Thursday, April 9, 2009

Where Does Social Media Fit?

I joined the Pro Marketer group on Linked In several weeks ago at the suggestion of a colleague. I’ve enjoyed following it and answering some questions. One has recurred several times, and I thought I’d give it a more detailed response. The generic question is “where does social media fit into my marketing/communications plan?”

Long ago I wrote a brief document about corporate planning being a hierarchy and posted it for my students. It’s woefully out of date, so this updates it for the social media age.

Somewhat parenthetically, I find that a surprising (disturbing?) number of young marketers don’t know how to put together a formal marketing plan. On the same page you’ll find a generic outline. On the direct marketing page you’ll find a (free) chapter on planning direct marketing programs. It too massively predates the Internet, but the process hasn’t changed, and if you want an extended example, please take a look.

View a full-sized copy here.

The concept of a hierarchy has made sense to colleagues who are experts in strategic planning. They are working at the top two levels and haven’t thought much about what goes on when you get to the “annual” level. Program planning has rarely been addressed in a comprehensive manner. There are sites and books on marketing planning and some of them are good. Others are just trying to sell their software, so beware. I believe in the kind of outline shown on my site for overall guidance. I don’t really believe in templates. A template tends to give you a cookie-cutter result. Just follow a basic outline and do the hard work of thinking strategically, whether you are at the annual or the program level(s).

While the concept of the hierarchy seems to make sense, it’s not unreasonable to look at this graphic and shout “planning paralysis!!!” I disagree. I’d suggest that the strategic marketing plan (a multiyear document) and the annual marketing plan need to be written documents. The strategic marketing plan is a written document that needs to be reviewed/updated annually because it provides guidance across a broad group of people and activities. The annual marketing plan needs to be put in writing because it is generally going to be your budget request.

Below that, get creative. Renay Picard, who gave a great guest lecture in my social media class last night, crystallized my thinking on that subject. We agreed that each social media channel in the mix (bottom level of the hierarchy) needs its own plan. She uses a spreadsheet; I use a table. Whichever way you choose to do it, some sort of timeline with responsibilities assigned gets the program across to the multiple parties involved.

Go back up to the program level. A program plan doesn’t have to be a massive document--probably shouldn’t be, given how little your colleagues would prefer to read. I often use a creative brief. There are examples on the web. This one gets most of the elements well, but I’d have to add a section for a media plan. That’s the point. Take a good basic approach, think about what you need to do, and develop a way to communicate objectives and tasks (that should remind you of advertising planning/budgeting) to the people who are going to be working with you.

Don’t forget to update it as you go along. Things will change, evolve, new opportunities will emerge. That’s the beauty of the social media space!

1 comment:

Faseeha Sultan said...

The article along with your email regarding the marketing plan has cleared many questions.