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How to Create a Social Media Strategy: The Ignite Method

Jim Tobin.
By: Jim Tobin  |   January 21, 2011  |   View Comments

One of the questions we get from serious brand marketers is exactly how does a company develop a social media strategy that drives business results. In December, I had a chance to consult with 7 companies throughout Australia over a fun-filled, but hectic line-up of meetings in Melbourne, Geelong and Sydney. And I shared with them a deck outlining how we do exactly that.

We call it the Ignite Method of Social Media Strategy Development and we've taken a number of the world's best brands through it, producing detailed strategic plans that outline the social media marketing execution path for the next 6 to 12 months. If I'm willing to share it in those meetings, I thought it would be helpful to share on the blog as well.

Below I've re-created the 24-minute presentation for you as a screencast. If you have the time, it may be the best way to absorb it. If not, I've summarized the deck in the rest of the blog post below.

We created the Community Analysis and Community Engagement Plan model in late 2007, at a time when few people were applying serious marketing planning to social media efforts. Now, having taken many brands through it, we've honed the process from that experience.

At a high level, here are the six key steps in developing a social media marketing strategy:

1. Discovery

If you're working with an agency, this is where the agency gets up to speed on what you sell, who you sell it to, how you market, who you market to and much more. They also discuss with you what you're hoping to get out of a social media marketing investment. This is an important first step, because if the agency doesn't have their hands wrapped around your product and your market place, they can end up going off in the wrong direction right away.

If you're not working with an agency, this is where you get buy-in from any project influencer as to the expected outcomes of being involved in social media. If you don't, you'll end up trying to answer these same questions six months after you start a Facebook fan page. By then, that page will either have few fans (in which case they'll ask what's wrong with what you've done so far) or it will have lots of fans (in which case they may say, "So what? What does having a bunch of fans get me?") Head this off at the pass and show that you're a strategic marketer by asking these questions up front.

You should also have a discussion about budget and resources at this point. Do you have $25,000 this year? Do you have $2.5m this year? Do you have to do the work in your "spare time" or is there an internal team plus a budget for an agency? What you can and cannot do depends in part on the resources available to you.

2. Community Analysis

Major Deliverable #1. The Community Analysis is the first major deliverable. We conduct a deep dive into the social space, uncovering where target audiences are active, how they are interacting and engaging with each other and brands, what terms they are using, etc. This also includes a complete review of current social media efforts and those of competitors.

The more time you can spend on (and the more data you can apply to) audience analysis, the better off you'll be. If you can determine websites they frequent, psychographics, leisure activities, even shopping habits, you can begin to understand your target in a three dimensional way. We're going way past demographics here, so try to be more detailed than men 18-34.

3. Goal Setting

This is where objectives are chosen for social media activities, success metrics, and a foundation is laid down for a measurement plan.

This is more detailed then your objectives outlined in the first step. At this point you're trying to determine what success looks like relative to the investment. If you're not sure, a good place to start is the results you get from other marketing investments. This begins to lay the framework for investments being judged equally.

4. Engagement Plan

Major Deliverable #2. Remember, a strategy refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. It's not a list of "neat ideas." It's a detailed plan and set of recommendations on social media tactics, resources, timelines, and budgets that support business and marketing objectives. Hopefully some of them are still neat ideas. But the best ideas are those that drive results. There are three major areas to think about in the Engagement Plan, including:

  • Content Strategy,
  • Channel Strategy and
  • Campaign Strategy.

5. Metrics & Measurement Strategy

Given that we're trying to achieve a set of goals and we've now delineated the tactics that will accomplish those goals, we still have to think about how we're going to know if and when we've done that. So this is where we agree on how our objectives will be measured, what goals will be assigned and reported on, and what long-term monitoring needs are.

This is a very specific set of tactics. So if the goal is to measure, for example, growth in backlinks to improve our search engine optimization, and we have tactics to do that, what's our goal and how are we measuring it? Are we using MajesticSEO for that, or Yahoo Site Explorer? They will give you very different numbers. Neither one is necessarily "right," but you need to figure out each number and how you'll be able to track it.

6. Training and Implementation

Time to get to work. This is where we develop assets, train specific teams, put the plans in motion, and provide ongoing support.

Summary

This is all explained in much more detail in the video embedded above, so if you 're immersed in creating your social media strategy, it may be worth the 24 minutes to save you some time down the line.

Leave any questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.


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Comments
  • Nicole

    Really appreciate that you are reinforcing that the conversations about what the expected outcomes are of social media engagement are happening up-front, before any thing is created. Also love this line: "a strategy refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. It's not a list of "neat ideas." Thank you for sharing.

  • amberpagewrites

    This couldn't have come at a better time. I'm trying to convince my company they need a social media strategist (me) and information like this will go a long way toward convincing them (I hope). Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Great. Glad it helped Amber. Good luck!

  • Jen

    I agree, and I'm in the same position as Amber. I am trying to create a marketing proposal to present to my company. It's been challenging since I am in the B2B sector. Any advice?

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Jen, look hard at your company's current marketing efforts, how they are measured and how many "Xs" (i.e., leads) they generate per dollars invested. Also look at your lead generation pipeline.

    We're B2B also. We rely heavily on this blog. And we watch how it's doing because our leads come in through here.

    But for any good manager to give the ok, they need to see the expected results, or at least that the experiment is worthy to check for results.

    Also, read http://www.socialmediab2b.com for inspiration. That's all Jeff and crew at that site focus on.

  • Jennie

    Thanks for all this, very helpful! One question - I see lots about 'measuring results', but what specifically would you recommend to measure results on things like facebook, linkedin, twitter, etc? Is it just number of comments, insights, etc? Or is there something like google analytics that can graph data over time and presentn it in a very easy to digest format?

  • Jennie

    Thanks for all this, very helpful! One question - I see lots about 'measuring results', but what specifically would you recommend to measure results on things like facebook, linkedin, twitter, etc? Is it just number of comments, insights, etc? Or is there something like google analytics that can graph data over time and presentn it in a very easy to digest format?

  • Erok Johnson

     Jim, first of all this is an excellent article and thanks for creating a great presentation with voiceover to accompany it!
    I'm fairly new to developing a social media strategy, and I'm trying to create one for a website that we've designed for a client. The client is in politics and now that he won the election, we want to create a strategy that will really build on the success for his current tenure and ultimately to keep him here via future successful campaigns.
    With that said, my question is: do you have any further suggestions for choosing a target audience? Obviously we want to attract everyone, as many voters as possible! But I realize it's most effective to be strategic and focus on a subset of the whole. What are some example indicators that would say to you "we don't need to focus on the 'Joiners' and the 'Creators'"? And should we target a certain number of groups, like say 2 out of the 5 or so Forrester-identified user groups?

    Hope this makes sense. Thanks in advance!

    Erik

  • Erok Johnson

     Jim, first of all this is an excellent article and thanks for creating a great presentation with voiceover to accompany it!
    I'm fairly new to developing a social media strategy, and I'm trying to create one for a website that we've designed for a client. The client is in politics and now that he won the election, we want to create a strategy that will really build on the success for his current tenure and ultimately to keep him here via future successful campaigns.
    With that said, my question is: do you have any further suggestions for choosing a target audience? Obviously we want to attract everyone, as many voters as possible! But I realize it's most effective to be strategic and focus on a subset of the whole. What are some example indicators that would say to you "we don't need to focus on the 'Joiners' and the 'Creators'"? And should we target a certain number of groups, like say 2 out of the 5 or so Forrester-identified user groups?

    Hope this makes sense. Thanks in advance!

    Erik

  • Anonymous

    An excellent explanation of how to create a strategy Jim. Very clear.
    I'll be making reference to this article in an upcoming post. Thanks!

  • http://www.brightcube.ca/ Dave Gallant

    An excellent explanation of how to create a strategy Jim. Very clear.
    I'll be making reference to this article in an upcoming post. Thanks!

  • L. B.

    I think I'm confused by your definitions. How can a publishing tool or a monitoring tool be 'social media'? I was under the assumption that social media are CHANNELS of communication that create an interactive dialogue. Isn't saying a publishing tool is a social media akin to saying a printing press is a medium. Or monitoring tool akin to calling Nelson ratings a medium? I ask because I feel this an important distinction when trying to determine what CHANNELS should be used in a strategy.

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Hi LB, 

    The idea of that section is for you to treat social media as much more than just social networks and a blog. To think about listening, to think about the various publishing tools (from WordPress to Tumblr and beyond) and to be aware of the seismic change that it created in the marketing industry.

    But yes, the ultimate goal is to make sure you think carefully about your channels, choose them wisely and support them properly, both in terms of content creation and in terms of promoting fan advocacy. Hope that helps. 

    Jim

  • http://twitter.com/jtobin Jim Tobin

    Hi LB, 

    The idea of that section is for you to treat social media as much more than just social networks and a blog. To think about listening, to think about the various publishing tools (from WordPress to Tumblr and beyond) and to be aware of the seismic change that it created in the marketing industry.

    But yes, the ultimate goal is to make sure you think carefully about your channels, choose them wisely and support them properly, both in terms of content creation and in terms of promoting fan advocacy. Hope that helps. 

    Jim

  • http://www.agrotising.com/ Chris Agro – Agrotising, Inc.

    Hi Jim,
    I was on the Argyle Social webinar today with you and Eric Boggs. Very happy to have found you (I will thank Eric next). I just finished viewing this video that was mentioned by you during the webinar. I started out as a Graphic Designer back in the 80's and now focus on Internet Design and Marketing. I have been researching best practices for offering Social Media Marketing services to my clients for some time now and your insights are really invaluable. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with everyone. I look forward to following yourself and Ignite and hope one day I can deploy a program that will incorporate what you cover in this video. In the mean time, thanks in part to your video, I feel more confident than ever that I will bring value to my clients when offering social media marketing services.

  • http://www.agrotising.com/ Chris Agro – Agrotising, Inc.

    Hi Jim,
    I was on the Argyle Social webinar today with you and Eric Boggs. Very happy to have found you (I will thank Eric next). I just finished viewing this video that was mentioned by you during the webinar. I started out as a Graphic Designer back in the 80's and now focus on Internet Design and Marketing. I have been researching best practices for offering Social Media Marketing services to my clients for some time now and your insights are really invaluable. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with everyone. I look forward to following yourself and Ignite and hope one day I can deploy a program that will incorporate what you cover in this video. In the mean time, thanks in part to your video, I feel more confident than ever that I will bring value to my clients when offering social media marketing services.

  • http://dcmobiletext.com/ text message marketing

    Social media marketing is one of the best internet marketing techniques today. Billions of people are viewing these sites so if you are not trying this marketing strategy yet, what are you waiting for? :)

  • Anonymous

    Social media marketing is one of the best internet marketing techniques today. Billions of people are viewing these sites so if you are not trying this marketing strategy yet, what are you waiting for? :)

  • Google Analytics

    The details that you share in your article are all applicable in a social media strategy. Business are doing those things in a social media and with all the efforts, they gain good results as return.

  • http://www.mazero.com/ Google Analytics

    The details that you share in your article are all applicable in a social media strategy. Business are doing those things in a social media and with all the efforts, they gain good results as return.