23 Oct 2011

10 Things You Should Include in a Social Media Plan

While the 4 Ps of marketing are still relevant, it’s the 7 Ps that are most applicable to modern day marketing. Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance. 

This is especially true for social media planning, where all too often the plan revolves around a murky set of objectives and a band of interns.

When done right though, a social media plan for marketing, recruiting, or customer service is a thing of beauty.
Having completed a handful of these plans on behalf of clients in the past few months, here are the 10 components that belong in your social media plan, regardless of organization type, size, and structure.

1. The Baseline Metrics

Even if no one is interacting with your Facebook fan page and only your employees are sharing your content on Twitter, it’s important to establish a baseline. Sometimes the sole reason for establishing a baseline—as bad the numbers may look—is to set up the applause when those numbers improve.

2. Competitor Benchmarks

Don’t do this to be a copycat. Do this for the same reason you gather the baseline metrics in number one above. It’s not always easy to identify what you’re after with your social media program, and competitors make an easy (and fun) target.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that because a competitor seems to have their act together that they actually do. Follower counts, engagement and a well-designed presence are often the result of pure longevity, and not the implementation of unique ideas.

3. Goals and Objectives

This is often the most difficult piece of the planning process, because your return on social media is not—and may never be—as cut and dried as something like a PPC campaign. Therefore, you will find yourself trying to justify some goals that feel “soft” and others that seem unattainable.

My advice: Keep the goals relatively simple to start, use both soft and hard goals, and don’t be afraid to put goals into buckets or categories. For instance, you may have goals for awareness, engagement, followers/following, SEO, and even prospecting and sales benchmarks.

4. Naming Strategy

This is a seemingly minor detail, but how and what you name your social media properties is just as important as the domain you choose for your organization’s website. If your organization has a unique name, it’s relatively easy. If it’s not a unique name, be prepared for a process that involves brainstorming, searching, brainstorming again, searching again, consensus-building and finally selection.

5. Staffing Plan

You are going to need people to execute your social media plan. That’s right. People, not person.

Even if you are a small business just dipping your toes in the social media water, it will take the efforts, influence and direction of more than one person to make your plan come to life. You may only have one person doing “the work” but any successful social media plan relies on a group, not an individual to carry the weight of the plan. I could write an entirely separate post on this, but you cannot successfully execute a social media strategy without ideas, support, and resources flowing from throughout your organization.

6. Content Calendar

No content, no social media. No content marketing strategy, no social media marketing strategy. If your social media plan does not revolve around some type of content calendar, your message—and your social media plan—will fall flat at best, and fail at worst.

Whatever you do, don’t let the social media tail wag the content marketing dog.

7. Partner Integration

Guess what every single one of your partners – investors, technology partners, VARs, and others – wants to do? Expand their social media audience and engagement.

Guess what your brilliant social media plan will do for them, if done right? Expand their social media audience and engagement.

Use this plan to present some true win-win scenarios where you and your partners can cross-promote content and campaigns.

8. The Ideas!

If your plan revolves around only tweets, updates, followers, friends, and day-to-day tactics, it may be organized, but it won’t be special.

Special comes from social media campaigns, not the day-to-day tactics. If you’re trying to reach a particular audience, build an entire campaign to find and engage that audience. If you’re trying to stand out from the crowd, consider using a customized campaign that is anchored by a contest, sweepstakes or special offer.

Don’t just do social media, get creative with it.

9. Examples

At some point, you’re going to have to sell this plan to supervisors, investors, or colleagues. Chances are that most will not grasp the business case for social media, and will question whether your plan makes sense compared to other corporate initiatives.

Hands down, the easiest way to conquer these objections is to show examples of how similar organizations have used an organized social media plan to achieve specific goals and objectives. If you’re a television show, use “The Voice” as your example. If you’re a retailer, use Zappos as your example. These examples are easy to find, and will mean far more than your own proclamations about why social media can have an impact on your organization.

10. Reporting and Analysis

How are we going to track our progress and return on investment? If you don’t get this question multiple times during your social media planning process, then people either think you have the Midas touch or they simply don’t care.

First, based on your goals and objectives, decide what you want to measure. Second, decidehow you want to measure against those goals and objectives.

Count on this: While each social media property includes some basic analytics, you will need to explore a variety of tools and software packages to arrive at your ideal reporting and analysis solution.

Social media planning is not easy. As a matter of fact, it’s painful for most organizations, because many of your stakeholders will not understand the first thing about using social media for business. All you can do is embrace the 7 Ps, include these 10 components in your plan, develop some thick skin, and start moving!

I'd love to hear about your social media planning triumphs and failures. What has worked for you and your organization? Let me know in the comments.

Original article: SocialMediaToday