How to Construct a Social Media Plan

How to Construct a Social Media Plan

It’s true: those who fail to plan, plan to fail. While social media is often perceived to be random, rudderless and routine (and sometimes is), a well-structured Social Media Strategy can make a significant difference in your communications with prospects and clients.

Your plan must start with a good, interactive website, rich with ways to help people improve whatever they might want to improve. Your website should have an active blog with new posts at least once a week. These two pieces are the hub of your marketing effort and the cornerstone to your Strategic Social Media Plan.
Your website/blog should sport:

• Value to others in many forms: physical, mental, emotional or financial.
• Innovation and Humor.
• Consistency. Make your posts as frequent as possible — at least weekly.
• Media of all sorts from articles, to photos and videos should be easily accessible from your website.
• Your brand on every page: logo, colors, phone numbers, etc.
• A call to action. Free stuff is very, very good!


2) Your Plan should identify what social media vehicles, groups and blogs to join. Be selective and strategic about what groups you choose. Then, keep up with them. Participate. Add value to the conversation. Make “offers” to them that will improve something they are interested in. Send them to good links (not just your own).
3) Leverage the communities you are in to publish your informative, helpful and humorous information. It CANNOT be self-promotional.
4) Choose the right networks. YouTube is the best place to host your videos but Facebook is a great way to have a conversation.
5) Build your relationships by being available, trustworthy and helpful in all your interactions. Do NOT sell!
6) Listen to the conversations. If you hear or see something worth sharing, pass it along with a link so the credit goes where it is due.

7) Integrate your traditional marketing into your social media marketing. Cross promote your website and blog with brochures, events, advertising and give-aways.
8) Measure your results. How many new “friends” have you made? How many more subscribers do you have to your newsletter? How times have your comments or content been shared with others?
9) Sign up for free company listings with search engines.
10) Re-evaluate and re-tool when necessary; but remember, it takes a long time to build relationships so give it a year or more to determine if you are being effective with your Strategic Social Media Plan.

What’s in Your Marketing Budget?

What’s in Your Marketing Budget?

2011.  A new start.  New hope. New strategies for success.  Most marketing professionals are optimistic about 2011.  Reportedly, there are a more conversations, and companies are now addressing their need for market share (rather than the service and product survival focus of the past 24 months). So far — it’s all good.

But the success your organization will experience this year in new leads and sales is closely aligned with the marketing choices you make.  For example, does it make sense to continue advertising on tv, radio or print at the pre-recession rate? How many carefully planned impressions will be wasted on people who are not interested in your offering? Or, perhaps, skip right over them with all the technology available to avoid your carefully crafted ads?  What about direct mail?  Is your return typical — between .5 and 2%?   What does that make your return on investment (ROI)?

The Center for Media Research shared some interesting information that can help guide your organization to a successful 2011 marketing budget.  Overall, 50% of budgets are expected to increase over last year with 43% maintaining current levels.  The top allocation increases are:  65% to email marketing, 57% to social media, 41% to Search, and 35% to mobile marketing.  This year’s losers are direct mail, down 36%, followed by tradeshow and events at 33%.  Trailing in third for the budget bruise is advertising.

Marketing is common sense at its very core.  Who is interested in what you offer?  Where can you find qualified prospects to “talk” to them?  What is better about your company’s services and products that would cause prospects to buy?  You really don’t need to look any further than your screen to answer these questions — it’s all on the Internet.  That’s where most people search topics, ask questions, seek other people’s opinions and find news and entertainment.

Companies are recognizing that their website is the centerpiece to all their lead generating efforts from information to testimonials to education.  The better your organization tends to its website with reliable, relevant content that interests prospects and customers, the more trusted and valuable your organization becomes to them.

The next step is to drive traffic to your website.  Search engine optimization (SEO) is important, of course, but only ten companies are listed on page one of a given search.  That means organizations must find ways to drive traffic to their websites where they can woe their market with outstanding information, visuals, videos and news.  The more Internet channels you use, the better your results.  For example, clearly, social media enjoyed back to back break-out years in 2009 and 2010.  We expect more to come in 2011.  But this year, it’s hard to beat the economies of scale in e-mail marketing to the prospects and customers whose email address you have been accumulating.  Pay-per-click advertising and mobile marketing should surge a bit their year as well.

Your budgets are probably approved.  But to make the most of your marketing dollars, use your common sense to determine the best allocation of your hard-fought funds.

The Marketing Smoothie Recipe for Older Adult Services

The Marketing Smoothie Recipe for Older Adult Services

Take your direct mail, your advertising, your website, Facebook page, special events and put them all in a blender.  Combine, mix on high and serve immediately.  The rich flavors will create a marketing masterpiece worthy of your finest efforts.  Yields:  New customers.  Will keep for at least one year.

It’s true, every ingredient you add to your marketing mix is going to enhance the effectiveness of your campaign especially when you combine them and let them work together to support each other.  This is especially true when appealing to older adults.  Seniors usually read direct mail and watch or listen to commercials, hence the expiration date for these mediums is further out than say, print advertising.  That .5% response rate you get with direct mail may bring people to your community, your store or your website.  Use it wisely because it is quite expensive; however, it can boost interest and awareness about your organization when you promote your website, blog, Facebook, etc., in the mailed piece (email or snail mail).

Special events are a great place to have people sign up with their email addresses.  Offer something for free, or an opportunity to win cash or a give-away and you’ll get more email addresses.  Take your online magazine or website on the road — to senior fairs, to trade events, anywhere you can.  Then let people see what they can learn, enjoy and gain value from by participating in your online activities.

Of course there’s a menu of options for those folks who like to consume the latest communications trends of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs,  too.  First, connect your Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts via any one of a number of new social media management services that are often free.  Then link all of that to your website.  Connect the paths among all these accounts to your blog or online magazine, to reputable referral sites and of course, your RSS Feed.  Promote your events on your site, within these accounts, offer special discounts, etc. via these mediums.  You can even try pay-per-click advertising on search engines and referral sites.

In your monthly statements or newsletters, provide links and special advantages to using your organization’s online tools.  Use signage throughout your venue to promote your online and make it worth a prospect’s while to seek out your business on the Internet.

Online strategies are far less expensive overall and are proving to be about 60% less per lead than traditional tactics.  However, a slow but steady shift of funds and efforts away from the traditional methods into the online is a far more successful way to reach the older adult market.  Use the next year or two to change your lead-generating diet to mostly online.

Providence Life Services Realizes Social Media Success

Providence Life Services Realizes Social Media Success

When you have a 90% score on your website that Hubspot grades against all websites in every industry…  over 7,000 people visit your site monthly… and, you use technology resources to distribute your messages to over 100,000 active emails accounts, you are leading the pack in online communications best practices.  Such is the case with Providence Life Services (PLS), a not-for-profit Christian ministry serving seniors and headquartered in south suburban Chicago.

A four person staff designs, writes and manages the marketing for seven communities, four home and community based service groups, four rehabilitation centers as well as the parent organization, PLS.  Along with PLS’  website functionality that is content rich and frequently updated,  the marketing team manages the Facebook pages for the corporation along with their independent and assisted living communities.

“Originally our participation on Facebook was driven by a desire to provide a ministry for the families of residents.  The snippets of daily life caught in photos, stories, videos, etc., are a wonderful way for the families to see what the lives of their loved ones are like,” commented Director of Communications, Melanie Jongsma.  Mary James, Vice President of Communications and Marketing added that it has become a great marketing tool, too!

“Introducing social media into the Providence Life Services marketing and communications strategy is a result of three years spent rebranding our organization which included a name change from Rest Haven to Providence Life Services,”  according to James.  “Credit must be given to our CEO, Rick Scott, for his vision to embrace social media and technology as a significant component of our communications strategy.”

Peggy Hiemer designs and manages the website, Facebook accounts for PLS and its communities along with e-newsletters to various constituent groups.  Ms. Jongsma and Ms. Hiemer led a training class for community marketing directors to teach them how Facebook works.  Their community Facebook pages launched three months ago. “The success of the Facebook pages are directly related to the interest and dedication of the onsite point person.  The more buy-in there is at the local level the more successful  Facebook is as a communication tool for the residents.”

Mary James added, “We consider it critically important for the staff to participate in the online discussion since each community is a ‘family’ of staff and residents.”  PLS never screens the comments that are made on the site or Facebook, however, they  are monitored closely.  “When a not-so- complimentary comment comes into the conversations, we are quick to find something to offset it,” says James.

Traditional marketing methods are still used by PLS since the target market responds to direct mail and events.  However, whenever we feel we can transfer a message via the internet, we will,” exclaimed James.

Video Power

Video Power

We’ve all seen seen YouTube videos.  After all, YouTube has 95% share of the market and 150,000 new videos are uploaded each day.  Just about any topic can be covered in a video: sales presentations, how-to’s, funny, serious, with and without music, high end graphics and photography.  And, they run the gamut of reasons they are produced and uploaded.  Think about how you, your sales team, your fund development department could benefit:  Beyond Words:  Art Therapy with Older Adults.

Here’s an example.  Successful fundraising needs a story, a tug at the heartstrings, a real life face that helps define how donations and volunteer services are going to improve the lives of others.  Imagine if you are raising funds for an Art Therapy program.  What would this video do for your campaign? Friendship Village Final Four

Here’s how to make your killer YouTube Video:

  1. Establish the goal of what you want the video to do for you or your organization.  Are you looking for awareness, do you want to educate, entertain or inform people?
  2. What is the personality type of your audience.  Will they prefer a “talking head,” a flashy video, humor, sad story?
  3. Outline what you want to convey in the video.  What is the story behind video, the reason people would want to watch it, what action do you want them to take?
  4. Write a script, if appropriate.  If not, plan your shots (here’s a favorite from Friendship Village of Schaumburg: <iframe title=”YouTube video player” width=”480″ height=”390″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
  5. Incorporate something unique into your video (could be content, sound, action, etc.)
  6. Use a good video camera.  Some cameras are great for talking heads.  For action video, distance or just moving around with sound, you will need to rent or purchase a higher end camera.
  7. Speak clearly and look into the camera (if this is a talking head video) – you are talking to someone who is watching the video.
  8. During filming and if you have an opportunity to reshoot a bad take, do so.
  9. In preparing your end video, think about the other sensory accessories that are going to make your video more compelling – graphics, photography, sound tracks, etc.
  10. Edit your footage in a movie making program.  The iMac has iMovie built in or you can use a Video Suite program.  Corel has a nice one.  There are some simple brands on the market or you can go more professional and get Pinnacle’s Studio Ultimate.  Edit out all the mistakes and please, do not exceed 5 minutes.  Two or three minutes is best.
  11. Upload to YouTube according to their instructions.
  12. Tell your friends, clients, prospects, the media that the video is posted and invite them to view it.