It all started with two tweets. Well, it actually started with a few conversations that lead to the two tweets. Before that there have been dozens upon dozens of discussions with clients and industry friends alike about the importance of aligning business goals to social media content. You can’t get to your destination if you don’t have a map – or you don’t even know what your destination IS.
In the niche of social media marketing and digital communications, it’s well-known that a company or brand should have a plan before attempting to use online social networks to grow business. But once you have a plan, what do you do? The “WORK” part is the tactical plan. Here’s why it’s vital.
Some would say you lean back and check to-do items from your strategic plan off a list. Some will pick and choose items from the plan and gravitate to what is comfortable and familiar. And others will (sadly) waste time and money by referring back to a 78 page social media strategy complete with impressive graphics, charts, and ideas and never once execute on them. Each avenue will result in failure 100% of the time. The key to a great strategic plan, whether for social media, business development, or even landing a first date (hey strategy is strategy, regardless of how you apply it) is the execution of the plan. That is where tactics come into play.
Tactics are where I thrive. The devil is in the details…
Yes, a million companies in today’s world can draw up a social media plan. I can, and through my company have been for over eight years. Let’s back up and chat about the basics. Here I’m going to tell you the process and the planning I go through with every single project I do. If you are ‘in the industry’ I fully expect you should already know this and be practicing it as sure as the sun rises. If not, this is a great time to borrow the concepts and start providing your company, brand or clients a complete, thorough and professional service. Otherwise you give the rest of us a bad reputation.
GHOST Social Media Marketing
Goals, Holistic, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics
WHY. Everyone has to work towards something. Why work if you don’t know what you’re working for? Why is this needed for your business. Most times, this is the hardest idea to formulate.
DO. Here we have to make sure what we do, what everything DOES, serves a greater good, not just for our company, but our clients, their clients, and honestly, the whole Internet. Our team works very hard to make sure everything we do is fair and balanced, and produces no foreseeable harm. Our work has to provide positive benefit for everyone involved – from our client’s bottom line to our employees happiness and well-being. (I added the ‘H’ to GOST somewhere around 1998 according to my own notes, slide decks and client work.)
WHAT. These are very specific actions that will reach a goal. If objectives are written SMARTER, results will follow. 5% of Facebook Fan Page user interaction per week to be obtained in 120 days. Specific tasks that can be measured and assigned worth. Trust us when we say this is hard.
HOW. So you want to get 5% of your Facebook Fan Page population to interact with you? HOW do you intend on doing that exactly? Release a video per week, run a contest, give out insider tips and tricks? This is where we bring the sauce…
WORK. This is where most people enter the social media game. Tactics are specific actionable and assigned tasks that you can put a check mark next to on a list. This is the actual WORK of the entire plan. It feels productive here, because this is where you DO things. As you can see, without Strategy, Objectives, Holistic, and Goals, no amount of work will produce results.
GHOST Social Media Marketing & Planning
Many call the entire business process a strategy and I suppose in some sense it the entire GHOST plan is strategy. (As a side note you may be familiar with the acronym in it’s orignal format of GOST – goal, objectives, strategy, tactics – but I added ‘holistic’ somewhere in the mid 90s when I did technical business development and strategy work in “Big Corporate”. Holistic was just another way of stating risk analysis and it fit in with my format quite well.)
Getting back to social media and digital communications, taking this approach provides a systematic way of designing results and profits. We have all seen or participated in project that seemed to be producing a lot of ‘work’ but not much result. Or at least not much result that we cared about or that put money in bank accounts. Planning. Planning. Planning. It’s not sexy, but it gets the job done.
Once you know what you are going to do and why, it’s time to get down to the how.
SMARTER Project Management Methodology
Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Trackable/Timeboxed, Evolves & Re-Evaluate
By planning very specific project requirements and tasks, you keep your focus narrow and your efforts concentrated. By defining the boundaries of a project you also have parameters for the oh-so-popular “scope creep”. Just typing the phrase gives me the shivers. Along all roads other shiny objects appear and it is very tempting to deviate if you don’t have concrete (specific) plans.
If you don’t know exactly what you are working for, there isn’t anything to measure. By wanting to sell 30% widgets, you have concrete numbers to work towards. This of course makes our CEO happy, because you can chart +30% on a graph, but you can’t chart “more”. This is also the point in the process we point at when the bean-counters scream ‘ROI’ at us. Showing the numbers is easy, but in the end it’s up the business to determine how much a particular action is worth.
Here’s where reality sets in. Online, everything seems to be Facebook, unicorns and glitter and everything seems possible. If your company has traditionally experienced a 5% growth in sales per year, planning (and relying on) an increase of 45% is unrealistic and dangerous. We work hard to make sure that planned actions and results are humanly possible, financially feasible, and within the universal constrains of time and space (as much as I love Doctor Who, I have not found a way yet to travel in time and space…)
Just because you can does not mean you should. Does what you propose have a direct link to an action, outcome, or process? Does it matter NOW? Does it have anything to do with business goals? These are questions we throw on the table quite often. Nowadays, everyone wants to be on Facebook, but when asked why, most times the answer comes down to ‘because it’s there’ or ‘because our competition is there.’
Trackable / Timeboxed
Again, back to the idea that success, failure, and progress should be measurable, you need to show the path from A to B. Without seeing the steps, you have no way to find a fracture point or reproduce the results. Time is a very important dimension to our work as well. Selling 30% more widgets over the course of 30 years really isn’t helpful to a business, but selling 30% more right before your IPO – THAT matters.
This one I added somewhere in the early 2000s. We don’t work in a system that delivers a product and walks away. We are not advertisers (no offense). Our medium is not a billboard that you can put up on the highway and forget about until it’s time to change it. Our ‘product’ is a living, breathing, feeling entity that needs to be nurtured and fed. In professional circles they call this process ‘evaluation.’
This one I also added somewhere in the early 2000s. I like acronyms as you can now tell. Sometimes when you are in a relationship it’s hard to take a step back and see if it’s working. It’s hard to change if you become too emotionally attached to something, social media marketing is no different. Because we are working in a medium that revolves around relationship building and community, it can be hard to cull out the efforts that don’t produce. At the same time, if when platforms and technology evolve, it can be seen as wasteful to change focus. The ability to stay flexible and be ahead of the curve is what we do.
Becoming SMARTER at Social Media
To be honest, it’s the last two items here that I see skipped the most often. Ridged plan that fall out of date with tools and platforms and people too scared to evolve and reevaluate. Fear that they might be seen as making the wrong suggestions or choosing the wrong path. There isn’t a client I work with that I don’t tell “you know, we are going to plan and execute all of our plans, but be aware that the industry pivots every 48 hours and we will need to be flexible along the way.” When Google+ showed up on the scene, I knew that it was a good fit for some of my clients right away, and I realized that others were going to take longer to see benefits. At the same time, ideas that have run their course in practice but not on paper need to be put out to pasture as well. Facebook (in some cases) I’m lookin’ at you…
So what is it going to be?
Making grand plans with bells and whistles only to throttle back when it comes to designing tactics to get the job done? Why not do something unique and engaging on social media platforms and do what will get you to your goals? Will you give in to inertia and complain about new ideas and opportunities or will you embrace change – again – and stay competitive?
If you complain or preach that certain strategies or tactics (or social networks) do not work – and you have not tried them first hand in a business context – you are an amateur, plain and simple. Harsh, yes, but true. You cannot learn from a lesson you never attended.
Tactics are not about specific social media networks. Tactics are not about video vs. podcasts vs. webinars. Tactics are about any and all means to meet a goal down and dirty in the trenches. MySpace and Second Life might cause some laughs to anyone that has been around long enough to remember them in their prime. Truth is, those platforms are productive, thriving, and profitable IF you have a specific need. Brushing them off in mass because YOU don’t have an understanding of the value is short-sighted.
Experienced professionals know any form of community and communication is valuable.
Now, lastly, I want you to think about how willing you are to completely immerse yourself in this thinking and methodology. Add this on top of all that you do to run a business, run a department, service clients, deal with deadlines, and all the other tasks you do in order to make a profit. Unless it is specifically your job and the purpose of your company or department to become proficient and excel in all of what I’ve discussed, you should really consider hiring a professional to help you along the journey. I’m not talking about hiring someone (or egads bringing on an intern to handle full responsibly) to send Tweets or schedule Facebook posts, but rather to design a comprehensive and actionable plan to (almost) seamlessly integrate digital communications into your overall plan to make a profit.
PS – GSD is getting “stuff” done… I realize everyone doesn’t use the same slang I do!