Preparing Your Social Media Strategy

Social networking is that bright shiny object a few years ago, people thought would be a ‘fad’. Well, that object burns brighter every day as a way to share information, develop relationships and deliver customer service. It is also the source of story ideas for journalists. In just a short period of time it can help increase your customer base or position you as the ‘go-to’ person in your industry. In the same amount of time it also has the power to destroy your reputation.

Before you can take that first step into the social networking world, careful communications planning is in order. The strategy is important.

Take a look at what is happening in your industry – this applies to small and big business – and monitor what is being said and who is online. Do the research.

Identify your need and opportunity. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to grow your business? Push out proactive information? Create another customer service touch-point? Ensure you are clear and you can measure the outcome. Depending on the platform you use, the return on investment for your business can be significant.

Identify your target audience and find out what sites they use. If your target base isn’t active in social networking then this may not be the right approach for you.

Once you have done the research and identified your goals, work on your strategy and tactics and start preparing content. You’ll also need to identify the challenges you may face.

Look for opportunities to support your overall business as well. For example, it can be used as a recruitment tool. Also, determine how you can connect with existing tools like your website.

“Content is king” so you need to develop a content schedule. Your site should be active. If it’s not, people won’t take you seriously and you won’t meet the objectives you set.

Identify someone who will be responsible for responding and posting content. For larger businesses, this typically falls in either the sales, communications or marketing functions. If you’re a small business owner with limited staffing, figure out if you have the time to take this on. If you don’t have someone in-house, look to hire someone with that skillset or hire a social media strategist.

Agree beforehand how you will respond to negative comments or issues online. You don’t want to be caught flat footed. Preparing in advance is important, especially when it comes to managing and protecting your reputation.

Set a budget. While social media sites are mostly free, there is a cost associated with developing content and monitoring so have a specific section of your communications and marketing budget set aside for social media. The budget doesn’t have to be huge to be effective.

When you’re ready, promote. Monitor the response. Adjust where needed and check against your objectives.

What I’ve just noted is a high level look at how to get started. Social networking can be a great tool but it isn’t as simple as firing up a facebook page or twitter account and hoping that people will come to you. It’s also not as scary as you might think.

Take a look around and you’ll see several businesses doing very well with their social media campaigns. Reach out to them. Ask them how they do it. I’m sure they’d be happy to chat.