A recent CMO Survey indicates that marketers plan to double their spending on social media in the next five years. Yet IBM’s C-Suite Study reports that nearly half of CMOs believe they are not prepared to manage the challenges of social media. This disparity highlights an important, and potentially costly, problem: Marketers continue to increase social media spending, yet many are still uncertain about management, strategies, and integration.

A quick Google search returns 140 million results for “social media marketing tips,” but no matter how many headlines promise it, there really is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy. Some articles indicate that stories are an effective marketing and advertising tool. But what story will you tell? How will you integrate it with your traditional efforts?

Other articles advise using social media networks, such as Pinterest. But what will your brand post? Is your target audience even on Pinterest? Still more articles offer a glimpse into other brands’ social media strategies. But what worked for Comcast or Best Buy or Universal Studios probably will not work for a bank, tech startup, or retail company.

What marketers need is a process that leads to individual solutions. They must use fundamental marketing concepts and modify them for this new two-way, consumer-empowered medium of social media. Here’s a framework for doing that, adapted from my book Social Media Strategy.

Define the status quo.

The first step isn’t about social media at all: Identify your business objectives and target market. Also consider your industry, the recent performance of the brand, and the current traditional marketing promotions for the product and its competitors. A startup or new product needs to generate awareness, while an older product may need to be revived. Some brands need a new image, as when Starbucks’s reputation fell to an all-time low and Howard Schultz returned to restore consumer confidence in the brand. One tool Starbucks used was social media, launching “My Starbucks Idea” to crowdsource feedback and reengage customers.

Listen to your target audience. Here’s where social media kicks in. Brands cannot talk to everyone in every social channel, so narrowly define whom you want to listen to and communicate with. Are you targeting Millennials entering the workforce, dads with young children, or senior executives nearing retirement? What are they doing in social media, and where are they doing it? What are consumers saying about your brand, products, services, and competitors? Start with simple Google searches on your brand name, analytics tools within social networks, and look to secondary research, such as the Pew Research Internet Project, Nielsen, or Edison Research, to identify larger trends in social media use. Gather a snapshot of all current social media talk with a social media audit. Follow an audit template to organize what you find and identify actionable insights.

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