If you have “marketing” somewhere in your job title, you’ve likely been tasked over the last few months with creating your brand’s 2015 marketing plan. A decade ago, it was easy to sit down, look at your spends, and determine what worked and what didn’t. From there, allocating your budget for the next year and creating the roadmap you’d use during the following 12 months was your biggest challenge. Over the course of the next year, you’d assess as you went and move funds around a bit based on results. Then social media thrust itself into the mix, and this ever-changing medium now makes annual planning nearly impossible (or nearly impossible to do well). When it comes to your overall marketing plan, I highly value the need for an annual plan. But when it comes to social media, an annual plan is almost useless. Here’s why.
1. Social networks and network features worth your attention emerge all the time.
Because social media is still in the “rapid evolution” stage, new platforms pop into our lives and demand our attention pretty regularly throughout the year. Here are a few things that happened in social media this year alone: Jelly launched, Instagram partnered with Hyperlapse, Pinterest upped its advertising game, Facebook doubled down on video, and LinkedIn opened its publishing platform. That’s just a few of the countless updates to the space that happened in 2014. Imagine if you ignored these changes just because video wasn’t in your original plan? You’d lose far more than you’d gain by staying the course.
2. As marketers, and as users, we have little control over our favorite networks.
Show me a marketer who hasn’t been impacted by Facebook’s ever-changing reach game, and I’ll buy that person several shots of truth serum and make them tell me their secrets. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and the rest of the popular social channels are businesses. They add and subtract features, change the results, and play with our hearts and wallets as they see fit. I’ve worked closely with many of my clients throughout the year to shift and reinvent our content strategy based on how Facebook chooses to display our humble offerings to our communities. From a shift to video and a reduction of text-only content, to an intense focus on ROI through Facebook’s advertising platform, I couldn’t have come close to predicting all the changes we’d see from Facebook throughout the year.
3. The best social media plans don’t feel planned at all.
In the latter part of 2014, brands have seen so-called “real-time content” explode (for better or worse, depending on the brand and the snark-level of the Ad Age reporter). Some of these real-time content explosions haven’t been as off-the-cuff or unplanned-sparks-of-genius as you’d think. From monitoring the rumor mill (See: Nissan royal baby 2) to predicting the results of an awards show, there are ways to plan the seemingly unplannable. You can plan for the unplannable too by making sure your marketing plan includes, “capitalizing on pop culture, newsworthy, or noteworthy happenings in the following areas” and then a list of the top five priority areas of focus. Planned spontaneity is a social media marketer’s best friend. Embrace it.