Social Media Is Not An End Onto Itself. Marketing Context Matters When It Comes To Social Media Strategy.

I love history. I like learning about what has happened and how we got to where we are today. I read history books and when I travel, I can’t help looking up the past of the place. It provides context for my surroundings. Many friends and family aren’t as curious or interested in history. They’d only read about it if it was required homework for class.

Learning about the past helps me understand the present and contribute to the future.

Social Media Strategy Begins With Context.

Context is the situation in which something happens so that it can be fully understood and assessed. You may not need the history of a city to fully enjoy it like me. However, understanding why a client or manager needs a new social media strategy is required homework for developing an effective social plan or campaign.

Whether you’re working freelance for a business, for an agency on clients, or directly for a company or non-profit research the background. History is simply the study of facts and events connected to something. Take time to understand the facts related to a brand’s marketing situation before jumping into social media strategies and tactics.

Marketing Strategy As A Social Media Skill.

Recruitment and career firm Zippia reports that marketing strategy is the 4th  most important social media skill behind writing, graphic design, and data analysis skills. As Abby McCain says, “Even though you may not be the one coming up with the company’s marketing strategy, you will need to be able to help further it through social media.” With 16% of marketing budgets spent on social media, it is a key element in meeting marketing objectives.

As marketing expert Jon Gatrell says, don’t view “social media as both the beginning and the end.” Social media is one part of your client’s overall marketing and business. The more you understand the bigger picture, the more effective your social media will be. You’ll also earn the trust of a client or manager who will hear you speaking their language using terms they care about.

How Do You Do Gain Marketing Context?

A thorough client or manager will give you all you need. They’ll be clear about how the business has performed recently and give you a specific market share or sales number they need to meet next year or next quarter. They’ll give you a well-defined target audience, explain the marketing problem or opportunity, and identify main competitors.

In reality, even big companies may give something vague like “We need help with our social media.” If you’re in college, or a recent grad, it could be “You’re young and get this stuff, do social media for us.” Or you may get part of what you need. Either way, ensure you still gather and organize all information to create an effective social media strategy.

Gather data about the internal and external environment and organize it into strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Identify marketing and communications objectives and understand the brand’s social media climate. Then determine if they need a comprehensive plan or a shorter-term campaign. The graphic below gives an idea of what to gather and a process to follow (click on image for a downloadable PDF).

1. Understand the purpose of social media strategy is to connect social media efforts to business or organization requirements. Likes are nice but they won’t pay your client or company’s bills and your salary or fee.

2. Discover how they started, why they exist, and what they sell. Know how they’ve been performing. A recent decline gives you a clue to a problem you need to help solve. What’s their current marketing? Who are the current customers and what segment of the market do they appeal to?

3. Learn what market they’re in, their main competitors, and market trends. A trend could be an opportunity social needs to help leverage. Scan external factors that may impact business such as new laws, an economic downturn, or new technology. Determine target audience (demographics for B2C, firmographics for B2B). It’s not always current customers. It could be a new segment of the market to grow sales or publics who aren’t customers but key stakeholders to improve relations or manage reputation for PR or corporate communications.

4. Summarize your situation analysis into a SWOT graphic highlighting relevant marketing communications/PR-related insights by strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A picture of the main problem or opportunity should emerge – why a new social media strategy is needed.

5. From the situation analysis and SWOT define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound objectives. Measure marketing performance representing success with the main problem or opportunity. Think market share, sales, revenue for a for-profit and donations, volunteers, event attendance, or enrollment for a non-profit.

6. Set communications performance objectives to represent successful communication connected to the marketing problem or opportunity. Think target audience brand, product, or cause awareness, ad recall, change in brand attitudes, sentiment, or engagement. For other stakeholders set specific objectives that measure the relationship or reputation goal.

7. Conduct a social media audit. Systematically collect and analyze what the brand is currently doing on social media and where. Do the same for customers talking about the brand (UGC), and the main competitor’s social media.

8. Determine the scope of the social media strategy. Do you need a comprehensive long-term social media plan to achieve the marketing and communications objectives? A social media plan will determine all social media strategies and tactics for a brand budget year.

9. Guage the need for a smaller social effort. Do you simply need a shorter-term campaign to achieve the marketing and communications objectives? A social media campaign is separate from other brand social media to promote a single promotional offer in a shorter time frame.

The Process Produces Results. 

Even clients who provide much of this information will leave some out that could be important. They’ll appreciate you asking questions and going through this process. It shows you care enough about building their business to do your homework and that builds relationships. Studying social media trends is important, but you can’t make your client’s social media relevant to those trends until you fully understand their business.

When receiving a new social media project resist the urge to jump in and start posting. Take a step back and get some context. Your client will appreciate the effort and the effort will pay off in better results for your social media strategy and your social media plan. As social media expert Jay Baer puts it, “The goal isn’t to be good at social media, the goal is to get good at business because of social media.”

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