Social Strategy: How to Build a Sustainable Social Media Marketing Plan

Do you have a social media plan?

Are you wondering how to build a social media strategy for your business?

To learn about the importance of a social media strategy, I interview Neal Schaffer for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Neal Schaffer, author of Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing. He’s a social media consultant and coach. His newest book is Maximize Your Social: A One-Stop Guide to Building a Social Media Strategy for Marketing and Business Success.

Neal shares the unique insights he gained while working overseas with companies that had to build their sales organizations from scratch.

You’ll learn the core elements your social strategy needs to be successful and sustainable.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Social Media Marketing Plan

Many marketers are solely focused on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’ of social media

Neal states that you should operate with a plan. The most precious resource for a marketer is time. Social media can drain your time, especially with the emergence of new platforms.

You need to have a plan—and more importantly, an objective—and be able to measure what you are doing. For a small business it’s one thing, but if you are doing it on behalf of a client or a brand/company, they want to know what they will get out of their social media budget.

plan istock 16596422

First of all, you need to have a plan when it comes to social media marketing. Image source: iStockphoto

As social media becomes a mass skill, Neal thinks we’ll see a lot more corporate oversight into what people do in social media.

If you concentrate on the tactics alone, then the value of a Facebook like is meaningless. It might be a secondary metric, but at the end of the day, you need to know how it affects your business objectives. If you just look at the tactics, you completely miss the whole business picture.

As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. There is more focus on the ‘how,’ because you can be too concerned about trying to keep up with everyone else.

You’ll hear Neal give an example of a hotel client’s Facebook strategy and how it’s not all about the number of likes you have compared to your competitors.

maximize social business on facebook

Facebook likes aren't what you should use to compare yourself against your competition.

Likes are important to companies that want to get brand recognition in the marketplace—although it’s not a business objective, it’s more brand awareness.

Listen to the show to find out why the number of likes is only one indicator in comparing yourself to your competition.

How working abroad helped Neal in the new world of social media

After graduating from college, Neal moved to Japan, where he helped three companies in the high-tech industry. Neal says it provided him with a lot of extremely holistic business experience.

He had to launch their sales organizations from scratch and had to figure out how to get brand recognition across different countries in markets where they weren’t known.

These jobs included sales and marketing, attending conferences, hiring people, dealing with legal issues and offering customer support. All of these roles led Neal to a very holistic view of social media in terms of not just using it for marketing but throughout the enterprise.

You’ll hear why storytelling helped strengthen these Chinese brands and Japanese technology.

Neal gained unique insights while working with these companies and it has given him a way to look at things in a practical, rational and actionable way.

Listen to the show to find out about the analogy of thinking about a social network like a country.

Trends marketers need to understand 

One of the trends that Neal brings up in his book, Maximize Your Social, is the convergence of information and communication.

maximize your social book

Neal's book, Maximize Your Social.

Social media users join social networks in order to get back in touch with friends on Facebook or colleagues on LinkedIn. When you start to share more information and ask questions, the more you go to these social networks as a source of news, visual inspiration or entertainment.

So what used to be about communication is now about information. Neal believes companies need to be informed and not just talk about themselves, but more about things that their target audience would be interested in.

One of the trends seen very clearly is paid social. With Facebook’s recent announcement that you don’t need third-party apps to do a promotion anymore, what they are trying to do is to get companies to invest more in Promoted Posts to market the campaigns instead.

In order to keep your engagement level up, you need to do Promoted Posts on a regular basis to keep your page fresh in people’s minds. The idea behind paid social is that you need to pay to play, which is becoming more important.

A lot of companies believe that social media is free and that they shouldn’t have to pay for it. With paid social, it can really assist your social media marketing. It can accelerate all of the organic things you do. Neal says it’s a trend that everyone should acknowledge.

You’ll discover how Neal uses StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery to generate website traffic and why he’s had extreme success with it.

stumble upon paid discovery

StumbleUpon's Paid Discovery is a great tool to help generate website traffic.

Most companies make the mistake with paid Stumble of having just a home page. Instead they should have something that’s a resource for their target audience.

Neal has found with some campaigns that traffic from StumbleUpon has seen lower bounce rates, more time on site and more page views because you can target the right audience with the right information. It’s all about relevance.

Listen to the show to learn what happens when the StumbleUpon crowd sees someone just marketing to them.

Where a business should start with a social media strategy

Neal states that you should start with your objectives. Most companies have multiple objectives, with brand awareness being one of them. Neal worked with a company for which reputation management through social media was their main objective.

The more defined your objectives are, the easier it will be to plan your tactics, metrics and measure ROI.

If you have a lot of different product lines, look at your own corporate strategy. What is your strategy outside of social media? This is where your social media objectives should map into your corporate strategy.

If you’re a social media marketer for a company and don’t know what the objectives are, then you need to ask your CEO or president, as it’s these people who want to see how social media affects the bottom line. Ask yourself what the three strategic things are as an organization that you want to push forward on in the next 3-6 months or 6-12 months. You need to think how social media can help you.

You’ll learn about the people you can use in your organization to help you create a more inclusive social media strategy, which will be more comprehensive and help you company-wide.

social media icons

Let staff throughout your organization help build your social media strategy. Image source: iStockphoto

The next part of your strategy is to consider what social media channels you want to establish a strategic presence on. You then have to look at the different functionality of each channel that you can maximize.

As you measure and create your metrics from your objectives, you need to figure out how your activity on these channels contributes to your sales.

Over time, you will then see which platform contributes more to your sales. This gives you the insight into where you should increase and decrease your investment. You have to adjust these levels regularly and take a data-driven approach to be able to fine-tune it.

You’ll hear Neal give advice for a new organically grown business whose objective is to drive more traffic to their blog and to get people to sign up for updates.

Listen to the show to hear about what Neal calls content buckets.

The advantages of paid social

Should someone even consider the paid social? Neal says it all comes down to the fact that time is money. There is an opportunity lost for whatever you do.

A lot of small businesses that have grown organically probably spend less than $100 a month on any given tool. You do have the free version of Hootsuite and Google Analytics.

You don’t have to use paid social. The best way is to grow organically. This is easy for companies that already have brand awareness, but if you don’t, it will take a lot longer. The problem is that it’s easier for your competition to gain mindshare.

Neal advises to stop commenting on 100 different blogs and instead spend your time creating better content. For the time you save, you can afford to spend $20-$100 on paid social.

You’ll find out the advantages of having an ROI attached to something.

Although paid social is one component, for Neal it’s about maximizing potential. Whether you use it or not, it’s something to be aware of. It’s another tool in your toolkit that you can use.

One way to use paid social is if your goal is to reach 20,000 likes and you are only at 15,000, you could budget to supplement your organic growth rate to help you achieve your target. This can also bring in new blood that might engage with your content in a different way.

facebook sponsored stories

A Sponsored Story is a great way to increase your likes on Facebook.

It’s a component you should experiment with. If one hour of your time is worth $20, then spend it and use that time to do something that is more strategic or more valuable.

Neal is not saying that blog commenting and engaging on social media aren’t extremely valuable, but you can’t be everywhere at once. You have to be careful how you spend your time on social. Use paid to supplement it.

Listen to the show to find out how you can use paid social to get your name out there.

This Week’s Social Media Question

Felipe Bzr asks, “I visited Coca-Cola’s Facebook page and most posts were in German. With me living in Vienna, I discovered that they obviously found my location. I was wondering how they find out which language you use? How can I focus on a language if I’m an international company and I want one page for my company internationally and how can I spread the word in different languages without having different pages?”

coca cola facebook page

Coca-Cola is one of the big brands on Facebook that post updates in their fans' own language.

This is a great question and it doesn’t cost anything to do this.

First you need to have a Facebook for Business page. When you go into the Status Update field, there is a little target that appears in the bottom left. You click on it and it will say “Target By” and you can choose from many different options.

For example, you can choose target by location. You will see all of the locations available. For the U.S., you can target by country, region, state or a city. For people outside of the U.S., it might be a little bit different.

You can then target any country you want and it will only show updates to people in that particular country, region or city.

A lot of big brands post updates in their customers’, prospects’ or fans’ language and they will only be seen by the people in those regions. Facebook knows you are in a particular region because of the information you provide when you set up your Facebook personal profile.

You can do more than just target by location. You can target by relationship status, gender, educational status, age and language. Not everyone provides this data in their personal profile.

There are a lot of creative things you can do with targeting. Give it a try and experiment with it.

Call in and leave your social media–related questions for us and we may include them in a future show.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how this works for you.

Other Show Mentions

Social Media Success Summit 2013

Social Media Success Summit 2013 is a special online conference designed to help you master social media marketing (brought to you by Social Media Examiner).

Social Media Success Summit 2013.

Forty-five of the world’s leading social media pros will show you how. Instructors include Jay Baer (author, Youtility), Chris Brogan (co-author, Impact Equation), Mari Smith (co-author, Facebook Marketing), Michael Stelzner (founder, Social Media Examiner), Mark Schaefer (author, Return on Influence), Jesse Stay (author, Google+ for Dummies), Amy Porterfield (co-author, Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies) and experts from General Electric, Sony, E! Online, Kelly Services and Discovery Channel–just to mention a few. Fully online. Click here to learn more.

We are only days away from one of the biggest and most popular online events we have ever done. Tons of presenters will present the absolute latest and greatest to you on everything from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to blogging, podcasting and video marketing.

You will find a lot of great stuff here. If you want to take your professional development to an entirely new level, make sure you check it out.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on creating a social strategy? Please leave your comments below.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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  • Pingback: Social Strategy: How to Build a Sustainable Social Media Marketing Plan - Legal Marketing News | Legal Marketing News

  • http://www.referralcandy.com/ Zach @ ReferralCandy

    Great podcast Neal & Michael. StumbleUpon is not the first social media platform that I would consider advertising on (in fact I was surprised to know they had advertising at all!).

    It would be interesting to find out more about the dynamics of the audience at StumbleUpon.

    Neal – You mentioned that certain campaigns had more engagement on StumbleUpon. Would you mind sharing what kind of marketing campaigns those were? Are certain industries/subjects more suited to the StumbleUpon crowd?

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  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Zach – I was surprised about StubleUpon as well

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Zach – I was surprised about StubleUpon as well

  • James Filbird

    Neal is the best in the business. This well written and researched article validates my claim very expertly. Lots of great content here that should be used by any professional seeking to strengthen their brand, maintain their customer base, and grow their business.

  • James Filbird

    Neal is the best in the business. This well written and researched article validates my claim very expertly. Lots of great content here that should be used by any professional seeking to strengthen their brand, maintain their customer base, and grow their business.

  • http://navneetsau.com/ NavNeet Sau

    Thank you Michael for sharing such great episode of podcasting. Its really an excellent experience to listen a marketer like Neal Schaffer and I like his way of marketing for Japanese and Chinese companies. I am also with the his strategy about the objectives and goals of an organization which should be on focus while going to start social media marketing. Thanks once again Michael and will never miss of your podcasting episode.

  • http://navneetsau.com/ NavNeet Sau

    Thank you Michael for sharing such great episode of podcasting. Its really an excellent experience to listen a marketer like Neal Schaffer and I like his way of marketing for Japanese and Chinese companies. I am also with the his strategy about the objectives and goals of an organization which should be on focus while going to start social media marketing. Thanks once again Michael and will never miss of your podcasting episode.

  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Great episode Mike and Neal! I love the way Neal explains why people should consider paid ads on some social media platforms – “Time is Money”! I also agree that we all need to appreciate the value of engaging with our followers – this is so important. Thanks!

  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Great episode Mike and Neal! I love the way Neal explains why people should consider paid ads on some social media platforms – “Time is Money”! I also agree that we all need to appreciate the value of engaging with our followers – this is so important. Thanks!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks James. Glad you endorse Neal :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks James. Glad you endorse Neal :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you love the show NavNeet :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you love the show NavNeet :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks John

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks John

  • iBlume

    I completely disagree with the concept of “paid social”. It’s the total opposite of the idea of content marketing. Michael, here is a question for you: Have you ever used “paid social” to promote Social Media Examiner?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hi iBlume,

    Social Media Examiner is 100% organic growth. However, having said that, we have paid to do a promoted post now and again to promote one of our events and we have tried Facebook and Twitter ads to promote our events. I see nothing wrong with that. I think the point is not to pay for social engagement but to experiment to see if it helps your business goals to pay to promote your content.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hi iBlume,

    Social Media Examiner is 100% organic growth. However, having said that, we have paid to do a promoted post now and again to promote one of our events and we have tried Facebook and Twitter ads to promote our events. I see nothing wrong with that. I think the point is not to pay for social engagement but to experiment to see if it helps your business goals to pay to promote your content.

  • http://www.coffy.com/ matt coffy

    Interesting article you have here, Michael! I’ll have to say I agree with majority of the thoughts here specially with Paid Social – others I am yet to try. Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.coffy.com/ matt coffy

    Interesting article you have here, Michael! I’ll have to say I agree with majority of the thoughts here specially with Paid Social – others I am yet to try. Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Matt

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Matt

  • Jose Solís

    Hi Michael. Awesome podcast as always! Re: the social media question of the week, does targeting still work? I’ve gone nuts trying to find the target in my business pages to no avail. Thanks!

  • Jose Solís

    Hi Michael. Awesome podcast as always! Re: the social media question of the week, does targeting still work? I’ve gone nuts trying to find the target in my business pages to no avail. Thanks!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I hope what I said was helpful

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I hope what I said was helpful

  • Danny O Brien

    Hi Mike and Neal. I was just wondering how important is Stumbleupon. From an international perspective. Im from Ireland and this is definitely a laggard market when it comes to new social media channels. E.g. for most people its Facebook, Twiiter at a stretch and LinkedIn as well.

  • Jose Solís

    Thanks! But actually what I meant was I can’t find the “target icon” itself, you mentioned it was under the Post Status box, but all I have there are the clock for scheduling and the location icons. Any idea what might be wrong with my business page?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    It appears to the right of the clock and only on pages, not personal profiles. Looks like a target used in shooting guns

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I think it really depends on if your audience is there or not.

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  • http://www.digitalinsights.in/ Digital Insights

    Great article, without a social media strategy plan its like you are lost in the forest without a map!

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  • Michael Bian

    Great useful strategy.

  • Michael Bian

    Very interesting article one must adapt.

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  • Hayden Wilson

    I think when starting it is an effective way to get your brand off the ground. I have experimented lately with $5 ads and changing up the keywords to target…You can actually learn a lot, and the statistics show up a lot faster because you’re growing a lot faster.
    In my opinion, it helps business’ identify their audience a bit quicker.

  • iBlume

    Hey Hayden, I get your point. And for platforms like Twitter (StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, etc.) it may work well for a start to build your audience and then start engaging with them without having to pay further. However, for Facebook (incorporating the EdgeRank filter) you not just start paying to identifiy your audience and build your marketing platform. You also need to “pay to play” – which means to actually engage with your audience though you have already paid for having access to them. That’s a huge difference. I have absolutely no problem with Facebooks monetization model. SMB’s just should know and understand the tactics behind social networks like Facebook … before they start investing in it.

  • http://www.ineedcopy.com Renae Gregoire

    Just discovered your podcast series, and listened to this one today. Great info! Was wondering what that creepy, bug-like, clicking sound was at the end of the interview though? Maybe a pen? Kept picturing an evil, Godzilla-sized cricket :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hmm, not sure I remember :)







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