Ask a handful of marketing execs what they think constitutes an effective social media campaign and you'll likely get a unique answer from each. One thing they're likely to agree on, however, is that a social media campaign should pull together people who are interested in aligning with a particular brand.
So the aggregation of brand enthusiasts should be a no-brainer. You can take some steps toward getting people to align with your brand without tapping into marketing budgets. Since this is a no-brainer, you can get started right now, perhaps while your colleagues argue about what the rest of the program should look like.
The first step is to search social networks for appropriate venues. Use the search function on your favorite social media site to search for brand and category terms. A good starting point might be searching on the terms you've employed in a search campaign. Otherwise, simply start with the name of your brand, your direct and indirect competitors and category generics.
By way of example, if you worked on Crest toothpaste, you might search YouTube for "Crest," "Colgate," "Rembrandt" and "toothpaste" to start. If any YouTube videos are tagged with these terms, you'll find them, and you'll be able to view them to find out how people are viewing themselves in relation to your brand.
To continue with our YouTube example, step two would be to create a profile and begin aggregating the appropriate videos. It doesn't cost anything to create a profile or to create a channel where you can pull together all the appropriate videos having to do with your brand. Only later, if and when you decide you want more of a brand presence on your channel, will you have to spend money.
Creating a channel does two things for your brand:
Regardless of what you're hoping to do with social media, aggregating audiences is a first necessary step. Along those same lines, one can follow a similar path with Facebook or many other social networks and not spend a dime while moving the brand forward.
For example, signing up for a Facebook profile is free. So is starting a Facebook group. Of course, check to see whether or not a thriving community already exists. (I was pleasantly surprised a few months ago to find out that there was a group of nearly 30,000 people on Facebook happily chattering away about one of my client's brands, and that the community had grown organically.) If not, you may want to start your own group and begin promoting it through invitations to join.
Before investing serious money, there are low-cost options you might consider using to promote a Facebook group. Building your network of friends before starting a group increases your chances of kicking a viral snowball down a snow-covered hill.
Your friends have an opportunity to see which Facebook groups you join, and this may make them curious enough to investigate, spreading news of the group to their friends. Invitations and private messages can also get things moving along nicely. These are free options. You might also want to consider Facebook Flyers, which are priced on a CPC model and can be targeted to specific Facebook profile information.
Remember, positive results have a way of shaking budgets out of the money tree. With fairly minimal effort, you may be able to attract brand enthusiasts to a social networking group over a short period of time. Explaining to your marketing colleagues that there are thousands of people within a group waiting for the brand to join the conversation might shake loose some discretionary funds to spend on developing the group. And then you're off to the races.
Tom Hespos is the president of Underscore Marketing and blogs at Hespos.com. Read full bio.
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Tom - GREAT article. I lead the digital marketing efforts at my agency, and I have tried to explain to clients and prospects that you can use baby steps to experiment with social media marketing. And once you get a small taste of the positive results that you cite, it becomes a lot easier to find money and support to expand these efforts.
Your tips are so simple and low-cost, and definitely effective. Besides being able to communicate your brand positioning to this social media audience, you also get to RECEIVE information. Valuable stuff, like feedback on existing or planned products. When you think of the costs of running a survey, these relatively smaller social media marketing costs don't seem so big any more, do they?! --Ken (purethinking.typepad.com)
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