Thursday, September 17, 2009

Integrating Social Media into your Marketing Plan

Many people are using social media tools without clearly understanding why it is important and how it contributes to the overall marketing strategy of the organization. This article lists seven questions you need to ask when developing your social media strategy. You can use social media to convey your authentic voice and build authentic relationships, if the social media strategy is integrated with your marketing strategy.

7 Questions for Integrating Social Media in Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits
Social media can be defined as all Internet and web based technologies that allow mass scale communications among people. As oppose to broadcasts that went from one to many, this reflects a many to many format where there can be a dialog among many people. Social media (SM) is definitely not a fad and is here to stay. Especially, if you are a non-profit or a small business with a purpose, SM can be used very effectively to mobilize your cause, volunteers, and even funds to support your work.

You can continue to create ripples by engaging people in online communities. But many people are using it because everyone else is using it. Even though social media can be a powerful tool, it can also be a waste of resources and ineffective if not integrated into the over all marketing strategy. Here is a list of questions that are helpful when developing your social media strategy.

1) What is the organization’s purpose?
Every marketing plan needs to start with the company's main purpose or the corporate mission. If you do not have a clear purpose or corporate mission, there is a lot written on the subject, including suggestions in my article - translating inner purpose into a mission statement.

2) What is the purpose of Social Media?
The next question to ask is how SM can further the organization’s goals? What are the specific goals and objectives of the SM plan in order to support the overall company plan? Goals refer to the broader purpose of SM, which is typically ongoing and cannot be measured. Objectives are the measurable and specific outcomes you would like to achieve within the specified period.

You can define several goals that are consistent with the corporate mission. For example, MotherWoman, a non profit with the mission of empowering mothers to bring positive personal and social change, can use SM to create a social network to support mothers by sharing experiences, resources, and information to empower mothers and build a strong social presence using social media tools. Another goal can be to stay informed about changes in the environments in terms of new grants, new technologies, new research, etc.

The more specific objectives can be to connect with specific number of mothers during specified periods who can benefit from this program, to connect with new donors, increase website and Blog traffic, increase participation of workshop mothers in online sharing, etc.

3) How will Social Media reach its goals?

I recommend what I call the L.I.P. Approach - Listen, Inform, and Participate.
a. Listen: Social media is a powerful tool because it allows a dialog among many people. An essential aspect of dialog is listening. While traditional market research methods like focus groups, surveys, and interviews are still important ways to listen, a more active and continuous form of listening is possible using social media tools like Google Alerts, Facebook, and Twitter. You can now listen to what your customers are saying, people who believe in your cause are saying, learn from other organizations, and learn about changes in your environment. Make a list of people and organizations as well as topics of interest that you should be following and then figure out the channels you will use to follow.

b. Inform: The second powerful use of social media is with respect to informing the relevant stakeholders – like your benefactors, donors, and other organizations – about your services, ideas, and beliefs. Instead of paying millions of dollars to celebrities who have no interest in your product, to be in a ad that is very often blocked out by people, you can now speak from a place of passion and authenticity to people who care. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and YouTube are becoming very popular to get your message across to people in fun, creative, and yet meaningful ways. Make a list of things you need to get across to the relevant audiences, such as events, new service announcements, any media coverage, new ideas, and volunteering opportunities. And then identify the right channels to communicate the same. This will involve decisions like should you use Facebook Pages or Facebook Groups. Should you be on LinkedIn or MySpace or both?

c. Participate: The third aspect of a good SM plan is to create effective ways to participate. An important aspect of dialog is to reciprocate. If you find an interesting Blog, make comments. If you find an interesting Tweet, make sure to Re-tweet giving credit to the original tweeter. These are ways of recognizing and appreciating the contribution of people in your social network.

4) To whom is it targeted?
The choice of social media channels will depend upon where you think your target audience will be. Where do you think your customers go to connect or learn about the kind of product or service that you provide? Your choice of social media channels will depend upon where you can find potential donors, benefactors/customers, collaborators, and information to help you move towards your goals.

5) Who is responsible for implementing your Social Media strategy?
SM is time consuming but it can be integrated into your marketing strategy in a way that it feels more organic and natural to the people involved. While they may be one person overseeing SM, there are ways to integrate other employees, guest bloggers, customers, community members, and other people passionate about the product, cause, or service that your organization is promoting. Just ensure that you have clear rules around who and in what way each person will be involved.

6. Measuring impact periodically
The good news about many of the social media tools is that you can track some aspects of the impact you are making very easily. For example, in quantitative terms Twitter gives you statistics related to your Tweets on certain applications; Facebook pages gives you statistics; and the sheer number of followers and fans helps to some degree in telling about the response to your efforts. Some applications like stats counter can be added to Blogs to assess visitors. It is good to pay attention to the qualitative data related to your organization in terms of what people are saying about you. Over longer periods of time you can correlate the increase in SM statistics with increase in sales and traffic to better understand which channel is most productive for your goals. Very often, it is a combination of SM tools that will promote your goals and it may be hard to separate the effects of each.

7. What is the opportunity cost?
SM does take time and perhaps money away from what you could be doing with those resources instead. Make sure that your benefits in the long run exceed your costs before adopting a social media strategy. The key is to think long term.


  1. great info Shalini, thanks for sharing your insights! Nice way of going straight to the point in each step, it makes everything much clearer to follow and organize a real, effective communication strategy.