How to be better at social media

Many marketers have NO idea how to tie social media into relevant business goals – and this is hurting everyone involved. What I do know is that social media is a channel, a channel for marketing, a channel for communications. The same way the telephone, the fax machine, and the internet were introduced – so is social media. What can be really intimidating for marketers, supporters, and advocates of social media – is the different directions that all of our “leaders” are pointing us in. This is a huge problem because while most of them have very relevant points; they criticize the views of others whom also have relevant advice to give.

People tend to name-call (social media purists, tree-huggers, money-hungry-marketers, etc.). You see the problem with name-calling is that none of these people are justified to say that the other is wrong. Here is a brain dump on strategy and thinking in regards to social:

  • Engagement is important. Yes people want coupons and deals – in fact, this is a driver as to why people ‘Like’ or follow brands in the first place. In the same breath, people also want to be acknowledged, and whether or not they know they are looking for it – they want conversation. Engagement as a word can mean a lot of things, but it is important to understand that in order to achieve your business goals, you have to engage people so that they’ll stay loyal to your brand, redeem those coupons, and be interested in your products at all. It, however, is not all about engagement – there are other things that come into play when trying to determine your strategy.
  • You NEED objectives. Simply “dabbling” in social media is not enough, nor is it a standalone objective. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you will forever wander aimlessly through the social media amazon. What’s even more important is tying these objectives to business/company objectives. Do you want to increase loyalty? Okay, now how are you going to do that? How are you going to measure that at the end of the year? How can you prove/disprove that social media can even do this? Figure it out. Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), and set out exactly how you are going to achieve those objectives. It is no longer enough to focus your efforts on hollow metrics and fan counts, you need to include business objectives.
  • Figure out who your audience is. This is extremely important – in any marketing or communications plan, you always have a target audience. The brilliant thing about social is that you have an unbiased, not made up, not assumed target audience. These are your customers, your leads. Social is one of the best market research tools out there nowadays – you really just have to figure out how to dissect that data and determine, exactly, who your audience is. Everything afterwards will be easier; optimizing your content, campaigns, communications, customer support.
  • Social is not free. No matter what hub-bub agencies or gurus try to sell you, social media is not, and never will be “free” or exceptionally cheap. Any “best practice” or case study that you look at definitely came with a dollar sign attached to it. Advertising, research, campaigns, content creation, third-party apps, they all cost money. Social is an investment. Write that down.
  • Have social be a part of your integrated marketing mix. I really think this is enough said, however, for those of you who don’t know: social media should be intertwined into your company’s integrated marketing mix. It is the best place to gauge conversation & feedback on your campaigns.
  • Educate and inform. Platforms are always changing. Do not let this hinder your efforts, or leave you dumbfounded. Have someone keep tabs on platform changes (ex: introduction of Facebook Timeline for brands, should that happen) and educate your team and company on these changes. You should also make sure that everyone understands the implications of social media and the objectives you have set forth.

This post is a little scattered, sorry if I gave you a headache – but I truly think these little tidbits are going to make you more successful in whatever position you hold that involves social media. You need to understand the who, what, why, how & when. The mediums will always change, but we must keep our strengths the same.

If you think I have missed or overlooked something I would be happy to discuss in the comments!




  1. Joey Gault (@iamjoeygault) · November 29, 2011

    #highfive Marissa. Now that the critical mass is on to social media, I feel there’s a lack of appreciation for the depth and power of it all as a marketing tool. I personally like No.2 and No.3. It’s just chatting if those two points aren’t considered.

  2. Joey Gault (@iamjoeygault) · November 29, 2011

    …oh, and one thing I’d like to add: Above all, be human. Social Media is a ‘people’ game and too often we water down our message to seem more ‘professional’ when we’re really loosing most of our personality. People want to talk to people, not brochures.

    • Marissa Gagnier · November 29, 2011

      Exactly! Social is really just the shift of power. Brands are so used to yelling at their customers and thinking they listen. It only worked because there was no other way of doing things.

      I always preach “be human”. I think this is so important because a company should be the sum of its parts. Put your talent at the forefront and you will always be successful. “human” to me should always be a brand driver – you want your audience to connect with your brand, and they just can’t do it when all you do is publish press releases and corporate tones!

      Thanks for the comment Joey!


  3. Eric Wittlake · December 2, 2011

    Marissa, nice post. If I may, I would add two points here.

    First, an often forgotten aspect of integrated marketing is integrated measurement. When all of your marketing stems from common core objectives and a common approach to your audience, elements of your measurement should become common as well.

    Second, enagagement is important in social media because it is often HOW you accomplish an objective. As you say, it isn’t enough. It isn’t what you are trying to accomplish (your goal) or why you are trying to accomplish it (your strategy, connecting your goals to your business objective).

    Sure, social media can be free. But you just might be getting what you paid for.

    Great post!

    • Marissa Gagnier · December 2, 2011

      Thanks Eric. While I know that measurement is extremely important (thanks for adding this, btw) I do believe that most people in SMM don’t know WHAT to measure. It could be a whole separate post, but I definitely agree with you.

      Also – the tidbits on engagement are right on!

      Thanks for the comment!


  4. Cup O Swank Studio · December 7, 2011

    Elegant post! And useful to me, someone whose pretty new at it. I especially agree with “It is the best place to gauge conversation & feedback on your campaigns.”

    • Marissa Gagnier · December 8, 2011

      It really is! Thanks for taking the time to comment, much appreciated!


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