As our president Josh Cline wrote, strategy is the most important component of any marketing endeavor. This is truer in the digital marketing arena. Inbound marketing and social media marketing are strategic marketing tools. In order to succeed in your marketing efforts, marketing strategy is necessary.
In online marketing endeavors, because of its newness and freshness, there has been a tendency by some to rush into social media, talk about Twitter and Facebook, but have no real goals and objectives, understanding of its audience, or ways to measure success. This is not social media marketing, or any kind of marketing. This is putting the cart before the horse. As digital marketing is still a relatively new field (only 15 years old!), many of those who are most conversant with technology are least conversant with marketing strategy and many of the traditional strategists are not familiar enough with technology to understand and develop a comprehensive plan.
At the beginning of the social media era, it may have been acceptable to wade in the pool and experiment, even without a strategy, as the potential of social was still unknown and only early-adopters were engaged. Today, however, as social media has matured, social media marketing strategy is a necessity and not an option.
In order to be truly successful in any digital marketing endeavor – whether it is social media, mobile, e-mail, or any other – the first thing that needs to be done – prior to talking about tools or tactics – is to talk about strategy.
Luckily, Forrester Research has developed a useful framework to develop a social strategy.
Forrester Research developed a strategic methodology called the POST method.
P is People. Don’t start a social strategy until you know the capabilities of your audience. If you’re targeting college students, use social networks. If you are reaching out to business travelers, consider ratings and reviews. Just do not start social without first thinking about it.
O is objectives. Pick one. Are you starting an application to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? To support them, or to energize your best customers to evangelize others? Or are you trying to collaborate with them? Decide on your objective before you decide on a technology. Then figure out how you will measure it.
S is Strategy. Strategy here means figuring out what will be different after you are done. Do you want a closer, two-way relationship with your best customers? Do you want to get people talking about your products? Do you want a permanent focus group for testing product ideas and generating new ones? Imagine you succeed. How will things be different afterwards? Imagine the endpoint and you will know where to begin.
T is Technology. A community. A wiki. A blog or a hundred blogs. Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide with confidence.
Lacking in strategy leads to companies abandoning their social media efforts too soon. Promised “to go viral” (which is not a strategy!) companies go about this process backwards picking the technology first, saying “We need a blog” and “We need to go on Twitter” and then give up after a few months. As Scott Opplinger wrote, “They might not get the results they want because they had no idea what results they were trying to accomplish in the first place and in most cases had no clearly defined method for measuring those results had they defined clear goals.”