A recent “Channel Vision” study has found that over half of businesses who are currently engaged within social media marketing don’t have a strategy in place.

The study, which looked at 123 companies, revealed that thirty-nine percent of businesses are looking to introduce social media into their activities this year; whilst of the fifty-three percent of companies who use social media, less than half have a strategy in place.

For any business who is considering running a social media campaign, or who are currently reviewing their online marketing campaign, a strategy is a must; as like the managing director of the firm behind the study, said without a strategy “you can quickly find you’ve wasted a lot of time, and money, and not got much to show for it.”

However, it isn’t just the time and money element at risk, which makes a strategy a must before launching or progressing further with a social media marketing campaign.

For individuals looking to experiment with one or more of the social media platforms available, to understand the buzz around them a strategy isn’t needed; however for businesses looking to progress online, reach a specific audience and promote products and services, a strategy is a must.

The “strategy” can be looked upon in the same light as the good old fashioned A-to-Z that drivers relied upon before heading to an unknown area of the UK.

Without an A-to-Z drivers run the risk of taking a wrong turning, getting lost and ultimately they won’t reach their intended destination. Without a social media strategy, businesses are likely to aimlessly wander around various social media platforms, without having anything to show for it.

At JE Consulting, we cannot stress enough how important it is for any business which is serious about reaching and engaging their audience via online marketing, to create a social media strategy.

It is a necessity which should be carried out at the very beginning, even before you sign up to Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook; and below we’re going to look at the key points which should be included within every businesses strategy.

Each decision you make whilst creating your strategy will guide you on how best to tackle the emerging yet powerful market which is social media; in a similar way to how your answers on a flow chart influence the final outcome.

A) Audience – It is all well and good having a well designed social media profile on any of the platforms, an elegant social media page on your website and an informative blog; but without the right audience, all of it means nothing.

It’s therefore important to research your audience. Where can they be found? Are your target audience more likely to use Twitter than Facebook, LinkedIn than online forums, or do they use a selection of all the above?

With this information to hand, you can begin to consider which platform(s) to use.

B) Message to Portray / Goal(s) – Once you’ve decided upon your audience and you’re aware of what platforms they use, you need to consider what messages you want to portray.

Social media marketing doesn’t have to be used to just push a product or service. It can be used to engage with your audience, receive feedback and build awareness of your business / brand.

At this point, you also need to consider whether the messages you want to portray are messages your audience want to receive and whether they fit in with the social media platforms they’re using – and the decisions you make here will influence the next step of your social media strategy.

C) Choosing the Platform(s) – Each platform offers something different, and finding the one / ones which fit with your business brand, image and messages will ultimately depend on what you want to achieve; and by looking at the above two steps first, you’ll be almost there on creating a basic strategy on which to build a successful online marketing campaign.

When choosing the platform, you need to carefully consider whether A plus B equals C; because this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the message you want to portray (B) and the platform you want to use (C) don’t always match your audience (A); whilst on the other hand A and C may go together, but B may not fit in, no matter how hard you try!

That said, there are individual variables which need to be taken into consideration on a business by business basis, which may result in A plus B plus D equalling C – again, in a similar way to the hypothetical flow-chart, each answer will guide you to the conclusion.

So if you’re thinking about beginning your social media marketing campaign, before you switch on your computer, grab your marketing team, a pot of tea and a notepad and pen and plan how you’re going to tackle social media – making sure to cover all the points above. We’re not saying it is going to be easy or quick, but it’ll certainly be rewarding in the long run!

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