Starting in January 2012, I will be assuming the role of adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Md., where I will be teaching Social Media Marketing as a part of its new Business of Art and Design program. The program aims to provide a comprehensive, highly concentrated education in business management specifically for artists, designers and related professions. Lest you think that artists and other creatives are the only ones in need of social media marketing 101, I’ve decide to adapt my eight-week course into a weekly column addressing social media marketing for the enterprise.

All Marketing Strategies Begin at the Most Basic Level

Who are you? What do you do?

They are not trick questions, but yet they are often the hardest to answer if you don’t understand what benefit your product, service and company provides others. (See: Purpose Driven Organizations).

To develop a marketable persona, start to describe yourself in keywords: Small business, boutique firm, brick and mortar, jewelry maker, SharePoint Consultant, widget manufacturer.

What makes you stand out? What is the incentive?

It’s not always easy to state what makes you and your company/product/service so amazing, but being able to clearly and concisely say it will help your prospective customers better understand the benefits of your service. How many times have you asked a vendor what they do and they spout a mouthful of acronyms or technical business jargon? Unless you have a niche audience, you need to assume that speaking simply is the best way to effectively communicate your message.

Again, let’s start with keywords: Fastest turnaround, quickest deployment, cost-cutting, time-saving, fast-acting, long-lasting.

What is your personality? How do you engage with others?

Any business, big or small, has a responsibility to engage with its users. No excuses. However, before you dive into social media or traditional marketing platforms, it’s important to factor in your innate business persona. Are you introverted, extroverted, a decision maker or an idea person? Not only do you have to consider the needs of your audience when tailoring your marketing strategy, you need to consider what you’re capable of. If you’re a quiet company, a loud engagement strategy may not work. Marketing strategies evolve. Just as you wouldn’t dive into the deep end while learning to swim, there’s no need to get too advanced too quickly with your marketing.

Define your engagement style and philosophy: From Myers Briggs to the Ageless Learner engagement assessment, many tools can you help better understand how you are inclined to engage, decide and adapt.

In addition to personality, where are you most comfortable engaging with people -- anyone, friends, family, colleagues, customers? Do you actively use Facebook? Twitter? Company intranets? Email? Phone? Yes, you want to go where your customers are, but it’s not going to help if you’re not comfortable there. If you’re self-employed, understanding this is huge. If you’re a part of a bigger company, you can delegate responsibility as necessary.

By now you should have a slew of keywords, adjectives and other words that best represent how, what, why and where you work best.

Define Your Audience; Don’t Let It Define You

In a purpose-driven organization, you know who your target audience is, what they do, how they act and react. But just because you want a certain demographic to be among your customers, doesn’t mean they are. You have to understand them, just as much as you understand yourself or your company.

I often defer to Forrester’s Social Technographics Ladder, which astutely breaks audience members into seven convenient categories.

Forrester Social Ladder .jpg

To determine which audience is most probably associated with you, Forrester also provides this handy tool so you can get a snapshot of the social technology behaviors of consumers.

When it comes to social media marketing, many think having a Facebook page or Twitter handle is enough or even appropriate. But if your audience is more voyeuristic than conversational, your engagement will be muted. To capitalize on social media, it’s important to define the social behaviors of your audience. If they are only comfortable in a specific location, such as email or forums, that’s where you need to go to build their trust so that they might follow you to a more engaging platform.

Yet, don’t get too attached with a certain platform. Technology evolves quickly, so if you have relied solely on being on Facebook and tomorrow, Google+ takes over, you may find yourself unprepared. However, if you develop an engagement strategy, which outlines basic principles of listening, learning and sharing -- changing platforms won’t catch you off-guard.

With all the right elements -- identity, purpose, personality and audience -- outlined, we can begin to develop and create the content that is appropriate and accurately represents everything your business.

Next week: Content, Context & Curation.  

Editor's note: Check Marisa's entire series devoted to Social media Marketing.