Week 5: Social Media Strategic Planning


Each week a question is asked to the students of Digital Media in Practice – A course in the Ryerson MBA program.  The question relates to assigned readings and focuses on different aspects of digital media.

This week we reviewed parts of the books Social Media Marketing and Marketing 3.0, as well as slides prepared by McDonald, Evans and Li & Bernoff.

What does a social media strategic plan look like?

A good starting point – as highlighted by McDonald – is that a social media strategic plan should compliment the current strategy of the business.  It seems obvious, but a key component of a successful social media strategy is that it must align with the objectives of the organization.  Being authentic and and allowing consumers to “own the brand” will encourage them to tell your story.

In addition to being consistent with the other efforts of the organization, it is crucial to understand how it is different from traditional methods of PR / marketing / corporate communication.  One main difference is that consumers have the ability to announce their feelings about a brand in a very public space.  It is worthwhile developing a Social Media Policy (or increasingly common Social Media Guidelines) to build some rules of engagement.

Considering employees of the organization is another important part of developing a strong social media strategy.  If the people closes to your brand are happy (or unhappy) they will let the world know.  In this space, trust must be earned.

A similarity to traditional communications practices is consistency – both in tone and visually.

Should social media strategic plans be different for different types of organizations?

Absolutely!  Just as a traditional strategic business plan will vary depending on the type and size of an organization, so should a social media strategy.  It is important to consider the expected audiences, unintended audiences, and sensitivity of information.  The social media strategy for a College or University will be very different than the strategy for a fur coat manufacturer for many reasons.  The expected audience of a school’s social media presence is younger, well educated individuals, who are much more likely to be sophisticated users of the web.  This allows schools to expect that students will be willing to interact by posting photos, videos, comments and links.  In addition, almost no one is morally opposed to the idea of education – meaning that there is a relatively small risk of a protest of negative comments.

A fur company on the other hand would likely have an older customer base, less information to publish, and a much higher number of vocal opponents.  I would be willing to bet a dollar that applying the same social media strategy to both of these organizations would be less than successful.

What are best practices when developing a strategic plan for social media adoption?

Evans has identified key areas to consider when developing a strategic plan:

  • Goals – start by defining goals, are you trying to improve engagement? create awareness?
  • Audience – understand who your audience is, how technically literate they are and what needs they have.
  • Content – what content are you distributing and how does your audience expect to receive it?
  • Promotion – how will your audience find your content?
  • Policies – how will interactions be monitored? how will they be moderated?
  • Measurement – what is the definition of success? how will it be measured?
  • Resources – who is doing the work? what about when it grows?
  • Refinement and Iteration – analyze, plan, act

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