If you conduct a poll of 100 small businesses and ask them what a social media campaign is, you are likely to get 100 different answers. Owners on one end of the spectrum will simply say that a social media campaign is signing up for a Facebook account and posting a couple of comments to let individuals know about upcoming sales, events and products. Owners on the opposite end of the spectrum will answer that social media campaigns are highly involved processes requiring the help of a consultant. Both owners are correct. Social media campaigns are as simple or as complex as you want based on the resources you have available and the goals that you want to meet. Every business owner that wants to carry out a social media campaign should use strategic planning methods to guarantee that their campaign complements their business goals and structure. The term strategic planning seems scary, but it isn't. It is as simple as who, what, when, where and why... Why?This is the basic question that needs answered during the strategic planning process. Why do you want to start a social media campaign? Is the goal of the campaign to advertise a business that is just starting or struggling to grow? Are you trying to advertise a new product to gain marketing momentum or do you just want an online presence? Look for examples of other business that have conducted a social media campaign for the same purpose. Evaluate whether the campaign was successful and if not, why it wasn't. Share your information with your staff. If they know what the goal of the campaign is and how it has helped other businesses, they will be more likely to take part in the social media campaign. If you don't have the assistance of your staff, your campaign will not succeed.Who?This part of the strategic planning process has two distinct parts. The first part is to decide who your audience is. You must research their basic demographics and the best way to give them pertinent information. For example, if your audience is school age children, you would want to use simple language and a higher proportion of graphics to keep their interest. The second part is deciding who in your business will be responsible for the day-to-day execution of your campaign. Delegate the task to one person or a team of people. Determine if your staff has the time and knowledge to successfully carry out the campaign. Inform the staff of their accountability for the success and/or failure of the campaign.When?Answering the question of when to carry out your social media campaign is as simple as setting goals and developing strategies. If you want to advertise a new product that will be released in the fall, the best thing to do is to start advertising in advance of the release. Share teasers from the product specifications. Post videos of simple tasks being executed with the product. Release preliminary feedback from testing groups. Determine what you want to do and how you can do it.Where?Evaluate the available social media networks. Each network caters to a specific audience. LinkedIn is for professionals who are looking to make networking connections. Twitter is a short form network which allows individuals to post one sentence thoughts. Facebook was originally a network for maintaining friendships, but it has evolved to include business promotion. There are a number of other networks available that may be pertinent to your specific business. Evaluate each network and decide which one or ones would be valuable in meeting your business goals. Once you choose the networks on which to carry out your campaign, do not allow yourself to be limited. If another network proves to be more valuable, do not be afraid to expand your network membership or switch your campaign to a new platform.What?The last step in your planning process is the ongoing maintenance of your campaign. Social media networking isn't just about posting information for others to read. It is a virtual form of a conversation. A verbal conversation can not occur without two participants. It is the same with any social media campaign. Post the information that you think your audience needs or will appreciate. Once your initial postings are completed, your goal will be to build momentum by speaking to your audience and providing them with expanded details.
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