Most marketers are well aware of the value of public relations and implement it into their strategic approach to their integrated marketing plan. But, for smaller companies on limited budgets, sometimes a robust public relations approach is not financially feasible. That said, many companies are beginning to lean on social media to achieve the same public awareness exposure… and sometimes it leads to an even better return on investment than pricey public relations campaigns.
Basic Social Media Channels
For those new to the concept of social media, there are many channels available to tap, but for the purpose of this article, I will stay focused on the main three platforms that are used by businesses today: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. LinkedIn is a social networking platform that allows current and former colleagues, potential new co-workers, friends, etc. to stay connected on a professional level. Facebook provides more of a casual stage for social interaction and users tend to post photos and status updates, but businesses have also hopped on the bandwagon and use it to leverage photos of events, content for recent publications, etc. Lastly, Twitter is a different social media beast that has the ability to reach a wide audience with a very short blurb (usually with a bit.ly link for users to seek further information). All three channels are free to use and have proven to be extremely effective channels for generating wide audience exposure.
Social Media Strategy
It is relatively easy to get started on a social media plan once the initial user accounts have been established. I recommend that you first build an editorial calendar that maps out the content for each social media post for the month (or several months out if you have content in your back pocket) with the goal of 2-3 posts per week across the various social media platforms. Worried about what to post? You probably have more content than you think already available at your fingertips. Look internally at your organization for webinar recordings, case studies, blog posts, op-eds, etc. to leverage for material. Remember to keep your posts content rich and avoid sales pitches in these forums.
Social Media ROI
After you have established a strategy towards the types of social media outlets you will employ, and have developed an editorial calendar of content, you should take a close look at how you will measure the return on your social media approach. You can set a goal based on the number of followers, or number of shared posts, etc. Remember, social media is free, but it is also important to track the results so that senior management is aware of all of the marketing activities and how they affect the bottom line when it comes to lead generation and/or overall public awareness.
Other Social Media Channels
Finally, once your social media strategy is deployed and effectively running, take a look around at other platforms that you can add to your approach: SlideShare, Google+, You Tube, etc. Determine what channels are most effective in your industry and focus your social media approach to the targeted audience. Get the biggest bang for your buck with social media to further enhance your integrated marketing program.