Last week I wrote a post about MarketingSherpa’s Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook which included eighteen lessons I learned from the report.

This is a true story. Yesterday morning I met a friend for coffee. She’s owned and operated a business in the design industry for many years where she’s worked with both B2B and B2C customers, and lately has grown more curious about social marketing.

My friend told me that she’s always been an early adopter of technology and has even been a little surprised that she hasn’t considered social marketing earlier. Like so many other business people, she hasn’t known where to begin.

It wasn’t until driving back to my office after the hour we spent together that I realized I had used the ROAD map as a way to walk her through the basics of social marketing. As a refresher, MarketingSherpa identified ROAD as Research, Objectives, Actions and Devices.

Here’s how we approached the topic together for her first time:

Research: My friend told me that she reads a number of blogs in the creative design industry and has for some time. There are blogs she’s come across which she thinks are excellent and others that in her opinion, don’t provide any value. This is a great first step and I suggested that she take it  further by trying to identify what she thinks are good about those blogs. What could she emulate in her own blog if she were to start one? What would be the topics and focus? What content would best demonstrate her firm’s expertise? What would set her company apart from others? Ongoing research of blogs and other social media channels will be an important part of the process.

Objectives: Like any marketing efforts, social marketing needs a list of identifiable objectives you’re hoping to achieve. My friend explained that her business uses their website and photographs to help show prospective clients the work they do. So why would they need more? Social marketing content could drive traffic to their website. It can help get the company name and their services out in front of people on a frequent and regular basis. With social media marketing a company’s values and personality can be readily  communicated. In this step my friend needs to identify what she hopes to get out of social media marketing for her business. Coming up with objectives will help her to undertake social media marketing efforts for the right reasons. It will also give her company a meaningful way to stay in touch with existing customers.

Actions: MarketingSherpa defines actions as a tactical plan that will show you how to get there from here. In my friend’s case, she is at the very beginning of an exploratory phase. She won’t be able to implement a social media plan until she understands more about social marketing and the implications for her business. Like many other business people the decision whether to take on social marketing isn’t a unilateral decision. Her first steps will be to talk with others in her firm about what she’s learned so far. The question of how to manage and fund social marketing initiatives will most likely be a key part of the discussion. The conversation won’t happen or be resolved overnight. It will take time. In fact, actions may involve taking one step forward and two steps back. And that might happen a few times along the ROAD.

Devices: This is where my friend and her colleagues need to identify which social media channels would make the most sense for the business (assuming that’s the direction they choose to go). Social media marketing isn’t a one-size fits all proposition. They will need to think about whether written blog posts are what their audience will respond to. Or perhaps Facebook updates with links to events and posts. Will tweets work with Facebook, or could they stand on their own? Would the business benefit from having a presence on Flickr or YouTube? These are all considerations. By talking through the various channels and learning more about them by going to different companies pages they will be able to make more informed decisions about social media channels. As MarketingSherpa suggests the “number of social media sites in your social marketing architecture is not important. What is important is that they each have a clearly defined purpose that supports your tactical plan of action.”

I’ll be interested to follow her companies’ discovery process. What about you? Where are you on the social marketing ROAD? What key lessons have you learned along the way?

image credit: jurvetson’s photostream