For most B2B marketers, social media is still new. Professionals are beginning to understand they can find influencers and buyers online, but they are still puzzling through the details.
People often ask, "How do we know if social media will help us to:"
- Reinforce our marketing strategy?
- Roll out our product?
- Launch or reintroduce our brand?
- Highlight our new speaking engagement or event?
- Promote our new message?
- Excite our audience?
The list of questions is endless, but what they really want to know is if social media will help them. Here's a cheat sheet to help you decide if it makes sense to incorporate social media into your strategy.
1. Ask why you want to start using social media.
What triggered your decision to include social media in this marketing program? Who made that decision? What outside factors influenced it?
2. Define your audience.
Who do you want to reach online? Are there multiple stakeholders? How are they alike? How are they different? How do those conclusions impact the marketing stories you want to develop?
3. Consider timing.
When do you want the social media engagement to start? Some businesses think their stakeholders are out there just waiting to respond. That's not true. You need to activate your audience before you need the campaign or program engagement.
4. Know your business leaders' expectations.
Who are the business owners for this project? How do they define successful marketing? What's their attitude towards social media? Are they willing to pilot, do they want their competitors to try first, or are they simply cynical? You need to understand their point-of-view in order to establish buy-in and success metrics.
5. Determine whether you can sync social media to other marketing elements.
Will you connect this social media project to other planned marketing elements? For example, can you house the new white paper on a special landing page that receives social traffic?
In the end, social media is simply another marketing platform. Your internal clients may say "Let's develop a Twitter or Google+ strategy," but it's your job to keep social activity strongly aligned with the company's overall strategy and activities.
6. Create compelling content.
Do you have powerful stories to share, or just marketing messages? What kind of content will excite your stakeholders? Are they interested in videos, pins, cartoons, op-eds or ebooks? Do you have enough " bricks" vs. "feathers"?
7. Consider platforms.
Where does your audience live online? Do you have enough differentiated content to support more than one channel? Which channel gives you the best chance of conversation? Which channels seem to be fallow? Facebook is the biggest, but often not the best, when it comes to business marketing needs.
8. Know your customers' Web behavior.
What kinds of customer clues can you find in your website analytics? Where do your customers come from? What pages do they visit when they come from social platforms? What kind of content do they consume and/or avoid?
9. Learn about influencers.
Who are the most powerful online advocates for your topic and/or content? What kind of information do they share and when? Do they have a blog you can comment on, a Twitter chat to participate in, or Google+ Hangout to join? In other words, do you know enough about their interests to try to become friends? After all, these friends have the power to become an "engine" in your campaign.
10. Consider SEO keywords.
What words do you use internally to describe your business and marketing objectives? Are they the same keywords your target customers would use in a search engine, online discussion, or message board? If you know the right words, you increase your chances of looking like a business that understands its audience's needs. It also increases the chance of search engines finding you.
11. Know if you can experiment with a small failure.
Businesses struggle with a fear of social media. Spam, negative comments and, in some cases, compliance anxiety, can make a social media commitment seem questionable.
Start small. There's no need to sink a huge budget in a social media program. Instead, do one small project well and use that intelligence to build more factual benchmarks for next time.
Bonus : When in doubt, ask yourself what you want to have achieved a year from now. Do you need a social "toe-hold" with your online targets, or are you content to cede the lead to your competitors? In the end, that question causes many to move forward, at least in a small way.
Honest answers to these questions will help you decide if social media can benefit you. To be candid, sometimes it's not a worthwhile path. But, a thoughtful analysis will help you discover when it will truly add lift to your marketing strategy.
How do you decide if social media can help your projects?
Elizabeth Sosnow is a managing director with BlissPR. She writes for the firm's blog, where this article first appeared.