Strategic marketing on a small budget – effective use of social media & digital channels
Using digital marketing and social media channels can help small organisations achieve a lot on a small budget – if they do it right. This articles outlines how to create an in-house platform to effectively engage with your members, clients and stakeholders – without spending a lot of money.
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Connecting with your members, stakeholders, clients and potential customers can be an expensive business. For large companies, this is not a big problem but for most small organisations with a limited marketing budget, it can be.
These days, sending out your message is no longer enough – people want to be part of the conversation, they want to be listened to and engaged with.
For smaller organisations, integrating a digital engagement platform into their marketing structure can help them reach and engage with a huge number of like-minded people. Watch the prezi or read on to find out how.
Why Do You Need a Digital Engagement Platform?
If you are an organisation looking to run an effective marketing strategy on a limited budget, there are many digital marketing tools and channels available which can help you disseminate your message, reach your customers and stakeholders and – most importantly – engage with them. This can all be done in-house and at a fraction of the cost of hiring a PR or communications agency to do this for you.
At the heart of your new marketing strategy will be a digital engagement platform, a place where the social media and digital channels you will be using to reach your audiencecan come together and where you can manage everything in a coherent, strategic and effective way.
The digital engagement platform allows you to conduct and be part of interactions with colleagues, customers and stakeholders all in one place. It’s digital – because all your channels are managed in the same place, and it’s social – because it provides a place where you can talk to people and listen to them, allowing you to focus on what the people you are interested in want and need. It’s more about getting into a conversation than just selling – and at the end of the day, that will lead to better products and better service. The platform also provides a staging area for everything you say and every interaction which can then be re-used and re-appropriated whenever you want and for whatever the purpose.
However, it is important to know at this stage that while many of the channels available to you are free, the time you invest on building your digital engagement platform is not. To make sure you are not wasting time and money, you must first have a cohesive approach to the task. It is essential that before you take on the responsibility of running the digital engagement platform yourself, you must first define who your target audience is and how you will involve them in the discussion. Then you can decide on what your message is, how you want to present it and which channels are best suited to your approach and audience profile.
1) Strategy: the Who, the How, the What
To determine your audience profile, you need to ask yourself a number of questions: who are the people you want to reach? Where are they? What are they interested in? Where and when could they be available for interaction? This early stage of identifying your audience will have a considerable impact on what you do next.
On one side there’s you and on the other are your customers and also your stakeholders. These may be those who are interested in funding you or being part of the discussion, a future customer or perhaps a future employee. You have to remember that it’s not only you who has a goal and a mission; the same goes for the people you’re trying to reach. They have values, they have issues, and on a practical level they have needs and a certain way in which they want to engage.
This is the next important step: how are you going to reach them? The channels you choose will depend on who you want to reach, the type of presentation you want to use in disseminating your information to them, and how you want to engage with them.
If you want to do this on a small budget then it’s really worthwhile researching what’s out there in terms of channels after deciding what you want. It’s very important that if you want to save money then you should research and compare the channels available and that you test them rigorously. This is something that you will have to do on a regular basis because advances in digital marketing are moving very quickly. Also, your customers will change, their needs will change and your message will change. Every day there is a new channel and perhaps it is exactly what you’re looking for or it could be a complete waste of time. You can only find out if you test them. It is a market you must keep an eye on or you end up paying for your ignorance.
Now you know your audience, how you you’re going to reach them and the channels you’re going to use, you must make sure that your message is clearly defined, coherent and tailored to the profile of people you will be engaging with. Effectiveness begins with your defined message. Without this, all the effort which has gone before will have been in vain.
This may sound like a lot of work before you can even start connecting with people but if you’re wasting a lot of time using the wrong channels or reaching the wrong people, or putting the wrong message out there it can cost you a lot in resources. When you fully understand your goals and products, what the people you’re trying to reach want and which channels you going to cross paths on, then you can create your digital engagement platform: the single place where all this interaction can happen.
2) Implementation: Make it part of the process
Right, you may say, now I have all these areas defined and I’m ready to start interacting – when am I going to find the time to do this?
Well, if you have an engagement platform, it becomes part of your daily process just as checking your emails or updating your website has become part of that. It becomes part of your working day without a huge investment that you may not have the resources to pay for.
Another important thing to realise is that, if you want to implement the platform in your organisation, it isn’t just one person who does it but you really need everyone to be involved. In this way, operating the digital engagement platform is more of a philosophy than a task. People will need to integrate this into their work process.
It’s interesting that while there is a lot of digital marketing coming out of PR and communication departments, there’s also a lot coming out from a high strategic level – these are the people who have understood that it is a top priority which is attached to what the organisation wants to achieve and its strategy. Whereas in the past when there used to be a couple of people who used to churn the messages out over the channels they were comfortable with, we are now at the level where it’s part of what everybody does. This approach allows us to reach our customers and stakeholders wherever they are and at whatever the time of day or night – because many aspects of social and digital channels can be automated.
3) The team: You and everybody else
Once you have defined your message, the target audience and you have the appropriate channels in place, you will need an editor- in-chief who will oversee a core team of editors charged with implementing the strategy on the platform: the daily editors, a media editor that ensures that your content is visual enough and – if possible – an audiovisual editor who can help with the technical details of video, podcasts and other multimedia tools.
These are not necessarily people who are specifically employed for this purpose, but those who like doing this work and who are willing to take this on as part of their job description.
Behind these people you have the writers – i.e. everybody in your organisation – and this is where your content is generated. It’s not just the job of the core team to produce everything. They should work with the writers to get the content and help them deliver within their schedule. And then, of course, there are the contributors – which are your customers and stakeholders. This is what makes digital marketing and social media very different from other types of marketing. It’s not just one person, or a team of colleagues who is involved – it’s everybody out there who is interested and engaged in the same topics as you are. So it is important that they are made part of the process and part of the team if you want this to work in an effective way. It is also important to make it clear among the team who has responsibility for what tasks.
4) Getting Things Done: Your Guide & Schedule
Since you will have so many contributors at so many levels, you will also need a style guide so the organisation is represented in a coherent way, in the same tone and the same language across all output. Additionally, there should be a response guide which explains how to respond to all the questions and comments which will come from your contributors and commentators, especially when it comes to negative comments.
It is also a good idea to everyone is aware of certain themes which are of importance and of interest, for example there is an event is coming up or it’s World AIDS Day. These should be set up in the annual and monthly schedules so everyone knows there is a certain focus of communication during a certain period. This also helps to ensure that all updates go out on the relevant channels.
Internal communication keeps all your writers involved in the process and keeps the social and digital strategy connected with all the other marketing and communication activities in your organisation.
5) Ensuring Impact: Measuring Success
To monitor your impact and progress through the platform you should find a way of measuring your success. Set goals which will have quantifiable results, for example: In the next six months, I want to double the number of my followers on Facebook or I want to increase the number of retweets I’m getting from stakeholders. This is one way of ensuring that you’re not just shouting in the wind and that you can see the relevance of what you’re doing in regard to your audience and that you’re seeing the effects that you wanted.
This doesn’t have to involve much extra work. There are some very good tools out there which integrate with your customer management systems, connect to multiple channels at the same time and schedule updates to be sent even when you’re not in the office. There is also a developing trend for tools that automatically detect and collect information from one channel, be it on a certain topic, whenever your organisation or event is mentioned in a tweet or when there is a response to a certain email address. A few years ago, this would have required a very expensive programmer.
Go, be engaging!
Digital marketing is not the future – it is now. It is rapidly becoming the most efficient way to reach large numbers of people and engage with them. You’d be hard-pressed to find any other way to engage with such a large audience. So:
- Watch the slide show: “How to create a Digital Engagement Platform?”
- Links on interesting articles about digital engagement
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