Social Media Marketing for Beginners #2: What’s the point, really?

by Matt Burgess on April 13, 2010

Social Media Marketing for Beginners is a regular column on this site, in which we discuss the fundamentals of marketing in the world of social media for businesses. As the name suggests, this is a column for those looking to get their toes wet for the first time, although even if you’re already experienced in the social marketing world… well – despite what they tell you – you certainly can teach an old dog new tricks. To keep up to date with this series, be sure to subscribe to our free updates.

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Social Media Marketing for Beginners #2: What’s the point, really?

Ok, ok… that’s a bit of a strange headline to see on this site, I know, so let me clear this up: of course I’m not questioning the potential value of social media marketing. What I am trying to do, however, is drive home one of the most important – and all too often, overlooked – aspects of social media marketing… what is the point? Specifically, what’s your point?

Far too often, brands can fall into the “cool kids” trap. You’ll know you’re headed for dangerous ground, if you start hearing conversations around the office that basically boil down to…

“Set up a Facebook page for us, because all the cool kids are doing it… we need to keep up!”.
“Let’s get on Twitter, start setting up a nice custom profile for us! Why? Because the cool kids are doing it, that’s why! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”.

Ok, so maybe I embellished on that last part. But the fact remains: too many brands jump into social media because they think they “should”, rather than having a clear objective.

Before you dive into social media marketing, decide what you want to achieve

Look at it this way: without goal posts, you’ll never know if you’ve scored a goal. It really is that simple. In other words:

  • Without goal posts, measuring results goes out the window.
  • Without goal posts, that thing we call strategy? Yeah, that’s out the window too.
  • Without goal posts, social media isn’t about business returns. It’s a time sink.

I like to keep this series simple. In the first installment, we learned simple ways to monitor what your customers are saying about you, and how they’re saying it. This week, however, is a far more complicated affair… because it’s something that only you can answer completely. But, to get you started, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are you entering into social media marketing as another sales channel?
  • Are you entering it as a means of market research?
  • Are you entering into social media as another customer service channel?
  • Are you hoping to use it as a form of collaboration with your customers?
  • Is it a branding exercise to increase brand recognition?
  • Are you going to use it to demonstrate thought leadership?
  • Is it simply a networking thing?
  • Is your aim to increase customer loyalty?

It’s not a “one size fits all” solution

The thing is, social media marketing can involve all of these, none of these, or a mixture of all of these, depending on your business and what you’re after. But, at the very least, you should know which of these – if any – apply to your business model. Because these are the type of objectives that are measurable… you’ll be able to show the sales you’re generating, the customer service issues you’re solving, an increase in brand recognition, and so on. And, once you have an goal – and only then – you’ll be able to work out how you can get there.

This may seem the type of post that you can skip over. And I know a lot of you will, because a lot of you are here for the “doing” posts. Don’t worry, we’ll get to those too. But I strongly urge you to pay close attention to this week’s lesson. Make sure, before anything else, you’ve sat down, and clearly outlined your business goals as they relate to social media… because if you don’t have that locked down, everything that follows is on some seriously shaky ground.

This week’s task

Sit down, and map out a few things; namely, what does your business want to achieve? And I’m not talking strictly in the “social media sense” here. I mean, in a general sense, what does your business really want?

Once you’ve settled on that, then you can refine that question to which of those objectives can be achieved using social media… bearing in mind that we’re looking for natural fits here. Remember, we don’t want to simply “get into social media” because all the “cool kids” are doing it… we want to get into it if it makes sense in light of our business goals.

Finally, work out how you’re going to measure the impact your social media outreach has. And then actually report on that impact.

That’s this week’s task. It may look like a lot of “thinking”, and not a lot of “doing”, but trust me on this: if you nail this step, everything that follows it will be all that much easier. Once you’re clear on your objectives as a brand, then you’ll be able to start mapping out how it fits into social media.

Oh, and if you’ve already decided what you want to achieve as a brand, and now you’re looking to work with someone who has experience with social media marketing to see how those objectives can be met… well, that just so happens to be one of the services I offer, so why not drop me a line?

Update, 16 April 2010

I’ve updated this post to include the below video of Olivier Blanchard speaking about social media integration. The first half of this video speaks, almost directly, to the point of this post… and the rest is worth watching too.

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