The 3 Phases Of Social Media Strategy

The 3 Phases of Social MediaThis is a guest post by Srini Rao from The Skool of Life

A few days ago I was at work crafting a high level social strategy that will go beyond the Flightster blog and really enable us to take advantage of social media in a way that really allows us to understand our customers. I’ve come up with literally hundreds of ideas over the course of the last year, some of which have been implemented and others which have been put on hold.

Over the last week I’ve been able to condense my work into 3 core ideas for an effective social media strategy, both on a personal level and a corporate level.

Phase 1: Build

Let’s consider the social media presence of an individual or company as a blank canvas which we intend to turn into a masterpiece. Before any social media efforts will have an impact it’s essential to build your personal or company assets. Assets can be built across multiple social media platforms.

Blogs

Blogs can often serve as a starting point for social media. The key to a good blog is telling a good story. A blog is an opportunity for you or your company to showcase the fact that there is a human being behind the brand. I’ve always said that we read blogs because of the human connection they create. A blog should not be treated as a glorified marketing brochure. If you focus on the creation of value, you’ll reap the true rewards from your blog. One of the questions I’ve seen asked from some marketers is “Is a blog right for my company?” When people conclude that a blog is not for their company, I’m convinced that they just don’t know what it takes to create a compelling blog. Blogs give you an opportunity to act as an artist rather than a marketer and as a human rather than a machine.

Social Media Phase 1: Build

Email Lists

After conducting over 130 interviews on BlogcastFM the #1 mistake that every single blogger/internet marketer says they made was not starting an email list soon enough. I consider that a mistake too and as per my latest quarterly marketing plan at my blog, I’m making a strong push to create a much more solid email newsletter. One of the things that email enables is direct communication with your customers or readers. Almost every blogger cites their email list as the major source of their revenue. In my interview with Dave Navarro he even mentions that the number of RSS subscribers you have is more or less meaningless.

Facebook

While I’ve syndicated my blog to Facebook through my personal Facebook account, there’s actually quite a bit of power in creating a Facebook Page for your brand or blog. Considering the sheer volume of active users on Facebook, not having a fan page is like turning down free exposure. In my interview with Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha, she talked about why you need a separate fan page for your brand.

Twitter

Personally I think that individuals get twitter and many companies don’t. That’s a bold statement, but I’ve spent insane amounts of time interacting with various groups on Twitter and individuals seem to understand what it takes to get value out of twitter. I’ve even said that you could accomplish every goal in your life using twitter and the blogosphere. Twitter is an ongoing 24-7 conversation between millions of people on just about every subject you could imagine. When you use it is a broadcasting tool rather than a communication and connection tool, the value diminishes. When you embrace it as a community, it turns into a goldmine. On an individual level I still strongly believe that 150 followers is all you need and on a corporate level I think you could easily leverage a powerful tribe to grow your twitter presence.

Incentives

One thing that is worth mentioning is incentives. In order to build any of your assets you’re going to need an incentive. Bloggers giveaway free ebooks interviews or special content. Companies should have no issues parting with samples of their product as part of the building phase. One interesting observation my co worker made was that the value of the incentive didn’t really alter behavior in previous campaigns he’d worked on. You should be willing to spend some time in the build phase without an immediate ROI. If you try to skip the build phase, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you are scrambling to achieve measurements and metrics and you’ll lose the greatest thing that social media gives you: the power to engage and connect

Phase 2: Connect

Social Media Phase 2: Connect

Networking and Relationships are the lifeblood of the social web. Relationships make your traffic grow. Relationships cause content to spread. Relationships result in new business. Without an ongoing effort to form a relationship, you’re just another person trying to sell somebody something. So let’s take a look at a cross platform approach to effective relationships

Blog

As I said above, your blog is not a glorified marketing brochure. It’s a conversational tool and a storytelling tool. I come across many company blogs where the comments are never replied to and the blog seems like a digital graveyard. On the flip side an individual can command an audience the size of a football stadium, which begs the question “what are they doing differently”. Your blog should create something of value for your reader or customer, while telling your story at the same time. Even though there’s really no formula for a good blog, I’d say it comes down to having a passion (what your product does), a story about that passion(how the product came about, etc, etc) and the creation of value for other people (how will your product help me). When somebody comments on your blog a lifeline is formed. When you don’t respond you cut off the lifeline.

Email List

You’ll probably notice a pattern in what I’m describing. Effective use of social media is about a multi-platform approach. Your email newsletter is really a chance to get to know your customers and readers. In order to connect with them you have to ask them what they want from you. It sounds so simple, yet most of us make so many assumptions about our customers and then scratch our heads wondering why our efforts are not paying off. A really good email newsletter involves the reader. There are 3 examples in the blogosphere that really do this well: The Art of non-Conformity, Advanced Riskology, David Risley. The sign that your email newsletter has really been effective is when you start getting people replying to you about it.

Facebook

Once you’ve built an audience around your Facebook fan page, the next key is connecting with them. If you start trying to sell them without connecting with them, people will drop your page like a bad habit. Good facebook fan pages engage the asset they’ve built. Your facebook page is not about you or your product. It’s about your readers and customers. When you’‘ve reached a point where you can narrow down a group of customers who interacts with you at every opportunity, that’s how you know you’ve built a tribe. That’s when the tipping points will start to happen.

Twitter

When people see twitter for the first time, it either seems like gibberish or completely pointless. For the person who doesn’t know a thing about twitter, their primary concern is the number of followers (which by the way is one of the most meaningless statistics in all of this). If there are two things I could tell you about twitter, these would be it:

  • Make friends instead of followers: I’ve connected with a wide variety of people on twitter including bloggers, artists, surfers and photographers. My concern is not what people can do for me, but what can I learn from them and what can I teach them. As a result twitter is a goldmine that I’m convinced can help you accomplish every goal in your life. If you’re a company, take this approach and you’ll blown away. If you go look at the twitter account for Hipmunk you’ll notice raving fans and an ongoing conversation with the raving fans. When I look at a twitter account of a company I see nothing but links, I can’t help but think “this is a company that doesn’t get it”
  • 150 followers is all you need: This is something I said in my original post on Twitip, so I’ll only summarize it here. If you set an initial goal to create 150 followers who really are engaged with you, something remarkable will happen. Your brand, blog, or product will spread. To add to that, you’ll find that the number of followers you have will start to take care of itself.

Phase 3: Promote

Social Media Phase 3: Promote

Assuming you built and audience and connected with that audience, it’s much more likely that your social media efforts will actually pay off financially. One of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard from somebody at a large company was “we just want to make a video for this campaign and have it go viral.” The foundation of almost any successful social media campaign is building and connecting with the audience. Once again we return to the three major platforms and take a cross-promotional approach.

Blog

At this point your blog can be leveraged as an effective marketing tool. You could for example give away something to encourage comments. You could also run a promotion that is available only on the blog. If you’re selling widgets you could for example say “leave a comment on the blog and we’ll send you a 50% off coupon for your widget purchase.” The key at this point is to have a healthy balance between building, connecting, and promoting.

Email

The email list is still one place where I see many bloggers/internet marketers offer certain discounts and promotions with the highest conversion rate. In this post on the email newsletter cycle Darren goes into detail about a sequence that not only allows you to create value for your audience, but also involves promotional efforts without annoying the reader.

Facebook

One of the things that amazes me is how often people fail to realize how you can leverage someone else’s audience to grow your business. If you can find another business who complements what you do or vice versa, there’s a tremendous opportunity there. A while back I was responsible for maintaining and growing the Facebook fan page for a company that made ionic hair straighteners. I always thought that they would be smart to leverage the audience of a cosmetics brand with a very big social media presence. Another common practice is to offer something that is exclusive only to your Facebook fans.

Twitter

A promotional effort on Twitter can result in a dramatic success. A while back Brian Solis wrote about a company called Moonfruit that ended up on the front page of google (ranking for some very competitive keywords) with a very simple promotional idea. Orbitz runs a weekly contest where they give away a round trip ticket and all the require is that you follow them and tweet the message which links to the contest page (which kills a few birds with one stone). In your purchasing process you can provide people an an incentive to follow you on twitter. The promotion below by Hawaiian airlines is one of the smartest I’ve ever seen because it does three things

Hawaiian Air Social Promotion

1. It helps them to build an audience (BUILD)
2. It gives them opportunity to connect with the audience. (CONNNECT)
3. It encourages purchases (PROMOTE)

Cross Platform Promotion

This is something that I think can be be really powerful if done effectively.

  • You could use your Facebook page to encourage people to follow you on twitter or sign up for your email list.
  • You Could Use Twitter to promote your Facebook Page or Email List
  • You Could Use Your Email List to Encourage People to Follow on you Twitter or Become a Fan on Facebook

The best example of this I’ve seen on a Facebook page is by Chris Gullibeau on the AONC Facebook Page. You’ll notice on the landing page that you can become a fan on Facebook, Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on twitter. In one location he kills all the birds with one stone. With a bit of patience and some strategy social media can become one of the most powerful tools in anyone’s arsenal.

Srini Rao from The Skool Of LifeThis is a guest post by Srini Rao – Srini blogs at The Skool Of Life and is the Co-Founder of BlogcastFM, one of today’s most recognized Blogging podcasts where he interviews some of the biggest names in the blogosphere. If he’s not surfing you can find him hanging out on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • http://joelrunyon.com/two3 Joel Runyon | [BIT]

    Interesting thoughts here Srini. I disagree on the last point about Chris’ page. Putting 3 actions on 1 spot is not a good strategy. People get confused when they have more than 1 action to do at a time. You need to to separate out what actions you really want them to do and then act accordingly.

    For example, on facebook, you want someone to like you before they give you their email because a “like” is an easier conversion than a email address. Then once they like you, you can ask them for an email or follow you on twitter. A good tutorial on how to take advantage of this facebook code is on Viperchill –> http://www.viperchill.com/facebook-fan-page/

  • http://www.facebook.com/MorganBarnhart Morgan Barnhart

    ““we just want to make a video for this campaign and have it go viral.””

    I worked for a company a couple years ago that had never been involved in social media AT ALL. No blog, no twitter, no facebook, no interaction what-so-ever. They made a single video and they thought that just by uploading the video to Youtube and placing in the perfect tags, the video would go viral. I tried to explain to them that that wasn’t how it worked, but they weren’t hearing it. They were SO sure that their video would go viral just because it was “sexy” and had a catchy title.

    That was three years ago. It has yet to go viral.

    Blogs like this are what will (hopefully) change the mindset of many. :)

    Thanks for this MASSIVE post, Srini! :)

  • http://www.socialmouths.com Francisco Rosales

    Thank you Morgan. I have been in similar situations, and have lost the energy to respond to companies saying “Can you help us get more followers?”

    I was excited about Srini’s post because he explains things from his perspective and it’s not necessarily the way I was going to approach the topic. He made a lot of sense and he simplified at the same time.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.socialmouths.com Francisco Rosales

    Joel,
    I prefer to have one call-to-action as well and as much as we understand that an email subscription is far more important than a like, we cannot ignore that it also requires of a higher commitment from the user and that we are on Facebook, the first step should always be to get that desired Like. Once we have established that connection go to step 2.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Morgan,

    Thanks for chiming in on the post. It is kind of MASSIVE isn’t it. I thought it could potentially be a PHD thesis in social media ;). I know what you mean about the things you mentioned above. It’s far too often you companies are interested in a quick fix. I’ve talked to 100′s of bloggers, some of who have their own agencies and even they will tell you relationships are at the root of so much of this. People think that reaching a bunch of measurements and metrics is going to ensure their success and social media. That to me is a quick ego inflation fix, but doesn’t result in any real value for the customer.

  • Anonymous

    It’s amazing that people ask the question “can you help us get more followers.” I guess the answer would be “for $5.00 you can get yourself 5000 followers. Just know they won’t do anything for you other than give you the ability to brag about all your followers.” I actually don’t ever check my follower count and don’t even know how many followers I have mainly because it’s not that important. You can’t effectively engage with 10,000 followers even if you had absolutely no life. But that’s a whole other debate. Thanks for the opportunity to guest post here.

  • Anonymous

    Joel,

    You make a very valid point and one that I didn’t really consider when I was putting this together. You’re right about having too many calls to action. I guess when you take that into consideration what I would do is make it possible to cross promote, but do it on different tabs rather than all on one tab (i.e put the email sign up on another tab). I did see that post on Viperchill and I took a few ideas from there for putting together the BlogcastFm facebook page.

  • http://nl.linkedin.com/in/gianluigicuccureddu/ Gianluigi Cuccureddu SMP

    Hi Srini,

    Aren’t these more the tactics and execution of social strategy?
    The How (strategy) is the adapted combination of your audience and objectives that determine what techs/channels are being deployed.

  • http://reguligence.biz Emil A. Georgiev

    Interesting, I have had similar thoughts about creating & maintaining an e-mail list. For the rest – thank you, Srini, for the truly inspiring post!

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  • Anonymous

    Emil,

    Glad you found it useful. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the other stuff. I’m always glad to answer them because it helps me learn and grow my knowledge base.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s probably a combination of both. I would see the “strategy” portion of it is really the build, promote, and connect framework that I developed. But yes, there are definitely tactical and execution ideas in here too that to serve as examples of the strategy in action.

  • http://twitter.com/JackieTEwing Jackie Thorpe Ewing

    This post crossed my path at just the right time. I’ve been struggling with how best to explain these same issues to my clients without sounding condescending or preachy. Srini has given me many ways to approach this and a clear cut direction to go in. It will work for my own business AND for my clients’ businesses. This is one post that will be read and reread many times – before, during and after implementation of ideas on the back burner or in the germination room!
    Thanks so much for sharing Srini.
    htt://jtewing.com/blog

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Great tips. So often people will create a social networking profile or set up a blog and then that’s it. It doesn’t work like that. In order for any social media strategy to work the content has to be consistently updated and promoted. It takes a lot of time and effort and some people still don’t realize that.

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    One of mu interesting observation that my friend made was that the value of the incentive didn’t really alter behavior in previous campaigns he’d worked on.

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    Great thorough step-by-step evolution of online marketing! Very clear and logical in its flow and would be super helpful when I begin my campaign :D Thanks for writing this

  • http://www.bmcassociates.com/articles/news_iw19980914.html Mychael Margott

    Personally I think that individuals get twitter and many companies don’t.

  • http://www.watchenthusiasts.com/category/luxury-watch-brands/tag/ Watch

    Like the three phases – makes it easy to digest. Some may argue that “leads” and “sales” are counterproductive elements in a social media engagement – others still have to understand that a deal has to be orchestrated by somebody and a somebody who is interested is still called a lead.

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    we cannot ignore that it also requires of a higher commitment from the user and that we are on Facebook, the first step should always be to get that desired Like.

  • Elizabeth York

    Great post about getting started with and building a social media marketing strategy. For more tips about social media, particularly businesses check out: 
    http://wpmu.org/building-a-social-media-strategy-for-your-new-business-starting-at-wordpress-ending-at-success/

  • tasmania fishing

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    for social media strategy you have  to work on the content and it has to be consistently
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    I think you could easily leverage a powerful tribe to grow your twitter presence.

  • http://www.airductcleaning-dc.com/ Suzann

    On an individual level I still strongly believe that 150 followers is
    all you need and on a corporate level I think you could easily leverage a
    powerful tribe to grow your twitter presence.

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    Let’s consider the social media presence of an individual or company as a
    blank canvas which we intend to turn into a masterpiece.

  • http://www.streamallyoucan.com/ Pinkie Horvath

    Over the last week I’ve been able to condense my work into 3 core
    ideas for an effective social media strategy, both on a personal level
    and a corporate level.

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Belinda Summers

    Great one. Social media is becoming more and more poplular in all businesses these days. This is because of so many great benefits it could bring to them. But of course, getting results from this marketing strategy is not as easy as many would think. It requires right strategies and approaches and a positive attitude in order to get what you want.