When I hear about the processes companies are using to engage in social media-based conversations and communities, I’m a bit surprised that many lack any kind of strategy or written plan. While I’m a firm believer in the need for both spontaneity and frequency in social media-enabled communications, I also believe that whenever a company decides to adopt new communications tools, they need to start with the basics of Marketing and Communications 101:
- What are your business objectives?
- Who is your audience (target market)?
- What do you hope this communication will help your company achieve?
- How will you measure your efforts?
Once you think through the business basics, the next steps are identifying the right tools to reach the right audience(s) in the right ways, and then determining what your company is going to do once you stick start participating in social networks, on blogs, and in other online communities.
Editorial Calendars for Blogs
My company uses what we refer to as “editorial calendars” for social media engagement, but that term is a bit of a misnomer. The term “editorial calendar” implies that social media communications is then based solely around “editorial” content like magazine articles. Social media editorial calendars are not about planning all of your tweets, status updates on Facebook, etc., but you do need to create some kind of framework that fits into an overall plan for engagement.
For blogs, we always develop an actual editorial calendar that is similar to a magazine editorial calendar. That calendar, however, should never lock the blogger or bloggers into publishing specific posts on specific dates without any flexibility. Blog editorial calendars should be considered strategic planning tools as well as resources for content ideas when there isn’t something topical or time-sensitive that needs to be posted.
Social Media Calendars
You shouldn’t be tweeting and updating entirely in a vacuum. For my company, our social media calendars start with a blog editorial calendar as a starting point. From those specific topics and post references, we then branch out, looking for other people’s tweets or posts that we can reference that are relevant to our client’s focus, objectives, and brand.
To utilize social media tools effectively and properly, you must absolutely generate spontaneous communications in direct response to what others are saying or to what is happening in that moment. Be yourself. Be conversational. Be engaged.
Then, at regular intervals, circle back to your objectives; the audience you want to attract and connect with; and the actions you’d like to drive through your outreach. Are you on track? If you are using social media to encourage others to give you feedback, to take a poll, to refer a friend to your site, to hire you, to purchase a product, whatever your goal or goals may be — is it working? If not, what are you doing wrong?
Social Media Planning
Maybe this sounds a little too formulaic to you. Maybe you see social media as being all about organic conversation. Well, yes, that is exactly what it is, but organic conversation doesn’t work for companies that are trying to achieve specific business objectives. That doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t be in social networks and online communities if they do things in appropriate, valuable and thoughtful ways.
So be smart about it. Don’t deny that you are a business with business objectives. Be transparent about it. There’s a place for everyone in the playground as long as everyone places nicely. And if you stick to a plan — with a lot of common sense, generosity and kindness thrown in — your company can foster new levels of consumer loyalty from genuine engagement, while still achieving measurable business goals.
How do you plan out your company communications through social media?