The 3 Vital Stages of A Social Marketing Plan

Social Marketing Plan
Social Marketing Plan

How do you gain trust in the social media realm? No matter how many Inbound Marketing blogs you read a day, establishing trust in the social media realm is not an easy task.

Learn From Experience

Our department deals with students, staff and faculty of the university. Different personas, different views and different expectations are an everyday challenge for us. As a member of our team, I know that we are 100% committed to our audience, and try to work around different rules and regulations dictated by the university. But, as with all people, it is very hard to satisfy everyone, and often time our department can be seen as authoritative and not compelling brand (which is really the opposite).

From a Marketing perspective, this is bad news if your goal is to enter the social marketing realm, and it is exactly what I had to do as part of my plan to create a social marketing strategy to our department.

Stage 1 of The Plan

People’s minds are very complicated. They involve opinions, biases, emotions, and whatnot. It is at this stage that you must separate yourself from the market norms approach and embrace the social norms approach (you can read more about it here). In our case, it was trying to present ourself as a brand that is more in tune with what people  say and need. We listened, we interacted, and we gave a more personal customer service. In simple words, we were trying to gain our audience’s trust.

In my experience, this is probably the hardest and most delicate stage of the social marketing plan. Listening to your audience should be a top priority to any business who is trying to earn the trust of its audience, but more importantly, it is the main pillar for your entire plan. This is the stage that determines if your plan will fail or succeed.

Stage 2 of The Plan

The power of free, enter the behavioral economics realm is an article I wrote a while ago to Inbound Marketing University Blog. It presented a comparison between social norms vs. market norms, and how separating the two can gain you an advantage when entering the social media realm.

Using the information in the article, this stage of the strategy focused on creating a list of free incentives to share with our audience. Free doesn’t necessary mean losing money. It can very much be a product of your creativity. It my world, creativity means content, and content means a “bridge” and a “bridge” means connecting your brand to your audience.

The definition of content can be interpret in many different ways, but in the marketing realm there is only one way to look at content: giving your audience something remarkable that they need, without asking anything in return. Simple.

Where I work, people needed personal training sessions but were not sure if they wanted to spend the money. So we created free tutorial videos, which we posted on our Facebook and Youtube pages, that showed our members how to operate the different machines in our fitness center, how much weight to use, and how many sets and repetitions they should do. We gave them something remarkable they needed (for free), and we did not ask them to give anything in return. Why, you ask? Because now they know the value of our trainers. We increased our brand equity in their mind, and shortly after people started signing up for more personal training sessions.

In addition to these videos, we provided insightful information on topics such as nutrition, exercising and supplements, which our members appreciated very much. We listened to what people wanted to know, and we established ourself at a thought leader, the place you will go to get your information.

It is vital to understand that you cannot reach this level of success with out following step 1 of the plan first. The concept of listening is an extremely important stage of your social marketing plan, and metaphorically speaking is the cornerstone of the entire “bridge”.

Stage 3 of The Plan

Free is all nice and well, but now what? Now you let the magic happen, and you really need to be patient during this process. You cannot push your audience to write on your facebook wall, and you cannot expect to get comments on YouTube either. You need to have patience, and let people “walk” on the bridge you worked so hard to build.

Once this trust has been established, it is time for you to incorporate some call to Action. Call to Action does not mean asking people to buy your product. No, not at all. Instead, it means suggesting your services to your audience. Let them decide. There is no “to get this you need to do this and that”. No, far from it. You need to understand that your audience is in control, and if they do not like what you say to them, they will sever the “friendship” you worked so hard to establish.

Our call to action was very basic, but in many ways very effective. Instead of focusing on convincing people to join our personal training program, we made it a point to use it as a last 10 seconds line at the end of our videos. The idea was simple: avoid  annoying people with plenty of messages pooping up while they watch the videos.

At this stage, YOU need to be the audience. You, the marketing manager, need to get into their minds and behave as if you are one of them. Always ask yourself, do I want to see ads popping up while I watch the video? My guessing to your answer will be no, which is also the correct answer.

Stage 3 is where you test the results of your hard work. Did I do a good job listening to my audience needs? Did I establish myself as a thought leader? Are we “friends” yet? How strong is my “bridge”? All of these questions are important and need a very decisive answer. If you fail to answer these questions, you probably did not spend enough time at stage 1. Remember, stage 1 will decide how well your social marketing plan will work, so my advice is to spend as much time needed “learning” your audience, and listening to their needs.

In Sum

Creating a social marketing plan can be a lot of fun. Yes, I said it, fun. Fun in the sense that it is a minds game, a chess match if you will between the mind of the marketer and the audience. Win the match, and you will gain the respect (in our case, trust) of your opponent (in our case, the audience). Just like a chess match, if you cheat you lose the game (in our case, you lose your audience), and you will probably won’t get to play again (who wants to play with a cheater, not me).

What is your social marketing strategy?

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