5 Steps to Building Your Social Media Marketing Plan

Building Your Social Media Marketing PlanWhen any new technology gets rolled out — whether it’s e-mail, text messaging or social media — it takes some time for best practices and effective strategies to cement themselves. And while many businesses (of all sizes) are still looking for ways to leverage social media, some techniques have already proven fruitful and can help your business expand its reach.

The key to turning your business into a social media marketing success is focusing on the fundamentals that already make your business great, and enabling your customers to spread the word about your exceptional products or services.

Here is a 5-step plan for linking your customers’ experience to the power of their endorsement, which will, in turn, bring more customers to your business:

1. Start with exceptional service.

Though providing your customers with positive, memorable experiences may seem an obvious suggestion, the importance of this first step cannot be understated. Whatever inspired you to first open your doors (or whichever services set you apart from your competition today) is what you need to focus on in every customer interaction you have.

When you’re firing on all cylinders and giving your patrons a top-notch experience, you’re turning casual customers into passionate ones. For better or for worse, these are the types of people who are most likely to spread the word about your business to their friends and colleagues. And for any social media marketing campaign to take off, you need to have all-out fans willing to evangelize your brand and the great experiences they’ve had with it.

2. Engage your customers with interesting content.

Great service is a first step in building a passionate fan base, but the next step involves extending the experience outside your four walls. E-mail marketing helps you reach your passionate customers when they are not in your store by sharing news, tips and other information through periodic communications.

The benefits of e-mail marketing go beyond simply keeping your customers informed. The basic act of asking for an e-mail address strengthens the bond between your business and your customers because they are entrusting you with a piece of their personal information. And while an e-mail address may seem like a tiny detail, when someone gives it to a business, that proves the business is a trusted contact that the person would like to engage with on a deeper level. In addition, e-mail newsletters are easily (and often) forwarded to and shared with friends, so this a simple first step towards leveraging your customers’ contacts, if they choose to forward along your messages.

3. Help your passionate customers spread the word.

Forwarding an e-mail newsletter is still a great way for your customers to spread the word about your company, but social media marketing provides a lot of other ways, too. For example, archive your e-mail newsletter content online. This will allow you to post the newsletter as links on various social networking sites around the Web.

Andrea Herran of Point Barrington, Illinois-based Focus HR Consulting does a great job of leveraging her e-mail content to drive her social media marketing efforts. Every month, she sends out a short e-mail newsletter that features an article about management, and includes links to her recent blog posts and other resources that might interest her subscribers. Before she sends out the newsletter, Herran runs a teaser post on Twitter that often prompts more people to sign up. And after the newsletter is sent, she engages with subscribers about it on Facebook, talking about ideas she shared and learning more from her customers.

4. Turn casual acquaintances into passionate customers.

Sharing information with friends is the very nature of social media marketing, so using this channel to engage your most passionate customers will quickly increase awareness in your business among their contacts. This is why providing content to your most passionate customers is so important: Give them something worthwhile to talk about, and they will gladly share it with their friends. Some examples of items your business could post include:

  • Details on new products, or changes to existing offerings
  • Specials, deals, discounts and coupons
  • News on upcoming events
  • Information about community functions your business may be participating in
  • Offers, prizes, rewards and contests

As the word spreads about your news, more customers will connect with your business via social media. In fact, customers are more likely to connect via social media than they are through e-mail marketing — but don’t let that discourage you. E-mail subscribers are more engaged because they interact through their inbox, which means they’ll be alerted when your message arrives, while social media contacts get distracted more easily. Social media is very popular right now, but remember that its users tend to be more like casual acquaintances in comparison to the passionate customers that e-mail marketing provides.

5. Keep the “virtuous circle” going.

If the ultimate goal is to convert as many people into passionate customers as possible, then it all comes back to providing a great customer experience. Use social media marketing to lure customers into your business, where you can wow them with the kind of exceptional service they heard about from their contacts. And if these new customers heard about your business via social media, try to get them to sign up for your e-mail newsletter while they’re there. When they do, you’ll know you’ve found another passionate customer, and your efforts will spin onward to their friends.

This creates a virtuous circle that will continue to build buzz and generate followers for your business with every new newsletter and great customer experience you produce.

12 Comments ▼

Eric Groves


Eric Groves Eric Groves is the Senior Vice President of Worldwide Development for Constant Contact. Eric has more than 20 years of experience building sales, business development, online and marketing strategies for leading companies. He is the author of The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing, published in 2009, and a frequent speaker across the country.

12 Reactions

  1. Eric,

    Thanks a lot.

    Lately, although it’s not very original, (thanks Chris Brogan) I’ve been trying to make my email newsletters a lot more personal.

    I want opt-in subs to feel special. And like VIP’s.

    Again, thanks for even more tips I can use in my business.

    The Franchise King

  2. This is a great list, and even as a technologist, I love the fact that your steps are not technology-driven. You certainly need to start your social media campaign by giving people something good to talk about, ie, great service or a jaw dropping product. I would add one other tidbit of advice…don’t be intimidated by the “trappings” of social media. Just plunge in and be yourself, and don’t get bogged down in worrying about what will happen if you get into conversation with your customers and prospects. Just do it!

  3. Great article, I think that having good content and adding value to the message is really important. One challenge sometimes is where to start, I mean how do we find the people that care about what we have to say? We just launched a new product Five, By Bueda, that helps with that problem (http://www.fivebybueda.com). Perhaps it can help with some of the points of this article.

    Cheers,

    Vasco

  4. TJ McCue

    Totally agree with provide interesting content. It is so important to be a resource. I’ve been saying that for years, but it is more true than ever. People, business owners in particular, struggle to keep up with the many tasks on their plate – if you can give them help, provide something useful, helpful, that solves a challenge in their day, you build the relationship. I’ve been helping my clients do that in their emails, too.

    That’s what we’re trying to do with the 195+ Social Media Monitoring Tools. Help marketers, small biz owners, sales execs to find the tool that works for them, helps them monitor and measure their social media efforts.

  5. Great article; I think Following your advice would make one a great marketer.

  6. Thank you for the great information. Marketing is tricky business. What to use and not waste your money doing it.

  7. Thanks for a great post which really highlights the full circle of reaching, maintaing and gaining customers in a truly sustainable way.

    Too many businesses these days forget to treat their customers the way that they would themselves like to be treated.

    Cheers

    Jamie

  8. Martin Lindeskog

    Eric Groves: Thanks for the tips. I look forward to start reading your book on email marketing. I have decided to start a newsletter for Ego Sole Trader in September.

    Joel: You are welcome to provide me with some funny stuff! :)

  9. I think that no amount of social media work can ever replace an exceptional service and I love that you wrote it as the first step any business owners should consider. It’s going the extra mile that will work wonders for your reputation and when you do just that – others will spread the word about you, even if you don’t do it much. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips and I think I will put them into better use than what I’m doing right now.

  10. Social media is definitely a must in the now Web 2.0 world. Many of my blog readers find my blog from these social medias, like Digg. So I think it is fairly important to incorporate social media into your overall marketing plan.

  11. Sometimes we can get so caught out in getting the sales that we miss the most important step in the whole process. Building relationships with the cutomer. Sending out an email blast that is sales related can work but it will be best measured when you put your needs on the back burner and speak to your customers like people and not robots.

    Good Post

    Editor of Shepreneur Magazine

  12. Great article. You have really managed to simplify the beginning steps to planning and creating an effective social media campaign. I would just like to add an obvious point that knowing “Who” your target market is will improve the success of the campaign quite dramatically. Social Media should be used in a way to connect with customers on a personalized level, and like someone had mentioned, “not robots.”

    Thanks for sharing knowledge.

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