91-9Rw-mUWL._AA1500_The New Year is upon us. I, for one, felt like I had all sorts of time to plan and then all of the sudden it was January 3rd and I realized that execution must take the place of planning. It is very possible to plan too much and find yourself in Q2 having not yet actually done anything. Inaction is the death of any warrior on the battlefield of social media.

In honor of ushering in another year that is sure to be bursting with technological advancements, I want to humbly submit four tips that are important–nay crucial–to success in social media marketing. My mind is filled with that scene from Varsity Blues where Jon Voight repeatedly bangs his whistle against James Van Der Beek’s helmet, intoning, “Stick to the basics, stick to the basics, stick to the basics.”

And so, some basics. But do not for one second think that because these tips are “basic” that they are not important. That is a mistake too often made by the arrogant. Is breathing (certainly one of the most basic functions of our living bodies) not important? Are the basic impulses sent from your brain telling your heart to beat not, in some ways, among the most important functions of your body?

The tips commence.

Beware of Shiny Objects:

We’ve all sat around laughing at the microsecond attention spans of our pets. There are few things as amusing as watching a dog or cat try to stay focused on one thing when you jingle a toy across the room. External stimuli appear to be the bane of any canine or feline mission.

I doubt it’s understood (or perhaps it is simply ignored) that humans often exhibit just the same manner of ADD in our own endeavors. I see this most often in the archetypal marketing executive. For an entire month, they are focused on the creation and launch of, say, the official company blog. Then, right before that project is complete, they read an article in AdAge or the Wall Street Journal about Foursquare and by Monday morning it is nearly impossible to convince said executive that they were ever even thinking about a blog.

We, like our quadrapedal counterparts, are just as susceptible to new, shiny objects that distract us from our best-laid plans. Digital marketing these days is as much an exercise in discipline as in creativity. I am reminded here of the famous English figure of speech, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” and perhaps the more fitting Spanish expression, “A todo le tiras, y a nada le pegas” (“You aim for everything, you hit nothing.”)

The fact of the matter is this: you cannot successfully execute every possible social media marketing strategy you think of. You must look at your customers, your needs, your strengths, your budget. From these data points you and your agency create the optimum social media strategy. Then you must be disciplined. Don’t throw a wrench in everything if your competitor launches a Gowalla initiative. In the immortal words of my old swim coach, “Race your own race.” To do otherwise will not result in success.

Your Greatest Asset:

You may not realize it, but your greatest social media asset is buy-in from key members of your C-suite. In my experience, nothing has such effect on the power and success of your social media strategy as the true buy-in of your company’s decision makers.

Christopher Nadherny and Dana Wade address this point well in their article on AdAge.com:

Only executive-level sponsorship will break down organizational silos, secure the appropriate resources for digital initiatives and attract experienced, digitally adept leaders in key roles, including the CMO, head of media, brand leader, chief digital officer and head of e-commerce.

Respect the Mobile Device:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard various “rumors” that this whole mobile phone thing is catching on. I’m betting it’ll be as big as MC Hammer. The straight dope is that consumers are walking around with devices in their pockets that are multiple orders of magnitude more powerful than all the computing power used to put a man on the freakin’ moon.

Everything about mobile devices is improving. Better battery life, improved user interface, faster data transfer speeds, slicker web browsing.

I daresay that in 2011 we will be likely to see the mobile device become the dominant computing device (by time used) for many key demographics in the U.S.A. It may be a bit overzealous to think that mobile devices will become the dominant platform for transactions, but I do not think it is a stretch that by the end of 2011, mobile devices will be the dominant platform of discovery for many Americans.

Bottom Line: if you don’t reach your consumers on the devices they use when they are discovering and making decisions, then you’re fighting an uphill battle for their attention when they’re buying.

Fear Not Your Data:

I am perpetually perplexed at peoples’ various attitudes and approaches towards analytics in social media marketing. After six months in the African bush studying this behavior, I have come to note that these attitudes all have the same prime emotional manifestation: fear/anxiety. This prime emotion stems from two roots:

  1. Fear of what the analytics will show
  2. Fear that the analytics aren’t perfect and therefore invalid

Neither of these fears should impede the correct and effective usage of analytics to refine your social media marketing endeavors. No analytics are perfect (in the cosmological/divine sense), but to ignore potentially useful data for fear of what it might say is absolutely asinine. Yes, you may in fact find that your “awesome twitter promotion” did not work. That may make you look bad…temporarily. But you will more than make up for it when you return to the table with analytics and data from which you have distilled key learnings that will allow your company/brand to be more effective in the future. I think that in-house marketing/PR people are too often guilty of setting aside the scientific method when it is not convenient for their egos and/or final reports.

And so ends my four tips for social media success in 2011. Basic? Perhaps. Crucial? Absolutely. Please feel free to share your tips for the upcoming year in the comments.

Written by Matt Peters
Matt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pandemic Labs, and enjoys thinking about, writing about, and talking about social media marketing whenever someone will let him.