Maximize social strategy with minimal resources

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Social media provides an enormous marketing opportunity, but many brands continue to struggle with social strategies because the rules aren't always clear. Marketing managers understand the need to engage with consumers yet many worry about negative publicity and straining internal resources. They're not sure how to create conversations and manage and respond to countless comments.

Successful social media programs don't have to be a burden. For example, when a chain of family-oriented resorts asked for help creating a social media program, our agency worked with them to set clear goals, a first step. These included putting a human face on the brand, making the program fun and relevant, and increasing resort bookings. We designed the program to require minimal time and resources in order to maximize ROI.

Here's how it works. Visitors to the company's website are invited to ask questions about the resorts, while a group of loyal customers provides online answers based on their experiences. The Q&A content is fed to Facebook and Twitter, optimized for major search engines and linked back to the company's website.

We created a proprietary application to automate task work involved in the program so staffing is a non-issue for the client. More than 500 questions were submitted in the first 60 days, creating a robust community of families sharing information about their vacations. This year, the program is on track to produce $100,000 worth of organic (i.e., free) search traffic for the resort company.

For companies that want to maximize their social media ROI, I recommend several basic rules:

·         Take charge. Build a sense of community and humanize your brand by engaging

customers on your site and social media channels.

·         Help consumers out. Enlist the help of product experts or happy customers to provide

useful information about your products and services. Loyal customers are your best

brand advocates.

·         Utilize automation. A social media program doesn't need to bust your budget. Choose

an application that is efficient and scalable.

·         Connect the dots. Integrate social media tactics with the rest of your marketing plan, including

brand, PR, search, videos and promotions.

·         Measure results. In addition to counting followers, fans and tweets, be sure to

track Web visitors and conversions from social media channels.

Your brand will be well-positioned to derive a significant ROI from social media if you take control of the online dialogue and design a program that is engaging, relevant, scalable and measurable.

Jon Schepke is president of SIM Partners, a Chicago-based interactive marketing agency specializing in SEM, social, mobile and mobile app.

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