There’s no such thing as a short cut

22 Annual Bataan Death March- 010 by West Point Public Affairs

Time and again I come across examples of companies who seemingly expect social media to solve their marketing problems as though it is some kind of magic marketing formula. But as with any new technology, practice or procedure, implementing social media as part of your marketing strategy takes time, effort and a good deal of planning.

Social media is evolving at a rapid pace and I believe that it can play an important role within any company – big, small, consumer-focused or B2B. But as with any other tactic or tool, social media must be researched and thought through thoroughly in order for it to be integrated into the marketing strategy effectively.

What do you want to achieve?

A clear set of goals, objectives and milestones must be put in place along with an individual or team who understands social media and how it should be used. Creating an impromptu Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel without a clear endgame in mind is to use social media as another marketing ‘add-on’, separated from the values, personality and image of the brand.

Brand consistency is essential in today’s increasingly crowded online space and social media plays a vital role in generating brand awareness across both the traditional and social web.

Stay the course

The consequences of a poorly executed social media marketing plan can be dire for a brand. Consider the business that hasn’t tweeted since January 2008 or the company blog with only a handful of posts and little or no comments. It looks lazy.

Social media is not a quick fix – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Social media is about building relationships and engagement and this requires constant and consistent attention over a long period of time.

I’ve often suggested to companies that if they cannot guarantee the time and commitment needed to use social media correctly then it’s probably better that they don’t use it at all. It’s far better to focus on the channels you can use well than spread yourself – and your brand – thin across a variety of social media sites that aren’t being maintained.

Set out a clear plan of action

A social media strategy doesn’t have to be ‘War and Peace‘ but it does have to be a document detailed enough to coherently map out why you want to use social media, how you are going to use it and with whom. If you haven’t got the time to put a simple plan together I doubt you’ll have the time to consistently engage with communities using social media.

There’s no such thing as a short cut

Social media is new, exciting and fun and an area of marketing I really enjoy. But social media is a paradigm shift from an outbound marketing to an inbound marketing approach and it takes time to understand and appreciate the intricacies and nuances of this new way of thinking.

The brands that use social media well are the ones that will do the work to understand how it should be used correctly as part of their overall marketing plan. This takes time and effort.

There’s no such thing as a short cut.