Social media promotion requires planning

Campaigns should be organized, engaging, meaningful and fun

Premium content from Sacramento Business Journal – by Debi Hammond, Contributing writer

Date: Friday, June 3, 2011, 3:00am PDT

Thinking about launching a social media program?

Start with a plan.

We’ve all heard the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Yet that is exactly what most companies do when it comes to social media: They fail to plan.

You wouldn’t launch an advertising campaign without planning. And you certainly wouldn’t launch a public relations program without planning. Yet somehow many businesses, especially small businesses, launch social media programs without a plan. So, before you ask your intern or simply the person on your staff with the most free time, to start posting, blogging and tweeting on your behalf, follow these guidelines to get your program off to a successful start.

Hire a professional: You wouldn’t put your advertising budget into the hands of an intern, so why would you put your brand there? With social media, your brand voice is on display for all of the world to see, so be sure your ‘voice’ is a true reflection of your brand and in the hands of a true communications professional.

Develop an integrated plan: How will your social media program enhance and integrate with your current marketing efforts? For a program to be successful, it must augment your overall marketing program in a meaningful and strategic way.

Create a content calendar: Whether you post, tweet or comment every day or a few times a week, you need to have meaningful content to share. Social media should be organic, authentic and real-time, but as a company, you should also have an arsenal of information and content to share — after all, that is why people follow and “friend” you.

Engage: Engagement does not mean unleashing an aggressive flow of advertising and promotions to your community. Promotional offers are great and help people engage with your brand, but you also want to provide something more: levity, personality, creative content, meaningful messages, helpful tips, information, insight and education. Engagement online is just like engagement offline — there isn’t a concrete list of topics to cover because when it comes to conversation, you simply have to go where it takes you.

Share: Share pictures, personality, helpful tips, discounts, articles, expertise, etc. The social environment is a place to create more personal and meaningful relationships with your customers, employees, and yes, friends and family. So don’t be afraid to share more of yourself, your brand and your business.

Social media is a great marketing opportunity, particularly for small businesses with limited budgets because a lot of the tools are free. But your social media program shouldn’t be considered a “free-for-all,” especially when it comes to your business or brand. Have a plan and plan to succeed.

Debi Hammond is founder and chief executive officer of Sacramento-based Merlot Marketing Inc., an integrated branding, advertising, PR, social media and interactive agency. Reach her at debi@merlotmarketing.com

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