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So you have decided to take the splash and embrace social media marketing but you are smart enough to know you need a plan. Now what? How do you plan your social marketing efforts?

Don't divert budget away from other marketing efforts for social media.

The first thing to remember is you aren't abandoning other marketing efforts that work. Unless you are blessed with a surplus of marketing budget dollars you likely need to divert some funds from other activities. So make sure as you plan to add social to your marketing mix, you don't take money away from initiatives that work for you.

Treat your initial use of social media a test.

This is good way to think about your first foray into social media marketing. Construct your plan to try a few things, track them and use those results to determine what you continue to do and expand on. That being said you also want to make sure you allocate enough resources to give your test a chance. There is no magic number but a good place to start is allocating 10% of your marketing budget for social marketing activities.

Commit to people resources.

When planning your social media marketing initiatives people resources are as important as budget. Social requires commitment to monitor, generate content and to respond to the communities you choose. If you aren't going to do the blogging, tweeting, facebooking or communicating than you will need to figure out who on your team will. It isn't uncommon for business owners to not have any time for social media, however if you want to reap the benefits that it can bring then you’ll need to find someone to do it for you. This doesn't abdicate you from the planning but it does allow for someone to handle the day-today execution.

Pick your social sites/channels.

It is a little bit of a chicken/egg scenario but you are going to have to decide what you want to accomplish and how you are going to use social to do it. The reason why it is chicken and egg is because some social channels/sites are better suited to certain objectives. For instance LinkedIn is a great site for connecting with like minded individuals and demonstrating your business' expertise (by answering questions and hosting groups) but it is not the most effective place to make offers whereas Facebook is much more suited for making offers to your community.

The chart below will give you some primers on how different social media can be used for different marketing objectives. Remember you don't want to join every social media community under the sun. Start with 2 or 3 and learn the intricacies of those. As you expand your marketing efforts you can determine what other sites to add to your marketing mix.

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Plan your content.

Once you have idea of which social sites/channels you are going to use, you will need to create a content plan. A content plan can be as simple as a matrix showing what content you intend to create and how you will promote it via which social sites/channels. The plan will guide how you intend to create an interesting and relevant online presence with content that your prospects and customers will want to consume and share. This may sound daunting but content can include just about anything. Here are some ideas of common social content:

  • news about your industry, local community or company
  • customer testimonials
  • conversation with other people online
  • re-sharing interesting content (properly attributed of course)
  • photos
  • whitepapers
  • ebooks
  • checklists
  • FAQs
  • how to's and instructional content
  • offers, coupons and discounts
Whatever content you intend to create it must not be blatantly promotional. Content is the value you bring to your communities of prospects, customers and fans. If you create content they find valuable you will find they share it and grow your communities.

Assessing your efforts.

It is important to build right into your plan what success looks like. The best route is to set goals and objectives that are a combination of softer objectives like number of followers and fans as well as revenue goals.

As this is a test, a combination of hard and soft objectives will allow you get the best sense of your social marketing success. For instance if one of your tactics didn't accomplish a revenue goals - did it generate the right number and kind of conversations that it can plausibly be considered a good early stage lead generation tactic?

Social media is not a silver bullet however it is a real and viable tool for making connections with prospects and converting them to customers. By taking the time to plan your efforts you remove much of the fear and uncertainty and improve your overall marketing efforts.

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Topics: tips, marketing, social media