Stephen_MonacoStephen Monaco is an integrated multichannel marketing expert, thought leader, author, and speaker. As a marketing consultant and social business strategist, Monaco advises companies on driving strategies and leveraging digital media to effectively realize business goals. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.

The following is an e-mail interview with Monaco. It has been edited and condensed.

Why does a brand need a social media strategy in the first place?

Brands need to create a plan for the strategic use of social media just like they need to develop a business plan. The document that results from developing a strategy serves as a guide for the brand’s methodology for utilizing social media for the needs of the business and its customers, both now and in the future. A brand without a documented strategy for their social media initiatives is like a schooner without a destination or a rudder. Without charts or a rudder, strong gusts of wind that fill the sails are of no benefit to the vessel.

How is it different from a marketing strategy?

Social media marketing is an increasingly vital and very necessary component of the marketing mix. And like other components in the marketing mix, strategies must come before tactics. A brand’s social media strategy is part of the digital marketing section of much broader, yet well-defined overall marketing strategy. Solid marketing strategies are business-aligned and in sync with organizational goals — the goals that propel the brand’s endeavors.

Digital and more traditional offline marketing are essential for driving brands, and should include corresponding metrics to determine whether or not the brand successfully achieves the goals. Many companies do not measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, let alone define metrics for their social media marketing — this is a mistake. Social marketing should augment and/or serve as a buttress to all other components of the marketing mix and be in lock step with brand objectives.

What are the questions brands need to ask themselves when formulating their social media strategy?

  • How can we use social to support and amplify all of the other marketing we’re doing?
  • Can we quickly develop the self-discipline to put down our megaphone and stop interrupting people with our brand messaging monologues?
  • As we engage with people in dialogues, what can we do to earn their trust so we can build long-term meaningful relationships?
  • How can we generate compelling content that’s relevant and timely enough that people will want to share it?
  • Do we have the resources to do these things internally, or should we hire a consultant and utilize their expertise and resources?
  • Is it better to learn by doing and then develop a plan — or make a plan and then adapt it as needed? Why?

Without question, it’s much better to develop a well-thought-out plan, execute on it, then adapt continually as you learn, as opposed to flying by the seat of your pants. In this rapidly changing global marketplace, relevance matters more than ever and is increasingly tied to what just happened recently. Brands must become considerably more nimble, responsive and contextual to consumers across multiple platforms. Social marketing activities must be monitored continuously so brands can learn how consumer sentiments are changing, and adjust accordingly.

What are some ways brands can tie measurable social media outcomes to measurable business goals?

Start with the specific desired business outcome in mind. Be precise! Where is your brand today? What are you trying to achieve with your brand, and in what time frame? How will you know when you’ve arrived at that point? Stating an outcome, such as “increase sales,” is too ambiguous. Naturally, all organizations want additional revenue from sales increases.
The specific business goal must be clearly defined, e.g., “Increase sales by 12% by the end of this fiscal year.”

Next, corresponding marketing initiatives must be tied to that goal. Then, a particular social marketing campaign must be conceptualized and deployed to amplify and augment this specific marketing initiative. Brands must go through this entire process for each desired business outcome before they ever begin with social marketing tactics. Unfortunately, most brands get way ahead of themselves, skip over the all important strategic part of social marketing, and then wonder why their efforts generated little if any results.

What advice would you give to a brand that was trying to develop a social strategy, but felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of considerations involved?

Start small. Chose the particular social network where you believe you can most effectively reach your audience and start providing relevant content your customers and prospective customers will find useful. Social marketing isn’t about volume, it’s about relevance. When people find content relevant, they appreciate the information and are likely to become a fan or follower. At that point, brands can begin to engage them, and encourage them to participate in meaningful dialogues about what’s important to them — not what’s important to the brand. It’s essential to establish trust and listen during these dialogue, so one-to-one relationships can be developed over time, and brands can exceed customers’ expectations.

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