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tacticsOver the last year we’ve seen some great innovations across the board in social media, changing the way we interact with brands online and streamlining campaign rollouts.

As trends and ideas rise and fall at an ever quickening pace, we often find ourselves running to get on board the next big thing. Signing up for new platforms and services, or utilising ever more arcane sets of metrics to track campaigns.

Here are six quick tips and tactics that can help you get ahead...

In the rush to get ahead we often forget that playing catch-up to the competition will never lead to true success. There’s also a school of thought that explains the fast paced evolution of social and the wider digital sphere.

Both are still fairly young disciplines, and when there are no rules there’s a freedom to experiment and to throw leftfield ideas at the wall and see what sticks.

Some do and people have a great new tactic that spreads across the industry, but keep in mind that a huge number of ideas simply don’t work very well. This isn’t always anyone’s fault, as I’ve said, it’s a young discipline and most of us are still figuring things out as we go along.

Instead of worrying about the latest trends then, we need to realize there are a simple set of guidelines that work for digital, and will equally give you a much better shot at conducting a productive social campaign....

Forget tools, think problem

When talking about social campaigns, I still regularly hear people saying “I want more of a Facebook presence” or “We want to do more on Twitter.”

Why?

Stop and ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish before you even think about tools.

All strategists should take a leaf from the engineer’s book. Think about the problem you need to fix first and foremost.

Remember you’re building a bridge between brand and customer.

If you start by saying “I really want to paint this bridge red” then it’s not going to be a sound construction.

Keep it small

Everyone wants to succeed, to be the biggest and the best. Unfortunately, this leads us to attempt to run before we can walk.

Any project in a new space should be kept small during its initial stages. Huge projects and weeks of coding and set up massively increase the chances that you’ll fail. Your initial forays into social should be as modest as you can make them. Test the waters first and check that customers are receptive.

By planning a small initial campaign you’ll find that you increase performance, are better able to keep deadlines, and any problems will be smaller and less likely to damage your online reputation.

In short, until you really, really know what you are doing, keep things manageable.

You may ultimately want a huge campaign that runs for months or years, but you’ll be better equipped to provide this by building out in small stages and developing based on customer feedback.

Never stop testing

Take a good look at the major web players and you’ll soon start to understand that in order to be so successful, they never stop developing.

Products, interfaces, campaigns, are all fluid and consistently tweaked and developed before, during and after rollout.

There’s often a tendency in marketing to roll a campaign out, and consider it finished once it’s rolling along under its own steam.This will work for a while, but eventually momentum will dwindle and you’ll need to start again.

Instead, assume that every project is always in beta, consistently having different aspects checked, tested and reconfigured ad infinitum.

On the flip side, don’t lose sight of what made your initiative successful in the first place. Build a set of core functions and add to them, rather than replacing them.

Keep it simple

One of the first principles of web design, and yet one that’s regularly ignored. However great your app, however clever your branded game, if it’s hard to use then people won’t go for it.

If you’re designing something that’s overly complicated or lacking in value for the regular user, then customers will go elsewhere.

Social media is called social for a reason. It’s based on interactions and conversations, which means centering your strategy around your customer.  Forget about being innovative or blazing a path in the industry. Neither of these things matter if no-one engages.

If you really want a good example pull out your phone and play some Tetris. Sure, it isn’t half as good looking as Kane & Lynch 2, but it’s still immersive and addictive. Don’t be tempted to wring the most out of something if you don’t need to, just concentrate on hitting the right notes.

Keep everyone in the loop

One of the largest problems faced by social media managers is a lack of understanding in other departments.

You cannot count on the support of others without clearly explaining how and why your campaign will benefit them, and the business as a whole.

If those supporting or above you don’t know what you are trying to achieve then you are fundamentally failing to address the needs of the business.

Again, centre on the problem.

If your campaign is designed to increase leads or conversions, then you need to know that Sales are informed and ready to handle the extra workload smoothly. Social media usually has a strong CRM focus, so you need the support and understanding of brand managers and PR.

Make a conscious and ongoing effort to engage other teams and incorporate their feedback into your future campaigns.

Keep calm and carry on

Above all remember that this is still a young industry sector, and sometimes things won’t work, but as long as you kept things controllable then it’s fine.

There’s a huge worry that anything said out of place on a social platform can bring your whole brand crashing down around your ears, but as long as you’ve applied a little common sense and kept everyone in the loop this shouldn’t happen.

At every stage make sure things are manageable, ensure that someone has ultimate responsibility and update them as things progress.

Remember, no-one knows everything yet, so make sure you deal with any mistakes that do crop up in an open, transparent fashion and ensure that the whole team learns from them.

There’s a long way to go, but by sticking to simple structural blocks like these you can ensure that you have a robust and flexible campaign that will grow along with your needs.

Matt Owen

Published 9 August, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

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paul gray

Great post and good advice for social media managers or anyone taking on this responsibility in companies and organisations.

I'd add even more emphasis to your first point "Forget tools, think problems". Increasingly we're seeing more and more activity and talking occuring online which smacks of desperation or a sense of "Hey, everyone is doing this social media these days, we should make a Twitter account or something."

As you flag - it's not about tools and tactical actions. It's all about adding some form of value to your customers, users or the community that you serve. What problem are they experiencing? What do they need or want?

Review your existing goals and strategies and work out where social media can help in achieving these. Set your plans, and then go out and start implementing.

almost 6 years ago

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Mr. Skill

I find it hard to manage social media sites, this post is great, it will makes it easier fore me now. Thanks

almost 6 years ago

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Jon

Matt, Great article.

I work as a social media manager for a small recruitment firm in London. Everything in your blog is nearly a perfect summary of all the things I have learnt (the hard way) after being here for 6months! Wish I had this a back in March!

almost 6 years ago

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Babar Bhatti

Solid and practical advice. I tell my clients the same things. In particular,  it is very important to remember that social media requires a non-linear, iterative process and mindset. You need to make decisions based on data and measurements. 

Babar

CEO, MutualMind.

almost 6 years ago

Tejal Patel

Tejal Patel, Digital Manager at Nokia

great tips! I was just asked for advice on how to start out in social media last week from a small tech company and I gave the same recommendations you have done. I think keeping it simple and remember that social in the online world is similar to being social in the real world. It's a two way relationship.

almost 6 years ago

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Mondo Mediaworks

You nailed it. Especially the "keep everyone in the loop" part. It's hugely important to keep your client informed during online marketing campaigns - not just your contact at the business, but the entire business.

almost 6 years ago

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GrannyPants

Yes! I think the Keep It Simple rule is the one I need most! I admire those who have the focus to succeed on a grand scale. I am an idea person that is challenged with focus at times, yet I know this is the key!

almost 6 years ago

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Vermont Web Design

The "lack of understanding in other departments" has led us to get everyone in our client's companies involved at their own level. This way things come more straight from the horse's mouths, with nothing lost in translation. Also, 5 people in the company means 5 Tweets a day instead of 5 per week.

almost 6 years ago

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Mabel Diaz-Joslyn

This is really spot on.  Great advice for running a social campaign.  I can't decide what I agree with most.  Perhaps 'Keep It Simple' tied with 'Keep It Small'.  The point about bearing in mind that a campaign is alway in beta is an excellent observation too.  In fact, if looked at any marketing campaign, these guidelines would help you avoid pitfalls.  These are even more important here since, as Matt points out so well, social and the wider digital sphere are still fairly young disciplines.

almost 6 years ago

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Nick Rosener

Great post! I know a few business owners who are using social media because it is "the next big thing," but don't have a specific strategy. If you can't answer the question "why are you on [social media platform of your choice]?, you need to rethink your marketing strategy.

almost 6 years ago

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