It’s been a while since I’ve written much about agile marketing techniques. But this week I had a really fascinating conversation with Satish Jayakumar who got in touch to chat about using agile methodologies for marketing teams and a couple of interesting topics came up. In particular, we talked about how social media activity can fit into an agile marketing plan.
As a quick recap, agile, the project management methodologies adopted by many engineering teams to quickly iterate and deliver many small, value-add projects called stories while working towards an overall milestone. It’s valuable because of the ways it allows developers to test the value proposition of a milestone, deliver more features more often to the rest of the business and manage deadlines and expectations more effectively. I’ve written before about why this style of project management appealed to me as a marketer and how I’ve tried to apply it to marketing teams I’ve worked with.
It’s not hard to see how some marketing campaigns can be broken down into smaller, iterative, value-add steps. An example I always give is that of preparing to attend a conference where small stories might include researching the delegate list (adds value as this can be a list of leads for sales, iterative and a checkpoint as it’s a time to reevaluate the benefits of going to the conference); create marketing collateral to bring to the event (adds value as can be used by the sales team as sales collateral); or submit the founder as a speaker (adds value with promotion of the company, might help the team deprioritize the event if they can’t get on a panel). Here is an example of what this might look like in Pivotal Tracker:
But one question that often comes up is; how do marketers create stories for ongoing marketing activity such as social media? Keeping services like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterst, Google Plus, LinkedIn, etc up to date is a time consuming task and often underappreciated by others in the company. In fact, using an agile approach can not only cater to stories for social media activity, it can drive more value from social media activity overall and help other departments understand social media’s value.
The trick is in having clear milestones – often times these will be the same as marketing campaigns. In the example above, the milestone is “Attend Mobile World Congress” but it could easily be something like, “generate 500 leads from a new territory,” “increase brand awareness among moms by getting 10 placements in press and blogs” or “Increase usage of the new feature by 10%.” These milestones provide the framework for all of the stories in each sprint, and social media should be no exception.
Instead of having social media sit outside of ongoing marketing campaigns, marketers should be looking at how social media can directly enhance each campaign/milestone. In the sample Pivotal Tracker lists I’ve set up, there are the following stories:
Now these are very basic examples, but it suddenly provides a framework for social media activity – it relates directly to a milestone and iterates on previous work (i.e. a delegate list is required before this is possible), provides value (increase Twitter followers, greater awareness of the company before attending, increased opportunities for meetings at the event) and allows for further iteration (people who connect should get a follow up to schedule a meeting at the event itself). It also tests the market. If the team is struggling to generate interest and conversations though social, and getting the sense that the conference audience isn’t right for partnerships or sales opportunities, it might be worth reconsidering how big a priority this event is.
The same concepts can apply for other milestones. Instead of having part of the marketing team focus on a campaign to, say, generate leads from a new territory, while the social media manager carries on with general account promotion and content, the visibility provides through agile project management allows the teams to work together – with the social media manager focusing content creation and follower acquisition solely in that new territory.
It’s basic stuff but quite powerful – instead of social being a stand-alone chore that has to be maintained week on week, social stories should fit under each milestone; providing a test market for campaign ideas and messaging, feeling out new sales leads, supporting a PR campaign, engaging experts or attracting followers that are being targeted by other marketing activity.
If you are trying to do agile marketing, and find yourself creating a story called “Do social media” and tagging it as a chore, take a closer look at your milestones and campaigns and make your social efforts part of the storyboard. Your social media team will feel more involved, drive greater value and other departments will instantly see how social media can contribute to the overall marketing efforts week on week.