By Joan Dowling
As fast as marketers can master a social media platform, the medium continues to evolve. Tumblr, the micro-blogging platform that launched five years ago, grabbed a bigger share of the social media audience and nearly tripled its unique US audience over last year, according to Nielsen’s Q3 2011 Social Media Report. Google+ went from the 54th most visited site to the 8th last September, Experian Hitwise reported, on the day after the site changed from invitation-only to open access. And Pinterest, which launched in 2010, hit 11.7 million unique monthly US visitors in February, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other independent site, according to TechCrunch.
If you’re struggling to keep pace, you’re not alone. An October 2011 IBM study found that 68 percent of chief marketing officers felt unprepared for the demands of social media marketing.
Sarah Meron, vice president of public affairs at American Express Company, says that for her organization integrating social media has been an evolution that started in 2009 with one dedicated person. Today, a team manages all social media initiatives and acts as a point of contact for other groups within AmEx. According to Meron, any communication through social media is “considered an external statement of the company,” and while all social media outlets are not created equal—Facebook is more personal, LinkedIn is more business-focused—“they all enable a richer, more personal brand experience.”
The following tactics from Meron and two other pros will help you build a social media strategy:
Get Social, Naturally. Gracey Newman, digital marketing manager of VH1 at MTV Networks and an online marketing and Google Analytics instructor, is often asked, “How do you know and keep up with all this stuff?” The answer, she says, is quite horrifying. “I am reading and keeping up with what is going on daily. It also helps to find websites that aggregate news for you. But other than that, there are no shortcuts.”
Start Small, Stay Focused. “Focus on the quality of interactions,” says Tammy Tibbetts, founder and president of She’s the First, a nonprofit dedicated to providing education for girls in developing countries, and former social media editor at Seventeen.com. Once that becomes more fluid, you can consider integrating the bells and whistles, such as live events.
Since She’s the First launched in 2009, its social media efforts have mainly targeted Facebook and Twitter. But the organization used Tumblr for a poetry campaign that ran from February through April (shesthefirst.tumblr.com
), and at press time, was revamping its YouTube page for new public service announcements. “We are all-volunteer-run and have to prioritize where we see the best return on the investment of our time. In an ideal world, I’d like to be on all platforms, but we have to stay focused on our main goals for 2012 and do a few things really well.”
These focused efforts helped She’s the First raise over $22,000 last November. During its Tie-Dye Cupcake Bake-Off, the organization’s first national fundraising event, which marked its second anniversary, over 60 student groups from colleges, universities and high schools held bake-offs—an initiative driven by Facebook and Twitter.
You need to understand that social media are not magic, adds Newman. “Opening a Facebook page will not bring hundreds of thousands of new customers to your business’s website. But having content that is interesting, share-worthy and adds value to your users’ lives is what makes for a good social media strategy.”
Think Long-Term, Act Short-Term. For marketing communications professionals, strategy has traditionally been planned six months to a year in advance. Now, we are challenged to develop strategies as events unfold online. But in social media it is still important to establish key messages for your organization, says Tibbetts. Use them as a touchstone for all those day-to-day tactics.
Make It Measurable. While measurement should be important to any marketing tactic you employ, it is especially important in the world of social media. “Search Engine Optimization [SEO] should be built into your website design at the very beginning and every time you make a change to it thereafter,” according to Newman. But metrics can blind you, warns Meron. “Don’t get trapped by obsessing over the number of your friends or followers. Rather, focus on the people who are taking the time to write a real response.”
This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue of CONNECT.
For tactics on marketing across generations, read the coverage of our February 2012 Social Media Week event, Bridging the Generation Gap