Social Media Marketing is the answer to all of your marketing woes. Just add a little fan page here and a tweet there and watch the money roll in! Right? Not likely.

We’ve been building websites and developing online marketing strategies for 10+ years. During this time, there’s been one thing we can always count on… the eternal quest for the easy button – Thanks, Staples!

Smashing the Easy Button

Let’s face it, social media marketing is a complete and utter waste of time. Seriously. It will not work for you, unless…

  1. You have a strong web presence
  2. You know your audience
  3. You have a content strategy

Yes, there is hope. There is a clear way forward in this sea of social chaos. It’s called a plan!

Step One for your Social Media Marketing Plan: Have a strong web presence

Social media channels are generally considered what social media expert Chris Brogan calls your marketing “outposts.” These are the channels where you distribute your content to increase its reach and effectiveness.

Your website is your home base.

Your website should be the source for the original content you intend to distribute. It should be well organized and ready for visitors from your outposts at any time. After all, the goal of those outposts is to drive targeted traffic back to your site.

A good home base should consist of the following:

  1. A CMS (Content Management System) – usually something like WordPress, Joomla or a proprietary CMS. These allow you to manage your content without any technical skills. Keeping your content fresh means that repeat visitors (including Google) will always find something new and interesting. And new visitors won’t see a bunch of stale old content.
  2. A Blogbusiness blogging is incredibly effective when it comes to giving visitors the content they want. You can blog about industry trends, news, tips, etc. This is the original content that you’ll use on your social media outposts to connect with the audience there.
  3. A Good Site Design – your website should be easy to use and look at. Use design to guide the outpost visitors where you want them to go. User friendly navigation and targeted landing pages will lead visitors to do something while they are there.
  4. Calls to Action – when someone lands on your site, they are lost for a moment. It’s a new place, they are disoriented. Use a call to action, designed for attention and ease of use, to guide them along and tell them the something you want them to do.

It’s your home, make it nice and inviting!

Step Two for your Social Media Marketing Plan: Know your audience

I give lots of talks on marketing – social, mobile, search engine and online marketing. If I was only allowed to make one statement in any of these talks, it would be this…

Know your target audience!

It is that important. If you don’t know who your target audience is, how do you expect to connect with them on social media?

What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone? You get to know them. Why? So, you can have a more meaningful conversation. So you don’t stand there awkwardly talking about the weather waiting for a reason to leave.

In all of your online properties – owned and borrowed – you need a consistent message. Knowing your audience helps you to craft this message and target it towards them.

Take some time and really get to know your target audience – also known as your buyer personas.

Even if you think you know them, take some time to really understand their “story.” It will pay off in the long run. Not just with social media, but with all of your online and offline marketing efforts.

Step Three for your Social Media Marketing Plan: Have a content strategy

Effective content takes time, research and planning. If your plan for social media is to just post some stuff, you’ve already failed.

If you’ve worked on steps one and two, then step three should come easy. Since you already know your audience, then you should have a good idea of the content they want.

Determine where you can get this content for them…

  1. Original Content – can you write blogs posts or produce webinars, white papers or videos on these topics?
  2. Blogs – what blogs out there are full of great posts on these topics? Set up some Google Alerts and start reading different blogs to find great content. Then share it with your target audience.
  3. Life – every day you are given great sources for content you can share with your target audience. Tune into these by listening with your target audience in mind. Check out this post on content marketing for more on this.

Once you’ve identified some sources of great content – both original and shared – you will want to develop a plan to organize and deliver this content.

The best way to map out your content strategy is with an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar can come in many shapes and sizes; whatever works best for you.

Typically, it tends to look most like a chart…

Editorial Calendar Sample

This is just a sample. Your chart can contain other columns for:

  • events
  • advertising campaigns
  • seasonal themes or holidays
  • product launches or sales initiatives

The point is to map these out ahead of time and do it strategically. The more you plan ahead, the less overwhelmed you will be. The better your content will turn out.

Even if you are the only author, having a plan will still help you keep your sanity.

With your content strategy mapped out, you’ll know how you’ll be using your social channels in the future. These efforts will be thought out, well crafted and strategically targeted to your audience.

And if you map out your content well enough you might even end up with enough for an eBook or full length book. But, that’s another topic for another post.

Now, I’m not saying that social media isn’t a place for fun and spontaneity.  Certainly let your personality shine through. Create real relationships with people on social media. Don’t just be a content shilling machine.

But, when you have a plan, and you produce and share content that is of value to your target audience, you will attract those people to your social channels. Your connections and successes will grow from there.

What do you think about social? Do you think a free for all is the best approach or do you prefer to have a plan? Let me know in the comments section below.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

2 Responses to “Social Media Marketing Won’t Work for You… Unless
  • Hi Jon. Insightful post as usual.

    I think a combo of free for all AND having a plan is probably the most realistic approach only because all the planning in the world, which is helpful, needed and good to do, won’t take into account the spontaneous nature of real time conversation which is another important aspect of engagement and outreach.

    Also breaking or important industry news comes out at all times of the day or night so that, too is challenging to plan for. Those responsible for implementing the content strategy should be nimble enough to adjust and cater to real time or breaking events … because often times these news or events do inspire new content ideas or force us to create un-planned content of *some kind* that is both timely and relevant to our audiences.

    Still, having a content plan in it of itself provides does provide important framework to leverage. It is important to pre-define, where and when possible, the tempo of topics as well as the quantity of content to be created, curated, shared and administered on branded platforms, communities and such. These plans serve as the content blueprint to work from and are an essential aspect of one’s content marketing strategy (which, by default, also impacts one’s social media strategy as well!).

    • Absolutely Mayra! There has to be some level of fun, excitement and spontaneity with social.

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