by Kenneth Rudich
Part 1 described social media marketing as requiring a sustained commitment to wooing your customers and prospects. There’s also a diagram that shows the six stages of customer cultivation that it attempts to address. The last stage, “advocacy,” reflects the ultimate outcome. This is where your customers and clients do the selling for you. If you’re really lucky, this is where your brand might even go viral.
But we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. If you haven’t yet gotten your feet wet with social media marketing but you’re in process of contemplating it, or maybe just starting out, let’s take a little inventory for determining your readiness; for assessing whether it will suit you or your needs; and, if so, how it might fit within the bigger scheme of things for you.
a place to start
It’s seldom going to be the case that social media marketing is the only element in your marketing plan. As the generic value chain for marketing reminds us, the real goal of marketing is to deliver value to customers and there are many activities associated with carrying out that task. So, should social media be included among them, and will the benefits of doing it outweigh the costs?
A good starting point is to mull over a few questions for establishing some focus and direction. These questions are intended as a preface to moving forward with planning for a social media initiative. They will help you to decide whether it’s right for you.
- How much do you currently know about the various social media tools that are available? Can you name them? Do you understand their individual strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to your particular business concern? Of those you know, which do you propose to employ and why?
- How will social media marketing extend, complement, or integrate with the rest of the marketing that is already being done? How will you ensure it reinforces the consistency and continuity of your current marketing effort? Are you certain it won’t drain needed resources away from these other efforts?
- Are you comfortable with relinquishing some control over the marketing communications function? As mentioned in part 1, social media marketing is a two-way conversation. At its best, it’s a guided conversation, but nonetheless a conversation. And while it’s possible to guide it to some degree, it cannot be controlled. There is a possibility – even probability — you’ll find yourself exposed to disagreeable people or harsh opinions. Just ask Tiger Woods, Dominoes, or United Airlines. Is this something you or your organizational culture can handle? And possibly deflect, if neccessary?
- Are you willing to re-allocate marketing or other resources, if necessary? If cost is defined as being comprised of time, energy, and money, then you’ll need to carefully look at each of these. Though frequently touted as low in cost, social media can consume a good deal of time and energy. If you have the financial resources to outsource some or all of it, or already have the internal resources for taking it on, then it’s certainly worthy of consideration. If money and time are both tight, then you’ll want to make sure you have a really compelling reason for doing it.
- Who are your competitors? Are they using social media? If so, how? How might you differ from their use of it?
- What specifically would you like to achieve – more traffic, greater awareness, interest, advocacy? Would you be content if you’re only able to move partially up the stairway, or is it your intent to extract everything social media can potentially offer even if it consumes more time and energy than originally expected? How will you measure success from a benefits/cost perspective?
- Do you have the patience and wherewithal for giving social media the time it needs to breathe and evolve? Can you deal with the ambiguity of not knowing for certain what kind of ROI you’re getting?
- Can you afford to not have a social media marketing initiative? It’s not for everyone. Again, only pursue it if there’s a compelling, identifiable reason. For example, you want to foster a current and contemporary image because that’s important to your customers and prospects. Or, conversely, it’s unlikely my customers/prospects will participate if I do use social media and therefore it’s not worthy of consideration.
If facing these questions head-on didn’t dissuade you from wanting to initiate a social media marketing strategy, then you’re probably ready to begin the planning stage. I’ll cover that in Part 3.
There may be other questions that I have inadvertently omitted. If you have suggestions, please bring them to light.