Visualize Your Marketing Strategy To Form A Solid Foundation For All Marketing Communication.

Social media actions and even plans can exist on their own, but without having an understanding of the marketing and business behind them, they could be acting in vain. Even communication focused disciplines such as advertising and public relations now acknowledge the need for broader marketing and business knowledge. Incite’s State of of Corporate Social Media report of global corporate social media professionals found that 90% say social media is an important part of their marketing strategy and 80% say that social media is an important part of their business strategy.

To help understand how social media fits into the bigger picture of marketing and business I have created a visual template for a basic marketing strategy that emphasizes the consumer perspective. This template can help improve social media efforts by providing an understanding of the larger marketing and business perspective. It can help you speak the language of business.

To be honest most C-Suite executives probably don’t care about followers and engagement rates. To get approval and funding for social strategies you need to translate social media action into broader business goals such as sales, market share, awareness, customer retention, leads, etc. The template can also help create a new marketing plan or help plan the marketing piece for a startup. See below, but also download a free PDF here.


Vision/Mission: Why do you exist? To make money is not a sustainable answer for employees or customers. What does the company behind the product/service stand for and where are you headed? Think: solving a greater problem, spreading a bigger message, supporting a cause, community, the environment or being the absolute best at something specific.

Back Story: People buy for rational and emotional reasons that can come from your origin story. Show your human side of starting in a garage, using your last $5, making a childhood dream come true, an event that put the cause on your heart, something you couldn’t get as a customer, happy accident, etc. Even big companies showcase their humble roots.

Business Objectives: All marketing action must help support business needs such as sales, average spend, market share, leads, contracts, awareness, customer satisfaction, retention, referrals, volunteers, donations, etc. To do this a marketing plan must start with those specific objectives clearly defined. Make sure they are SMART: Specific (quantified such as XX% or $XX), Measurable (data you can access), Achievable (not too high), Relevant (support vision/mission), Timely (due date like X months or X years).

Products/Services: List product and service offerings, lines and versions. Describe them from the consumer’s perspective turning product/service features into consumer benefits. Look for gaps in product lines and offerings from your company, but also competitors. You may need to return to this section after industry, target market and competitor analysis.

The next section focuses on situation analysis, with important areas such as industry, competitors and target market plus elements of the marketing mix or Four Ps. The important part is converting everything to the consumer’s perspective and summarize by answering the customer centric question in each section.

Industry Overview: Is the industry/category growing or declining? What innovations and trends are important? Are there gaps in offerings? What do consumers care about most? What are their pain points? Threats? Opportunities? Sum this up by answering the question, “What is their unmet need?”

Target Market: Clearly define the group most likely to have this need with demographic (gender, age, income, education), psychographic (attitudes, values, lifestyle) and behavioral (products used, brand loyalty, usage) bases. From this answer the question, “Who needs it the most?”

Key Competitors: Identify several top competitors by market share/sales in same industry and/or by replacement products/services outside the category. What do you offer that is different? With this understanding summarize, “Why should they pick you?”

Distribution Channels: What are the convenient ways the consumer can get the product/service: A single channel or multiple channels; Your own or through partners like retailers or brokers; Online or physical store? Try to determine, “Where do they want it?”

Pricing Strategy: Will the consumer pay a premium or look for the lowest price? Do they want to pay per month for access or all at once? Do they need a free version or trial? What forms of payment do they prefer? From this answer, “What will they pay for it?”

Main Message: Try to summarize all the information above into a positioning statement written to the target market. You can follow a template like this, “For the <target consumer> who <state need>, the <product/category> provides <state benefit>, unlike <primary competitor>, the <product> <state difference>.” Boil it all down to answer, “How would you say all this to them in one sentence?”

From here the decision is what consumer touchpoints need to be used to communicate or promote this message to the target consumers. Or from the consumer perspective, “How will they experience this message?”

Advertising: Do paid messages in traditional media such as TV, print, radio, outdoor, newspaper, or local school programs, stadium signs, FSIs, etc. fit your target’s media use and your budget?

Public Relations: Can you make it newsworthy? Earn media coverage from journalist/bloggers, create events, conferences, speeches and publish brand newsletters/magazines for consumer, employee, and community relations.

Digital Marketing: How will they find it online? Start with a user centered website optimized for search (SEO), then consider search ads, content marketing, blogging, email, online ads, video, affiliate and mobile marketing.

Social Media: Where is the target audience active in social media? Look at social networks, blogs/forums, apps, ratings/reviews and podcasts. Look for ways to leverage geo-location, crowdsourcing, influencer marketing, social care, user generated content and native ads.

Direct Response: Consider direct to consumer calls to action in postcards, letters, fliers, catalogs, email, texts (SMS), TV (infomercials), radio and newspaper. Collect or purchase databases of email and/or physical addresses.

Sales Promotion: What special offers could get your target to buy, try or rebuy? Consider discounts, samples, gifts/premiums, coupons, vouchers, competitions, sweepstakes, joint promotions and special financing.

Personal Sales: High involvement products/services may require a salesperson for prospecting, customization of offerings to meet specific needs, demonstration/trial and after sale service to maintain lasting relationships.

Customer Relationship Management: CRM uses databases/software to build long-term relationships with customers for retention, extension and acquisition with special communication, services/offers and rewards often through loyalty programs.

When the forms of communication come together you want to ensure all marketing communication is integrated in message, tone and look (IMC). The final considerations have to do with time and money.

Time Table: Provide a time frame for implementation of marketing recommendations. Some functions must happen before others such as product development, pricing and distribution then promotion. Types of promotion such as Digital, PR, Social Media, Sales and Advertising must happen in a specific order.

Budget: The marketing budget can be determined by one of the following methods: All You Can Afford (what’s left over), Percentage of Sales (% of projected/past sales, consider industry standards), Match the Competition (spend what main competitors spend), Objective/Task (calculate what it will take to meet objectives).

As Philip Kotler says, “You should never go to battle before you’ve won the war on paper.” Whether you are a marketer creating a new marketing strategy for an existing company, an entrepreneur planning the marketing function for a startup or a social pro improving your business intelligence to have a greater understanding of the marketing and business behind an organization this visual marketing strategy should serve as a useful guide.

Social Media Etiquette & Ethics: A Guide for Personal, Professional & Brand Use.

With 73% of the world’s Internet users active in social media, 83% of Fortune 500 companies with social media accounts and 92% of recruiters using social media to find candidates it is too important not to carefully consider your actions. Social media brings together our personal, professional and working lives in a way no other medium has before. How do we navigate this social landscape where our worlds collide and brands communicate like people in one-on-one conversations with consumers?

Etiquette is the proper way to behave and Ethics studies ideas about good and bad behavior. Both combine into Professionalism, which is the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior expected from a person trained to do a job such as social media marketing. Because social media blurs the lines between our personal and professional lives it is useful to look at actions in social media from three perspectives: Personal (as an individual), Professional (as an employee or perspective employee) and Brand (as an organization). To simplify the discussion I have created questions for each category in the Social Media Etiquette and Ethics Guide below. Click here to download.

freesocialmediaethicstemplatePersonal Social Use

If you think what you do in social has to do only with your personal life, there are facts you should consider: 60% of employers use social sites to research job candidates, 41% say they use social networking sites to research current employees and 26% have found content online that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee. Even if you try to keep your social profiles completely private 41% of employers say they are less likely to interview someone if they find no information about that person online.

The top types of content that turns employers off should not surprise you: Inappropriate photographs, videos, drinking/using drugs, discriminatory comments, bad-mouthing a previous company or fellow employee, and poor communication skills. The good news is employers can find information that causes them to hire a candidate including: background supports job qualifications, a professional image, personality fits company culture, a well-rounded range of interests, and great communication skills.

What about ranting? Rants blow off steam and make you feel better right? Research has found people’s moods decline after reading rants, and after writing rants they became more angry, not less. Forum moderator Bill Horne describes ranting as “watching others being burned at the electronic stake as they abandon logic, courtesy, common sense and self-respect.” In the end no one feels better. Recruitment professional Kate Croucher says about candidates, “If they are sharing lots of interesting things, and making insightful comments or forming strong opinions, and interacting with others in a positive way, it shows their ability to rally people behind them and develop effective relationships.”

Before you post or comment in a personal capacity consider:

  1. Is it all about me? No one likes someone who only talks about themselves. The same applies in social media. Balance boasting with complimenting.
  2. Am I stalking someone? It is good to be driven and persistent but be careful not to cross the line into creepy. Don’t be too aggressive in outreach.
  3. Am I spamming them? Not everything or even the majority of what you post should ask for something. Don’t make everything self-serving.
  4. Am I venting or ranting? Venting and ranting may feel good, but research says it doesn’t help and no matter how justified you feel, it never presents you in a positive light. Do not post negative comments or gossip.
  5. Did I ask before I tagged? You had a great time and want to share those memories, but your friends, family or employer may have different standards. Check before you tag people in posts.
  6. Did I read before commenting or sharing? Don’t make yourself look foolish by not fully reviewing something you are commenting on or sharing with others. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  7. Am I grateful and respectful? Don’t take people for granted. Respond and thank those who engage with you.
  8. Is this the right medium for the message? Not everything should be said in social media. Consider the feelings of the other person. Some messages should be given in person, by phone or email.
  9. Am I logged into the right account? There are too many corporate examples of embarrassing posts meant for personal jokes that went out on official brand accounts. Always double check which account you are on. Don’t post personal information on brand accounts.

Professional Social Use

As seen above, social media has blurred our personal and professional lives. As an employee or contractor you should consider how your social use impacts your employer. When hired you should always refer to the company’s social media policy, but here are some general guidelines to consider. Not only should your social media not hurt the company, but many companies today see your active personal social media use as a medium of advocacy for the brand. Also, anything you post now may impact your professional image as a potential employee at another company or organization.

Before you post or comment as a professional consider:

  1. Does it meet the Social Media Policy? Most organizations have official social media policies that you probably received when hired. Don’t assume you know what the policy says. Many employees have been fired for not following company social media regulations. Make sure you know and follow employer or client requirements.
  2. Does it hurt my company’s reputation? No matter how many disclaimers you put on your accounts such as “views are my own” certain content and behavior will negatively impact your employer. If your bio states where you work, your personal account represents your employer.
  3. Does it help my company’s marketing? Employee advocacy is an important strategy. Have a positive impact on your company’s image and when you can advocate for your brand in social.
  4. Would my boss/client be happy to see it? You may not have “friended” your boss or client but a co-worker may have and your post is only a share or screen grab away. Even private accounts are never fully private.
  5. Am I being open about who I work for? It is good to post positive content about your employer and it is nice to receive gifts, but if you are trying to pass it off as unbiased opinion that is wrong. Be transparent about your financial connections.
  6. Am I being fair and accurate? Everyone is entitled to their person opinion, but if your opinion tends to always be unfounded and seems to have an agenda it will reflect negatively upon you. Criticism is welcome when it is constructive and opinion is backed by evidence.
  7. Am I being respectful and not malicious? People can get very insensitive, judgmental and angry in social media posts. That does not convey a professional image. Don’t post what you wouldn’t say in person. Even an outburst in person fades in memory, but a malicious post is there forever.
  8. Does it respect intellectual property? Not everything on the Internet is free. Check for or get permission to post company or client brand assets and content.
  9. Is this confidential information? As an employee or contractor you are granted access to privileged and confidential information. Don’t assume it is fine to share. Do not disclose non-public company or client information.

Brand Social Use

For those who are responsible for creating and sharing brand social media content there are additional considerations to ensure you are helping to meet business goals and following laws and regulations. With 92% of S&P 500, 100% of Down Jones companies active on social media and 91% of retail brands using two or more social channels chances are your company is participating in social media through brand accounts.

Before posting or commenting as a brand on a social account consider:

  1. Does it speak to my target market? Social media is unique from traditional marketing and requires a different perspective to be effective. Be sure to focus on your target’s wants and needs not yours.
  2. Does it add value? Social media only works if people view and share it. Make your content educational, insightful or entertaining to grab interest and draw engagement.
  3. Does it fit the social channel? Don’t post content ideal for Twitter on Instagram or Reddit. Each channel has its own culture and community. Make sure each post fits the channel’s environment, mission and policies or standards.
  4. Is it authentic and transparent? Trying to trick people into clicking a link or making a purchase will get you nowhere. Don’t hide or exclude any relevant information.
  5. Is it real and unique? Bots can automate tasks and be a great time saver, but use them for the right actions. Don’t use auto responses and create anything that could be perceived as spam.
  6. Is it positive and respectful? It may be fine to talk trash about competitors or complain about customers in the office, but not in social media. Don’t badmouth the competition or customers.
  7. Does it meet codes of conduct? As professionals we are part of trade associations that set standards of conduct. Be sure you are meeting these ethical standards such as the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Code of Ethics.
  8. Does it meet all laws and regulations? Government has been catching up with social media and have issued regulations and laws you must follow. See guides on requirements like the FTC social media endorsement guidelines.
  9. Does it meet the Social Media Policy? Most likely your brand or a client’s brand has a social media policy. Ensure you follow your own company standards.

The last consideration in all social media action from a personal, professional or brand perspective has to do with listening. A recent study showed that listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s performance. Listening improves relationships and social media is based on relationships with friends, colleagues and customers.

The last question to ask before posting or commenting in social media is:

10. Have I listened twice as much as I am talking? Do you fully understand the person, organization or situation you are commenting about? We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Taking the time to pause and listen has saved many a person or brand from putting their foot in their mouth and given valuable insight into creating successful social media efforts.

This guide just touches the surface of social media etiquette, ethics and professionalism. For formal legal advice you should consult the official documents or more in-depth resources. The lesson here is to take the time to ask questions and think before you post.

For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media BookLogoStrategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution. Free Preview: EBook: Instructor Exam Copy: