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6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan


Recently, Britta Meyer of Eurekster, which makes an embeddable custom social search portal called a “Swicki”, posed a question on LinkedIn about how one would go about defining a social media marketing roadmap, and how you would prioritize each social media channel.

There is no cookie cutter approach to social media marketing. Your strategy will depend on:

1) Your goals – SEO, PR, traffic ( to drive awareness? advertising click-thus? conversions?)
2) Your audience – where does your target demo hang out?
3) Your resources – you, you plus an intern, internal team, agency?

Here are 6 steps to help you design your social media marketing roadmap.

Step 1: Understand What Social Media Is

The best way to look at social media is to view it as one of many Internet marketing channels, one that has the amazing power to go viral. In the very least, it has the awesome ability to engage your audience in meaningful conversations about your product, issue areas, company, and brand.

The social media marketing umbrella includes sites that are both Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 – basically you want to be anywhere that enables discussions, sharing, and user-generated content (UGC), such as:

  • Blogs and Forums / Discussion Boards
  • Consumer Review Sites
  • Social Networks / Online Communities
  • Social Bookmarking Sites
  • Social News Sites
  • Social Music Sites
  • Video and Photo Sharing Sites
  • Wikis

Step 2: Understand What Social Media Can & Can’t Do

Social media can engage your audience, encourage online conversations that are user-generated, increase your web presence, expand brand awareness, generate publicity (both good & bad) and provide SEO benefits. It doesn’t convert.

For most marketers, social media has no ROI but is great for:

  • Brand building
  • Relationship management
  • Product development
  • Reputation management
  • Customer interaction
  • Customer feedback
  • Customer support
  • Community building
  • Defensive SEO – Yes! Bury your bad press with positive UGC

In some cases, social media can convert – usually if you own the community, and have the power to strategically capture leads. But that’s like being the D&D Dungeon Master.

Step 3: Determine Where Conversations are Happening

You will need to respond to conversations that are already happening. To determine where conversations are happening about your brand, you will need to have some kind of buzz monitoring or online reputation management system in place.

Prioritize these discussions, then hop in.

Step 4: Divide…

Next, you want to expand into unchartered territory.

Before venturing out into the vast unknown, create your social media road map – a map of the social web as it pertains to your business. Gather all the sites that would be most interested in what you have to say and segment them by type (blogs, social networks, social news sites, forums, etc) and by target audience / topical interest.

Once you’ve done that, it will be more clear to you what your campaign specific marketing strategies and tactics ought to be.

Step 5: …and Conquer

Now comes the tactical deployment. Here are some examples of different kinds of social media engagements.

Blogger outreach & engagement – this is a top down, bottom up approach. To demonstrate a significant impact, this is best handled by a team. You will need to identify the A-List blogs, cultivate a positive relationship with as many as possible, persuade them to blog about your issue, or guest blog for them. You will need a team of conversation agents to fan out into the blogosphere and engage in MEANINGFUL conversations wherever conversations about your topic is happening.

    If you have a call to action, relevant product, or web resource you are trying to drive traffic to, drop html links with target anchor text for an additional SEO lift (a % of the sites you will be hitting will be do-follow)

    Disclose your identity, be courteous, informed about the subject, or you will be flamed, and that will live forever on the web.

    Social networking – only hit the communities relevant to your issue, product, company, topic or you will get poor quality traffic, if any.

      Are you infiltrating tight-knit interest-specific online communities? If so, you will need to ingratiate yourself into the pack.

      Are you starting your own community on a hosted platform, like a Ning? You can drive conversation and awareness, your revenue options are limited (ad revenue sharing).

      Do you own the community? Great – you can drive targeted conversations and include strategically placed calls-to-action, promos, ads, anywhere. If you’ve designed your site with SEO in mind, your users will create the content, and you will had an advantage in the SERPS, especially for long-tail keywords.

      Social news marketing – thru social sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Newsvine. These sites also have a unique culture and will work for you if your news item relates topics favored by the community. Digg, for example, veers towards the geeky. Write for maximum click thrus – think “linkbait”. Popular stories here can get picked up by bloggers, which will also give you an SEO boost. Traffic can be huge and fickle like a tsunami. Don’t expect it to convert. Avoid marketing here – you will be buried.

        Step 6: Trust in the Force

        Finally, trust is a huge factor in social engagement. Understand that social media marketing is most effective when users in the community know you. The only way for the community to know you is if you spend a lot of time online and invest managing your social web presence across communities.

        Social media builds awareness and drives conversation. It’s a powerful way enable communication between the company & customer. Always remember, selling is a secondary or tertiary benefit of social media.

        [tags]social media, social media marketing, seo, social networks, blogging, roi, lorna li[/tags]

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        1. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & PlanRecently, Britta Meyer of Eurekster, which makes an embeddable custom social search portal called a Swicki , posed a question on LinkedIn about how one would go about defining a social media marketing roadmap, and how you would … […]

        2. […] O que mudou de uns tempos para cá? Para grande parte do mercado ainda nada. Para alguns, paulatinamente, eles descobriram que a bolinha do mix de marketing não representava apenas uma forma geométrica que se traduzia em website e e-mail marketing. A bolinha cresceu e virou um mundo. […]

        3. […] Today is research product’s Facebook pages day, and I now realize the true significance of Lorna Li’s first step in her “6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan“ […]

        4. […] of the social media space. The first graphic I want you to see comes from Lorna Li’s post on 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan It’s interesting to note that her bubbles do not connect. They merely float around each […]

        5. Don’t forget how useful Social Marketing sites are for Radical Transparency. It’s where intelligently marketed companies are headed these days.

        6. Elaine says:

          You are really right about the conversion part. Social media’s traffic doesn’t or is hard to convert. I used to do heavy marketing with forums, blogs and social bookmarking. I get 1 sales out of 10,000 visitors. That’s a poor result.

          However, the benefit I gained was many people get to know me and follow my blog by subscribing! ROI is low but it goes viral easily.

        7. “Finally, trust is a huge factor in social engagement. Understand that social media marketing is most effective when users in the community know you.”

          The more time I spend getting involved in the online community the more I find people responding. When you have enough of a presence it is very easy to generate positive things.

        8. Flüge says:

          Great article. I think you picked up O’Reilly’s thoughts on the Web2.0 and his intentions very well. It just has to give a lot and their is still much to discover. The web is our´s and everyone should participate!

        9. Justin says:

          This is one of the best guides to using social marketing that I’ve read. Thanks for the post!

        10. Blog Expert says:

          The six steps will help any one just starting out with social media. I definitely think that people do not conquer when they are using social media. Have other people do not usually know how to use social media to their benefit either. Another great article. I am subscribed!

        11. Dave (C4G) says:

          I love social media and think it’s a great idea, my only concern is that the concept is being diluted by people who are abusing it for SEO or marketing only purposes. I feel those people are losing the human aspect to marketing, in that to create a working relationship with others online, one must first gain a level of trust.

          Forums seem to be the hardest hit because some of these people throw four or five links in their signature and start posting one-liners and off topic posts just to get free backlinks but it ruins the discussions for those who legitimately wish to communicate ideas with others.

          Blogs are second because so many people who comment on blogs leave just enough of a comment so it doesn’t appear to be spam but not enough to fuel the discussion. This particular action, I find very disrespectful to the blog author who has spent time creating a useful article (such as the one you have created here).

          Other social networks like Digg, Twitter, Reddit, MySpace, Facebook are so far gone at this point, they have run off the original users who were there to actually network through open communications. LinkedIn seems to be the only one who has managed to stave off the onslaught of blatant self-promoters.

          As the owner of a several large (10K+ members) forums, author of several blogs and creator of a few social media sites, I can honestly say that social marketing has been going downhill since the advent of “Make Money Online” (MMO) bloggers, free blogging services such as Blogger and Blogspot who allow MFA (made for adsense) sites and a general attitude that spamming forums and blogs will increase your pagerank. Not to mention, once Gmail allowed anybody to create an account without an invite, the influx of spam and scammers has most of us old-timers quite jaded.

          In my case, I’ve opted for quality over quantity. In response to Elaine’s comment above about low conversion from social marketing, I would humbly suggest to seek quality, not quantity. Also, one conversion for 10K impressions isn’t bad at all especially if you’re not using targeted traffic such as Adwords.

        12. JustinSMV says:

          wow awesome points in your article. I really believe that social media will pick up rapidly in 2009, thanks for the road map!

        13. Great article about social media. If someone is confused about this subject you have really a haze dissolver here!

        14. This is one of the best Social Media posts I’ve ever read. Thanks for sharing!


        15. Bob Chandra says:

          A very helpful guide for newbies and experienced SEOs alike. The social media ecosystem can be overwhelming to clients; I advise they select a few communities where there existing or prospective clients are most likely to be- and invest their time there.

        16. Janice says:

          Hi Lorna Li. Love how transparent and user friendly this article is. Really appreciate it. I am a CPG brand management person who is networking in the green space for opportunities.

          I hope our paths cross in the bay area………


        17. This is so true. What really stood out to me was the trust part. We must have trust in any social thing we may do.

        18. This is a great resource. A detailed strategy for a direct offensive on social media.
          We are ramping up pushing our new website/product – and this is the place we are starting it.
          Much thanks!

        19. Excellent tactical approach to social media and raising valid arguments for it. I agree that companies need to seriously sit down and plan out their goals before they just randomly shoot videos and blog.

          I wanted to share a blog entry we wrote that lays out a four-step action plan for small business owners and entrepreneurs to use to get started into social media.

          It’s titled, 4-Step Action Plan for Social Media Marketing.


        20. Wow thank you very much for the very useful article! I hope you will update this blog again. Just found it, and I must say I love your photographs! The rainforest is really beautiful and I can’t get enough of looking at it :D. cheers!

        21. Lorna
          Great post. I dabble in a lot of these areas, and rarely with a marketing objective. I am familiar with each element seperately. What your have shown me is how to use them with consistency and purpose. Thanks.

        22. CigArest says:

          What will it happen when Google starts bying Social media sites like twitter in order to keep the monopoly of web search? you can see this already happening with the wiki results they added in the beginning of this year.

        23. Kartik Kataria says:

          Nice points in your article.

          I would like to differ on the ROI point that has been stated here. For a marketer with sound knowledge of Social Media, there is an ROI. Now, ROI will entirely depend on how you take it. Investment, in most cased would be your TIME. And, return can be measured in terms of your brand reach, brand building etc which has been stated though.

          Two big examples of the top of my head are Obama and Guy Kawasaki. They have earned a lot in terms of personal branding by using tools like twitter. Alltop.com (by Guy) has been promoted extensively using twitter.


          Follow me on twitter (@kartik_k)

        24. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan (tags: web2.0 communication marketing howto socialmedia business strategy Social) […]

        25. VoteAudrey says:

          As others stated before me, thanks for keeping this simple and straightforward. Lots of people are asking me “What’s this Twitter thing you’re using,” et cetera, so I’m trying to provide as few links as possible to succinctly explain just what “social media” is and does. Kudos!

        26. […] But here is a brilliant take-down of some of the things that are wrong with social media: Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter (and Must Be Stopped). And to complement that, a good, sensible approach to using social media: 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan. […]

        27. Belinda says:

          I stumbled upon your blog on Twitter and I must say it’s a great find! Have added you on Twiiter.

          Looking forward to learn more from your experiences.


          Belinda Ang

        28. Sophmom says:

          Great points and interesting comments, particulary Dave’s (C4G). I think one of the most overlooked and valuable marketing tools that social media offer is the chance to listen. Dave’s right about “people who are abusing it for SEO or marketing only purposes,” but they’re easy enough to ignore. I’m most offended by the communications professionals who have huge followings but don’t follow. Those who insist on talking but fail to listen, will be left behind.

        29. Ann Holman says:

          What a great post. Starts the reader off on managing social media first by thinking about what you want to do, rather than jumping straight in at a tactical level and then realising you got it all wrong. Fabulous, thanks.

        30. Gian Antelles says:


        31. Great Post!!!
          and nice visual photo of social media networking!!


        32. […] Leveraging social media to provide better customer service, get product feedback, etc. is great, but the financial impact of those is not easily measurable. […]

        33. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan (Green Marketing 2.0) […]

        34. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan (tags: business marketing, communication,) […]

        35. Gareth says:

          I agree social media is great for brand awareness. Too many SEOs jump in looking for quick links, but its about building slowly. Brand awareness will lead to good links and traffic if your product/service is good.

        36. ROI for social media marketing faces the same challenges as other marketing efforts. There are many intangibles in trying to demonstrate a clear ROI on marketing costs and how it relates specifically to sales. However, as you stated SMM is good for brand building. That has a value. Measurement can be both quantitative and qualitative. We use Radiant 6 but there are many vendors who have tools to measure engagement along with traffic. Right now companies are focused on sales. Conversion is a big topic and SMM can play a role in the conversion funnel, it’s just not the only player in that funnel.

        37. […] artists and larger organizations. If anyone is confused I have found some help for creating a marketing roadmap, contextualizing social media (and the internets) for non-profits, providing a starter kit, and […]

        38. MarkM says:

          The question about ROI for me becomes difficult when you are working to promote several brands, and not just your own. Clients are reluctant to understand, never mind use social media. Finding ways to build and maintain relationships on their behalf is often not the best return on their investment.

        39. internet marketing also helps in finding out the different places and everything about the product but i feel going to shop and buy things.

        40. David Y. says:

          Great post, L.
          I’ll be implementing some of these thoughts for my own blog, Marketing+Good.
          (And for anyone interested in social marketing, my friend’s blog is a good one: Propogation Planning.)
          Thanks again for sharing! Cheers.
          – DY

        41. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan – […]

        42. hanf samen says:

          Thanks for the great Introduction. I need to become a SM Guru for my Company that is promoting ecologically friendly Hemp Products.
          best regards

        43. Good read. I think Social media is future and if your not building your identity up now you will be left in the dust.

        44. Using social media sites has the potential to make our website successful and the best thing with it is most of them are free just like twitter that in one twit can bring us a blast of traffic for our site..

        45. […] came across an interesting post the other day that puts together an action plan of how one should tackle a new social media […]

        46. Brennan says:

          Great tips. I think as of right now social media is probably the most powerful. For awhile traditional press seemed to make a large difference in a project but now being on the front page of digg does more for your than being on the front of a large newspaper.

        47. […] the ante a little bit Lorna Li in her Green Marketing 2.o blog post 6 Steps for Creating a Social Marketing Media Roadmap Plan offers the following […]

        48. […] Media: Listen By Bob Stewart Lorna Li 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap offers 4 simple steps to help you jump start your buzz monitoring campaign.  Please note that her […]

        49. […] Media Strategy: Learn By Bob Stewart Lorna Li 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap does an excellent job describing what social media is and what it can & can’t do so […]

        50. […] Social Media: Engage, Tactics By Bob Stewart Reproduced from Lorna Li’s 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap . […]

        51. […] Abraham taught me a lot about social media marketing.  If you want to be a social media expert, I recommend following Chris Abraham on Twitter. […]

        52. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan (tags: socialmedia strategy marketing web2.0 communication planning trends) […]

        53. Günther says:

          I read many article about the subject. But this article is really a good summary and introdruction to the subject

        54. magazine says:

          That was actually a really well written article.
          just remember forums too. they bring a lot of conversion if utilized right

        55. Investory says:

          I read this article but understand only part of it. I am sorry I am newbie – could somebody explain me what is the difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 (Step 1 above). Thank you in advance.

        56. I wish I had read this post last year, you are so right about what you said regarding social networking, only participates in communities relevant to your issue, I wasted months in irrelevant communities with extremely poor results. Thanks for sharing the road map I will use your tips as a guideline.


        57. Jeff Arnold says:

          This discussion is one of the most productive I have read. Like many, I am using my resources to drive awareness of my web service offering, and this information is useful. I struggle with the social media on a large scale, mostly because of my understanding of what is considered spamming on the Social sites and blogs. Which came first the chicken or the egg, same concept. Its hard to drive people to your site if you cannot advertise in places where your market is hanging out. How do you send your message in facebook, twitter, myspace or linedin without being labeled a spammer?

        58. […] Leveraging social media to provide better customer service, get product feedback, etc. is great, but the financial impact of those is not easily measurable. […]

        59. Great information. We’ve been using Facebook, twitter, and blogging to expand awareness of our company and this has been more effective than any paid advertising we’ve spent. Blogging on Forums and on various community websites have also helped us get our name out there.

          Thanks for the great information!

        60. […] 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Roadmap and Plan (Green Marketing 2.0): Lorna Li writes very introductory post on what social media is and what you can do with it with some great insights. […]