5 Steps to Rolling Out a Social Media Campaign

One of the questions I get asked the most – and it’s the right question – is “How do you get companies ready torolling roll out a social media campaign?” This question seems to come from people who have seen corporations either tarred by or scared of how social media has been “used against” them.

I was talking to someone just yesterday about this sort of thing, and he’d worked for two companies where bloggers in particular have beaten up on them hard. I thought his comment that, “Our PR firm had no clue what to do about it either” was telling on a lot of levels. (And another reason why you shouldn’t charge a PR firm with your social media planning, but that’s my bias…)

Here are a couple thoughts about how you get a company to roll out a social media campaign.

  1. Expect resistance. For our upcoming book on social media marketing, we interviewed a company that is doing great stuff with customer collaboration, mostly through wikis. It’s shaved 65% of the time off their product development cycle! The guy in charge noted that getting permission for this new collaborative workflow was hard enough, but he was really surprised how often he had to resell the transparency idea. “Are we really going to say that?” people would ask. “Yes, we are,” he’d have to answer, over and over. Whether you go 100% transparent or not, social media marketing is often disruptive technology and, as such, it scares people. Prepare for it.
  2. Analyze your climate. How much is your company ready for in terms of social media? If you read Naked Conversations (and you should) or Cluetrain Manifesto (and you should), they talk a lot about transparency and authenticity. And that’s absolutely the goal. But some corporations are so far from that ideal that it’s not realistic to expect them to suddenly have an epiphany and start taking down the walls. Perhaps getting them in the game is a good first start. I suspect that’s what’s happening at Delta with their blog. At this point, it’s not a great blog. But they’ve got their toe in the water. I would bet that getting them that far along wasn’t easy internally. (Right, Jacob?) If the folks working on this at Delta can navigate along for a couple months with no major turbulence (airplane metaphor!), perhaps they’ll be able to start saying interesting things. Sometimes getting started is a big win. Get started.
  3. Consider the toolbox. One of the biggest mistakes I see is when people think that “social media marketing” means they’ve got to start a blog and start sharing all their foibles in public. You can do that. It can be a powerful and great thing. But social media is a much, much deeper toolbox. What can you do with customer support? What can you do in product development? What conversations are already taking place that you can simply go participate in? What branded applications can you introduce for download? This is why social media marketing is so different. It’s not advertising, it’s not PR, it’s not SEO. It’s a different skillset, and you have to look it at that way.
  4. Be honest about your brand. The best social media marketing leverages your brand. It does not change your brand. In an earlier post, we talked about how Wal-Mart screwed up again with their Facebook app for back to school. Wal-Mart’s mistake was trying to use a Facebook app to convince people they should associate Wal-Mart with “style.” But Target owns “style.” Wal-Mart owns “price.” I suspect their ad agency or PR firm tried to use this new tool to drive a branding objective. That’s a mistake. The best social media campaigns further cement your brand position. They don’t create new brand positions for you. Use other tools to try to do that. (And good luck with it, by the way…)
  5. Talk on your customers’ terms. In traditional marketing and advertising and PR, we are trained to think about what we want to say and the best, most creative way to say it. We then find the place to put that message and hope people accept it. Social media is different. Figure out what conversations are already occurring and where. Figure out what’s being said and what your organization can add to that conversation. If you sell shoes, maybe you can add value to a running conversation. If you sell ham, maybe you can add conversation to a “what’s for dinner” conversation. Either way, you’ll have the most success if you start with what the customer group you covet cares about and then add real value, not marketing fluff.


These are the first five steps I advise clients to consider as they look at a social media marketing campaign. There are others, but I start with these to make it clear that we’re not talking about an ad campaign or a PR campaign or an SEO campaign. We’re talking about something fundamentally different.

I then balance that scary “this is different” concept with two points:

  • There are a lot of ways to get started in this space and in getting started, you will learn something and move your company forward.
  • Choosing not to participate in social media won’t stop social media from engaging about your brand. If you know people are talking about you, wouldn’t you want to be part of the conversation?

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