Workflow Strategies to Optimize Social Media Marketing

By Graeme Newell Comment

-Lack of workflow systems are what stop many marketers from using social media marketing.
-Social media marketing’s unpredictability requires a shift away from a planning culture and into a real-time maintenance culture.
-Traditional media’s greatest strength is powerful reach. But many companies are paying a premium for this reach when they don’t really need it.

Social media is like custard
Social networking is one of the most powerful and low-cost advertising tools around. Unfortunately, many marketing professionals shy away from this powerful tool because of lack of familiarity and the radically different workflow it requires. Cooking up a marketing campaign for traditional media is more like baking a souffl, and new social media marketing is much more like creating a rich custard.

Creating a souffl requires a rich flurry of activity right at the onset. All the ingredients must be skillfully combined in the right proportions, then whipped up and blended with just the right flare. But once you pour the mixture into the pan and stick it in the oven, your work is done. It is either going to rise correctly or it’s not, but messing with it any further is only going to lessen the chances of success.

The misguided “campaign” workflow
Most marketers have built their careers around this kind of set-it-and- forget-it workflow style. In one gigantic flurry of action, they research, set campaign goals, produce commercials, and make large media buys. Then, they send their baby out into the ad world, and wait to hear if it was a success or failure. There is a tremendous amount of preparation, but little focus on follow-through. Generally, the work is considered finished when it hits the presses or airs on TV. Most marketers are passive bystanders when the campaign is actually doing its job.

But social media is much more like cooking up a custard. Sure, the cook must carefully purchase and mix the right ingredients, but the real skill comes in the actual cooking, not just the preparation. A great custard is a journey, not a destination. The cook is an active participant in every step of the process.

The same is true of social media marketing. Today’s powerful tools make it easy to get started, but the real skill comes with managing the conversation and reinventing on-the-fly. The greatest challenges in social networking don’t come in the preparation stage, but after the campaign has been ingested, commented on, and changed by frontline customers.

Social media’s maddening unpredictability
Frankly, most advertising executives hate this about social media. They like the traditional media way a lot better. The campaigns are just so…big and important. They get to spend a lot of money. They get to indulge their creative side. They are creating art, a masterpiece for the creative world to behold. When they finish their efforts, there are tangible components to show off. They have great creative to show the boss, ingenious media buys with pie charts and statistics, and launch events with big fun props.

Most marketing professionals have never fully embraced social media because it is so maddeningly freeform. The props of traditional media advertising reassure both the bosses and themselves that they are on the job, and getting goals accomplished. When the boss asks how the campaign is going, it is just not as fulfilling to say “well lots of people are talking about us.” The tangible mind candy of a clever radio spot, or a graphic-laden media plan makes the marketing team look productive and successful, before the first ad ever airs.

Social media has much less fanfare. It starts with a great plan, but typically that plan will be continually changed or even jettisoned once the customer feedback starts rolling in. Because social media is a conversation, it can go anywhere . Or as a famous Prussian general once said, “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This infuriating unpredictability is the very essence of social media marketing.

Most marketers love the order and cleanliness that comes with creating advertising campaigns without too much feedback. They don’t like the unpredictable dodge-and-weave, thrill ride that characterizes most social media marketing.

Social media is the most powerful marketing tool to arise in generations. But if you hope to step into its full potential, it will be necessary to change your thinking, and that starts by changing the very structure of your workflow.

Here are six reason why you should move into social media marketing in a big way.

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Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at