by Joe Ricciardi.
At a recent gathering of marketing professionals, a panel was engaged to discuss “innovation and ROI” in marketing. Not surprisingly, the discussion quickly turned to the topic of social media. As the panel of experts answered questions, I was struck by how complicated even the most successful marketers insist on making their social media efforts – by trying to trump up the concept into its own special art form, and dismissing all of the sound logic and concepts that made them successful to begin with. But now more than ever, it’s a good time for publicists and marketers to remember to keep it simple and apply many of the traditional communications and planning rules that worked before.
ROI Does Not Stand for “Run On In”: You wouldn’t advertise your business on television, radio and in print before understanding who you’d be reaching and what you planned to say, so why throw these basics out the window when it comes to social media? I often see companies jump on the social media bandwagon so hastily, for fear they might miss out on something. They direct their PR or marketing folks to get them signed up for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others so they can put those logos on their Web site. Then they start urgently ‘friending/following/and linking to anyone and everyone they can find with no identified purpose, and often, nothing to say, no value to add. This aimless meandering continues indefinitely until someone determines that “there’s no ROI in social media,” and you end up with missed opportunities and a very short-lived online presence. Worse however are those who, after making 3,000 new online connections, shamelessly turn on the messaging fire hose until they’ve blasted every one of their contacts straight to the “un-friend” button. Social media is just that, social, meaningful two-way communication, which requires a measured and thoughtful listening and communications approach.
Know Your Objectives: Prior to embarking on your social media expedition, you should first define what you hope to achieve. Are you trying to raise awareness, sell a product, or recruit new talent? Understanding your objectives will dictate your strategy. The plan should work backwards from your objectives. Stop and ask yourself why you want to engage and what you hope to achieve. Then, proceed thoughtfully with the best online tools for your needs. Learn from early returns and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Identify Your Audience: Just like a communication strategy, it’s also important to identify the target audience(s) for your social media strategy. As with other marketing programs, you may choose to target a specific segment of your audience, or target multiple segments in different ways. This will allow you to tailor your plans using the channels that will best reach your audience. There is ample research and information out there to help you identify the right channels for your organization, if you don’t already have a pretty good idea.
Integrate Your Communication Efforts: Your public relations, internal communications and marketing strategies should all work together with your social media strategy so you have one cohesive, clear plan with aligned objectives. Companies that integrate all of these disciplines in a simple, straightforward manner consistently have better results.
If your existing marketing and communications programs are of sound strategy and informed planning, adding social media to the mix should create a complimentary new source of awareness, leads, and ultimately, Return on Investment.