This is a cross-post, authored by my friend and soon-to-be-former-client Paula Drum, vp of marketing at H&R Block.

Paula is well-known in the Social Media scene for being one of the early corporate innovators. She’s going to be moving on to lead a to-be-launched e-commerce site and I’m sure we’ll all hear plenty more from her in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, Paula was kind enough to show me a draft of her last post as an H&R Block executive. As you’ll see below, it’s great stuff and she agreed to let me cross-post the content to PR-Squared.

Below are Paula Drum’s “10 tips for Social Media Marketers,” lessons learned from hard experience. Having attended BlogWell NYC yesterday, I can assure you that these are lessons that the Fortune 1000 are hungry for!

10 Tips for Social Media Marketers

  1. Every brand can be and should be “social” – Conversations about your brand and products are happening everywhere. You need to be part of the conversation and if H&R Block can make taxes social, your product can be social too.
  2. Just get started – It doesn’t take a big budget to get started in social media marketing. In fact, much of social media marketing is human capital. Start by listening. Set up Google Alerts to look for conversations about your brand or product. Use TweetDeck and set up a brand search to monitor what is going on about your brand or product in the Twitterverse. Then participate in the conversation; just remember to be authentic, honest and transparent and you will be fine. If you take the first steps to engage in the conversation you will learn more about how your brand or product fits into the social media space and it will help guide any future programs.
  3. Integrated marketing vs. social media – There is a difference between an integrated marketing campaign that includes viral components or online/offline coordination and a social media program. A marketing campaign has a short life; it is singular in desired action and is usually focused on demand generation. A social media program is a commitment to engage and communicate with consumers where the consumer wants to communicate. If you are going to start a marketing campaign with social elements versus a social media program, you must start with the end in mind. The worst thing a marketer could do is build a group of fans, friends or followers without a clear exit strategy after the campaign is completed.
  4. Find your brand’s own path – What works for one brand in social media does not mean it is right for another. For example, the path of engagement with a movie franchise is very different than engaging consumers about taxes. Remaining true to your brand promise is the best way to approach social media. Utilize your brand promise as a guiding principle across all your social media efforts. Reflect it in the content that you create, the tone that you use, and the programs that you develop.
  5. Media $ versus human capital – I mentioned human capital earlier. Companies can spend a lot of money trying to launch a social media program. For the most part, I would really classify those efforts as an integrated marketing campaign. Your approach and funding of an integrated marketing campaign needs to be in line with the size and scope of your overall marketing budget. Social media programs can be a lot more cost efficient from a media budget standpoint, but, you still need human capital to run them. In many cases you may be trading media $ for the human capital needed to run a program. For example if you are taking the first step of listening and engaging in the conversation, there is no media buy necessary. However, you do need to have some person dedicated to scanning and responding. Ideally, that person is an employee of the company. Why this should be an employee leads to the next tip.
  6. Agencies play a great role, but the voice needs to be the company’s – There have been many company backlashes by having your agency respond in the social media space. Remember that the consumer wants to connect with you, not your agency. Your agencies can monitor and identify opportunities, but it is the company that needs to respond – authenticity is key.
  7. Your agency needs to walk the walk – I hate paying an agency to learn on my dime. When we started three years ago, social media was so new and changing so rapidly that we were all learning together. Today there are many different agencies that are building expertise in social media including public relations firms, interactive agencies and newly formed agencies focusing on social media. As you select an agency partner make sure that they don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk. Are they active in social media? Does the agency blog or twitter? Judge the agency not solely on their pitch, but also on their actions.
  8. Get legal involved early – Your legal department can be an ally or a roadblock. What you need to understand is that in the area of social media there is not a lot of legal precedence to draw on. This makes your legal department nervous because it is more difficult to know the best way to protect the company. Involve your legal department early and help them understand your goals so you can build a partnership and not hit as many roadblocks. Ask your legal department to help you solve for the risks versus just state that you cannot proceed with a program. There are always solutions to mitigate risk. You and your legal department can find solutions together.
  9. Have a crisis management plan – The recent Dominoes episode clearly identifies the need of a crisis management plan. In a world of 24×7 communications, the brands that can respond quickly to a crisis will be the brands that weather the storm. A good crisis management plan must begin with active monitoring. Judgment will need to be exercised to distinguish a customer service issue from a true crisis management situation. Once a crisis has been detected, the brand will need to respond in a matter of hours not days. Early action will help nip a crisis in the bud before it explodes into something larger. No action or ignoring it will only exacerbate the issue. A brand that is already active in social media will also carry more credibility and rally more supporters to come to the brand’s defense.
  10. Selling the C-Suite or ROI – One of the most popular questions that I get asked is how to build support at the C-level. Having a clearly defined objective is critically important to gain support of any initiative. However, everyone is always focused on the ROI or return on the investment. I have defined ROI a little differently in this new and emerging space as Risk Of Ignoring. There is an absolute change occurring in how we communicate and seek information as a society. The millennial generation is the first digital native generation with very different expectations of companies and marketing. In the not so distant future the millennials will be a larger purchasing demographic than the boomers. Not understanding this segment will be detrimental for future marketers.

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