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Creating a Social Media Marketing Strategy

You’ve heard all the talk about how important social media is to your SEO strategy. It improves visibility in search results by giving you more content to be crawled and more opportunities to be seen. You can reach consumers in yet another venue, create relationships, and build credibility with your audience. You want to build on your marketing and branding with this relationship-building SEO strategy. Then you see your competitors on sites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube-and you are ready to take on social media, too.

Despite the relaxed community you’ll find on most social media sites, you can’t take a relaxed approach. You’re about to embark on a marketing strategy that lacks some of the traditional safeguards such as control of your message and its delivery, and if you don’t have a plan, you could end up doing more harm than good with social media marketing. Whether you want to start with a corporate blog or an assortment of online social media resources, there are a few simple goals, roles, responsibilities, and strategies to define to get started with your marketing strategy.

. . . if you don’t have a plan, you could end up doing more harm than good with social media.

First, Define Your Social Media Marketing Objectives

You’re not joining Facebook just to be there, or uploading video to YouTube just to say you did. You need to define goals of your overall social media marketing plan, as well each individual social media optimization tactic (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.). Maybe your objective is to reach a specific target audience through social media and work on branding with that target audience, or you may want to change your corporate perception and become more relatable as an organization and less like a faceless corporation. Whatever your overall goal, define it, discuss it, and refine it to make sure it represents the goals of all involved. Evaluate each social media tactic you choose in terms of how it can help you accomplish this overall objective.

With your overall objective in place, define your objective for each specific social media tactic as a subset of that overall goal. For example, if your overall goal is to start a dialogue with your 18- to 26-year-old audience and work on brand awareness, how can Facebook help you with this? Your objective with Facebook could be to create community awareness of your brand through product-specific groups and networking with current corporate consumers and potential consumers. Make sure your media-specific objectives specifically define how you will work toward your overall objective. Again, revisit these specific objectives each time you consider new tactics within a social community.

Second, Define Limits, Parameters, Message, and Protocol

Since you’re likely to have a number of people working on your social media-a couple of bloggers, someone developing profiles on Facebook, a person who monitors and responds to customer reviews, a YouTube enthusiast, etc.-you need to have some items clearly defined for everyone so that the corporate message is consistent, limits and rules are followed and certain situations are handled consistently, and the right people give approvals and reviews.

Defining your limits and parameters really is as simple as writing a rule book for anything published or posted online. It should include: what topics shouldn’t be discussed; what language should and shouldn’t be used; what types of responses are appropriate; and who is the correct contact person for decisions, such as how to handle a negative post on a blog, or other sensitive situations. Your rule book should also at least loosely define who has the authority to perform tasks such as blog postings, changes and additions to social networking sites, or editing customer reviews. You want these tasks to be delegated so that your social media is up-to-date but not redundant or confusing.

Defining your limits and parameters really is as simple as writing a rule book for anything published or posted online.

Defining your message can be as simple as restating your objective or as complex as detailed explanations of the corporate message to be communicated across all social media platforms. Do what works for your project and your team.

Protocol is an important element of your social media marketing strategy. Handling sensitive issues such as structuring a response or non-response to negative blog posts or other publications, handling corporate PR issues, and monitoring or editing reviews are issues that need to be defined, and a protocol for addressing these issues clearly should be established. The most important thing is to define the decision maker for such issues. Knowing who to go to for answers and solutions will assure that the proper people are made aware of these issues and that decisions are consistent.

Organize Your Social Media Marketing Team

Social media marketing requires a big investment of time and energy to do it right, so you’ll need to define some key positions and their roles and responsibilities before you get started. Support and additional staff can be managed and monitored through these key people, and your team will be well structured and organized-well-equipped to handle a winning social media optimization strategy.

First, you need one person to serve as the overall decision maker. This person is the go-to for questions about how to handle a specific situation, interpretation of the objectives, limits and project parameters, and approval for new projects. This role is essentially the social media CEO, and to ensure success, this role requires an explicit definition of the responsibilities involved.

Second, you’ll need a project review person. This person will serve as a monitor for all the various social media platforms and the work done on them. Monitoring for compliance with corporate and social media project policies is the primary responsibility. As a secondary role, this person is ideally suited to serve as a monitor for the company’s online reputation through major search engines, popular industry sites, and relevant social media sites. This person’s role and responsibilities also should be well-defined but not too specifically, as specifics will grow and change as the online social landscape evolves.

Finally, a project coordinator is vital to overall success in social media marketing. This position will coordinate all efforts across the various social media platforms, set and monitor specific goals for each project, and ensure that all efforts are running smoothly. This person can also coordinate personnel so that each social media platform has the manpower necessary to stay current and up-to-date. This is the ideal position for your top blogger. The position fits the strengths of a blogger and the responsibilities still allow for participation as a blogger or other social media contributor.

Get started before universal search pushes you further down the search results page.

It may have seemed sudden, but there is no turning back. Social media is now a vital element to your SEO strategy. It’s not the newest craze, it’s not an invention of your marketing department, and no, there is no sign that it’s going away. So go ahead, grab your camera, record the company Christmas party, and put that on YouTube; get a Facebook profile for your company; or start blogging. Get started before universal search pushes you further down the search results page.

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