Assess- The first step in the A-PIE plan is to assess. Before you make a calculated foray into the social media space, check out the lay of the land. Do this assessment by asking a couple of questions that can be answered with a number of different strategies.
1. Where are my potential customers and fans? Strategies: You can address this several ways. You can look at the national statistics and find out where your customers are online, and even find out even what they’re doing there. You can run a quick check by plugging your sample customer demographic into the free tool Forrester Research has set up. Pick your most common demographic and see how many of them are online. For instance, if I plug in women 35-44 in the United States, I find that 70% of them are spectators online. According to Forrester’s research, this means they are reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching videos from other users, reading online forums, customer reviews and reading tweets. A rather large 31% of them are what Forrester calls “critics,” which means they are posting their own ratings, commenting on blogs and contributing to online forums. You can learn more about the online behavior groups here. These were recently updated in 2010.
How does this help you? If this is your demographic, you know that 70% of them are consuming online content other than just reading their email. You know where you can find them. The next step will be producing content that meets their needs. Remember, they’re not online looking to see what you have to sell; they are looking for answers to their own questions. Help them with valuable content that leads them to the answer. People don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped.
You also know that 31% of this group are influentials. In other words, they are not only consuming valuable content, they are commenting on it and passing it on to others. You will want to make sure to plan for calls-to-action in your content that appeal to their online behavior. If you want more specific online national statistics, check out the Pew Internet Research data. They’ve done several recent online behavior surveys you will find helpful in assessing where your customers are and what they’re doing there.
If you’re interested in something closer to home, start by seeing how much of your target audience is on Facebook. You can do this by going to the “Ads” app on the left side of your Facebook business page and setting up a sample ad. As you whittle down the demographic you want to reach by country, state, ages, etc., Facebook will tell you exactly how many people on Facebook fit your target demographic. If you are willing to spend some money, Gist.com will let you upload your email contacts into their data base, and they will tell you exactly which social networks they are on. A more cost effective way to do this might be to choose a group of core stakeholders and send a free Survey Monkey survey out to the group via email asking about their online habits. You can send ten questions for free to any email list. Ask what social media channels are they on, how often, how long, and what kinds of activities they are participating in on each platform. Throw in a question asking them what kind of content they’re looking for online. That’s a good start.
In the assessment phase, you’ll also want to set up some Google Alerts to monitor your business name so you can be notified when people are mentioning you online. You can also set up effective searches on Twitter (which surpassed Bing and Yahoo put together in 2010 as a search engine). Good tutorials for using Twitter search are abundant online. I would also suggest setting up a Twitter account and making up a list to follow, rather than following individual accounts (again, find tutorials on Google). If you put people you want to follow on a list, you don’t have to follow them officially on Twitter—their content will be delivered to your Twitter feed via the list. I would suggest making a list of successful businesses in your town or business sector to follow, and see how they use the channel. You don’t have to tweet to be on Twitter. You can learn a lot from listening.
2. What are some good case studies of businesses using social media well? Strategies: Do you consume online content? If you don’t, I would suggest you start. Donate a few minutes every day to reading blogs about your business sector. Are any of your competitors on social media? Follow them and see how they are using it in their marketing mix. Follow a few good blogs on social media marketing. You can subscribe to these blogs on an RSS reader such as Google Reader and go there once a day and do a quick read of articles that look interesting. Social Media Examiner put out a list of the top ten social media blogs in 2010. Start there (and include them). You’ll find out after a while which blogs are really helping you. Also, are there bloggers in your city or your sector that specialize in content that will help you? Ask around. Success won’t happen by osmosis. You’ll have to learn and apply what you learn.
After spending some time setting up your assessment program and learning, you can take that valuable input to the next phase. By the way, you never quit assessing–it’s an ongoing part of your marketing effort.
Plan- The next step in your A-PIE trek to success is to plan.
I strongly believe your plan should include a social media policy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but it should include guidelines for dealing with negative and spam posts on your channels (here’s a good social media triage example from SocialFish.com), a crisis communications plan, and guidelines for whoever is posting to your accounts. Your plan should also include en editorial calendar based on content buckets, and a dashboard system for posting and monitoring, both of which I will tackle in part three of this series.
I strongly recommend putting your plan into document form and revisiting it regularly (more on evaluation in part three). It can take any form that fits your culture from a multi-page strategic plan to a couple pages of action points. But do make a plan. It will be an anchor, a guide, and a measure of your success.
Next up: Part three, The Toolbox. The toolbox includes the last two letters of the A-PIE acronym, Implement and Evaluate. We’d like to invite you to attend our Social Media Boot Camp on Nov. 5 in Bozeman, Montana, where we will go over all the principles of the primer in detail. Hope to see you there.