A guide to avoid burning social media bucks in 2011

Over the last few days I’ve been reading keenly from blogs suggesting where you should invest your social media budget to get the best rewards in 2011.

I read this little piece from Kenan Erden in social media today, which was really surprising. It was all platform and marketing focused, with no real emphasis on how you get to this point. For the novice getting into social media, it reads like all you need to do is pour your hard earned cash into some scantily clad ads on Facebook, buy a few blog opinions and “lo-behold” here comes the money train.

I’m no expert, but advice like this, to me is the same as saying “set your hair on fire and someone will notice”- Well, yes I suppose they will, but the question is, will they notice you for the right reasons?

I don’t think so. So much so, that I’m going to go out on a limb, actually, a soaring soapbox and give you my humble opinion on where you should spend your dollars first.

I think the first call of order when assigning budget for Social in 2011 is a social landscape survey, otherwise known as research. I say this, because some markets just don’t respond to Facebook ads because;
a) the demographic isn’t interested in advertising
b) the product isn’t interesting or tangible…

Consumers can see through advertising or sponsored blogs too, it’s an incredibly risky thing to do if you haven’t done the research first.

I really believe the best dollars spent are:

1. Research: either get listening tools in-house, or pay someone, but understand your audience, sentiment, and reach before spending money on marketing.

2. Plan: get a social strategy together, which is aligned with your digital and/or content strategy. This takes time and does cost money, but well worth doing, so you’ve got benchmarks, objectives, frameworks for engagement, and a clear path of activities for the year. It also identifies risk, which can be the most costly oversight of all.

3. Identify: your internal champions. Train them. Train them to write, train them to research, train them to train!

4. Influence: Identify influential bloggers in your market. Invite them into the fold. This might cost the amount of a lunch, but the outcome is far greater than the investment, getting transparent, objective communicators out there representing your company or product is social GOLD.

5. Share: Invite your creative, marketing, digital agencies into the same room and share all the above so that everyone working in the online space understands goals, risks, benefits.

Again, this could possibly cost a morning tea, and a few hours lost shooting the breeze, but in doing so, you may find you don’t need to do a PPC campaign at all. Your market may prefer discussion forums in context or a Youtube channel. You just won’t know until you spend the money researching.

Last but not least, if all of this sounds like too much for one person to carry alone, then spend the money on getting content and social specialists to guide the process. This is possibly the best investment of all!

Don’t worry, I’m not scouting for work, I just think it’s really important to do the legwork before you act, after all, once it’s out there, it can’t come back.

Good luck spending in 2011!

Published by Claire Spencer

Senior social media specialist combining mindfulness with content to build a better world.

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