LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Mixx and the list goes on. There are dizzying amounts of social networks on the web, so which do you choose? Is YouTube most in-line with your brand or should you allocate a social media advertising budget to Facebook? To provide direction for your efforts, our team created a step-by-step list for developing effective social media strategies:

Quick jump: 1. Targeted brand message / 2. Identify social networks / 3. Strategically position brand / 4. Grow initial fan-base / 5. Incentivize social media user / 6. Participate social community discussion / 7. Collect & analyze data / 8. Refine the strategy

1. Craft a compelling based on your consumer needs and strategic brand position. In other words, does your audience want an insightful, authoritative voice (e.g. Read Write Web), or do they want straight news (e.g. Mashable)? Or, if your customers are price sensitive, do you offer the greatest value?

2. Identify social networks where your audience participates most. Almost all audience segments are on the now ubiquitous social network, Facebook. That doesn’t mean you need to allocate all of your marketing resources to Facebook. If you’re a news organization that pushes the latest, breaking news, you would want to have a strong presence on Twitter — intended for quick, short updates. Or, if you’re a photographer, Tumblr might be the best platform to promote your latest work. Once you’ve identified your brand message and social platform, it’s time to build the brand social profile.

3. Strategically position brand in a social community. In the social network you’ve selected, scan for community leaders and identify a market gap by performing a simple keyword search or some sites have user rankings, such as Tumblr. Is there room for another grungy graphic designer? Based on the existing content, how can you stand out from your peers?

4. Grow social media user-base with loyal followers. Typically, loyal followers — online and off — will form your initial user-base — the first part of your social media strategy. In fact, 41 percent of consumers join Facebook fan pages to let friends know their friends product they support (#1 reason). Embedded social media widgets, such as Facebook, on the company blog makes it easy to build an initial following with a simple “like” button. To engage existing users try offering product or service giveaway through contests.

5. Incentivize social media users to join. In an eMarketer survey, 37 percent of consumers join Facebook fan pages to receive discounts (#2 reason). Brands must give users a compelling reason to join their online community. Try using Facebook apps, e.g. Poll Master, or Twitter hashtags, e.g. #contest. Ikea, for instance, gave away furniture in its showrooms using Facebook’s the photo tag feature. Developing effective social media contests is about creativity and the prize.

social media marketing strategies Social Media Marketing Strategies

6. Participate social community discussion. Beyond contests, develop content relevant to your community. Based on their needs and the overall brand message, how can you engage them? Give your two cents on every meaningful comment posted to your Facebook page, re-tweet other bloggers content, reply to Tweets relevant to your brand or attend in-person meetups on Meetup.com (if applicable). Dell makes a concerted effort to reply to every comment in the social space. In fact, the computer makers participation in the community discussion on Twitter drew profits in the millions in 2009.

7. Collect analyze data. A concern of many marketers and company executives is social media return on investment. If I spend 50 hours building the Twitter page to 5,000 followers, what happens then? When a customer reaches out to you, either in-store or online, ask where they heard of you. If it was Twitter and that prospective customer purchases your product, subtract the average lifetime customer value from your total social media investment. Or, you can use Google Analytics to follow customer traffic to see whether they are clicking on a Twitter link, then purchasing a product. Again, subtract the lifetime value of that customer from the total social media investment.

8.  Refine strategy. Are you receiving little web traffic from Twitter? Are you not engaging users enough or is your message on target? Maybe your target audience doesn’t want to hear from your brand on Twitter, so should you concentrate your efforts on Facebook? Experiment and try new tactics to see which work best.
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To develop your own social media strategy, here is a template:

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