Social Media Strategies for Solution Marketing,
By: Steve Robins
The solution message and corresponding social media strategy are critical elements of the Information component of solution marketing (SIVA: Solution – Information – Value – Access).
In Part I of Social Media Strategies for Solution Marketing, Who Really “Owns” Your Message?, we discussed the need for a strategy to influence the influencers. Now we’ll take a look at the key steps to develop a social media strategy as part of your broader solution marketing plan.
Thesis #75-If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
In Part I, I mentioned that I’d attended the New England Business Expo including two excellent sessions sponsored by The American Marketing Association-Boston: “Marketing with Corporate Blogs: Customers Are Willing To Talk If You Are Willing To Listen” and “Building An Influential Social Network: Understanding and Optimizing Social Media.” Speakers included John Cass, author of Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging, Jonathan Kranz, author of Writing Copy for Dummies, Bob Cargill, Creative Director at Nowspeed, Mike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing at Hubspot and Marc Fireman, Vice President, Digital Strategy at Fleishman-Hillard.
There’s no shortage of books, websites and of course, blogs dedicated to social media. Drawing on the sessions mentioned above as well as primary- and secondary social media experience/research, this post will help you to develop a social-media based influence strategy as part of the broader solution marketing plan.
Social Media Influence Plan for Solutions
(1) Assessment. Identify what the market is saying about your company, solutions and products using social media monitoring tools such as TNS Cymphony, Radian6 and ScoutLabs. Social Media Monitoring will help you to determine where to focus your efforts. Continue to use these tools once you establish your plan. Check out Media Guerrilla for additional insight.
(2) Goals and objectives. As part of your broader marketing plan, determine if you should indeed develop a social media strategy. If the answer is “yes,” create a strategy that specifies what you wish to accomplish and how. Identify key metrics. Determine how you’d like the community to participate in your dialog. Key elements follow below.
(3) Timing. Although the marketing plan is often finalized once solution development has begun, consider starting your social media influence activities as early as possible. Use social media to gather input and requirements from the broader community including customers and partners. Continue to use social media throughout the solution lifecycle.
(4) Scope. Determine the scope of your plan – how broad will you go? If possible, connect your plan to the company’s broader social media strategy.
(5) Solution focus. Determine which solutions to include in your plan. Focusing on one solution may be too narrow. Rather, consider focusing on a group of solutions organized by business function, industry or even underlying technology.
(6) Influencers and target audience. Next, identify the most important communities and individuals that you need to influence and engage, as well as their blogs, Twitter handles, and other sites. Your plan may include monitoring, commenting, or periodic outreach to these sites. Also, consider the ultimate consumer of your message – customers, prospects, partners, press, analysts, the financial community, etc.
- Communities and sites. Identify the key communities that influence your solution’s message in the market – and how your company can engage in a dialog with those communities. Chances are, at least some of these communities are already talking about your company and solutions. Communities can include everything from trade associations to LinkedIn groups to customer advisory councils, and more.
- Lead influencers and sites. Identify influential individuals and their blogs, twitter handles etc – industry experts, bloggers, and writers, in addition to the usual press and tech analysts.
- Target audience. Identify the ultimate target audience for your message. Considerations:
- Assess their participating level in social media. For example, if they don’t read, comment or participate in social media, a social media strategy may have only limited impact on them.
- Is this audience organized into interest groups yet? If not, you may want to consider organizing a vendor-neutral group.
- Consider whether influencers are reaching this audience today. If they’re not, you may want to cultivate new influencers or encourage current influencers to influence your target audience as well.
(7) Technologies and Tools. Identify the most appropriate social media technologies and how you’ll utilize them. You’ll also want to use tools to author, edit, manage and monitor your social media activities. Following is a partial list of technologies based on the book, Groundswell:
- User-generated content – blogs, Twitter, podcasts, YouTube videos, Scribd, ebooks etc.
- Social networks and virtual worlds – MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn
- Collaboration – wikis and open source
- Ratings – forums, ratings and reviews
- People organizing content – tags
- RSS and widgets
(8) Participation style. Determine how your company will interact with your target audience and influencers – will your company’s contributors be creators, commenters or both? Social media enables you to participate in the discussion without even having your own blog. You can comment on other blogs, respond to tweets, add comments in LinkedIn groups, etc. Or you can create blogs, tweets, LinkedIn groups, Facebook fan clubs and more based on your solutions.
(9) Participants. Identify key, committed participants inside and outside your company who will manage and create your content, and comment on content outside the company.
- Who? Consider product managers, product marketing managers, executives, engineers, customer service folks, business partners and others. You might even consider hiring contractors or employees dedicated to create the content, which is becoming more and more common (NY Times).
- Social media is an ongoing activity. Expect to maintain it for an extended period – maybe even indefinitely. So participants may need to contribute content on a frequent basis, depending on the social media being used. For example, bloggers and podcast hosts may need to post once a week or at least several times per month. But you might opt to create videos on a more limited schedule.
(10) Content. Identify key topics to write on. In order to attract and engage readers, content needs to be relevant, targeted, current and a value-add for the community. Although this post cannot cover it in detail, content is the linchpin of your social media strategy.
(11) Promotion. Determine how you will promote your social media activities so that the community and influencers can find you and participate.
(12) Keywords. Identify keywords or key concepts. Google and Yahoo searches on these concepts should direct viewers to your website or social media activities (blog posts, tweets, YouTube videos, etc.). Some people will find you based on the communities in which they participate. But most others will find you through search and other means.
(13) Engagement. Prepare to engage in open conversations with your community. Remember, social media is all about listening and responding rather than just pushing out your static message. Expect to uncover challenges in addition to successes. By addressing those challenges, you’ll build a lasting relationship with influencers and the community.
(14) Measure, measure, measure. Develop metrics to measure success in attaining your goals.
Learn More: Suggested Resources
Remember, the list above is just a starting point. Following are a few additional resources as well. You can find many other great websites, blogs and books as well.
Blogs and Other Resources: