cool camera iPhone app filters and features. Or the recently launched Google+ network, that we’ll discuss soon at this blog. A company or brand on its way to a comprehensive and effective social media engagement should constantly be following at least the major trends and, if tested with a reasonable rate of success, keep investing on those new channels and technologies – of course don’t forgetting the consolidated ones!

I hope this decalogue / recap will be of some help if you are figuring out which are the basic steps for engaging in social media marketing. Just be aware: the steps won’t be so basic!

Do you have comments and integrations to the decalogue? Also, do you want to share your experience in setting up a social media marketing plan / campaign? What was your methodology? Please drop a comment!