Monday, April 30, 2012

Create a Social Media Strategy for Your Business

The third step in effectively integrating social media into your business is to design a strategy. Social media is a long term commitment, not a quick fix or a jump-on-the-bandwagon strategy. Try to avoid the impulse to rush to use the tools without designing a formal social media strategy. 

Thoughtful planning and analysis is needed to create a social media strategy which can then be used to guide you and your organization in the ongoing use of social media tools – whether you choose to implement a few key tools or expand to include a broad array of tools. By formalizing your social media strategy – including gaining buy-in from your management team – you can prevent misunderstandings about social media’s purpose and what it can and cannot do for your business. There is a definite experimental nature to social media and making everyone clear on that fact is important to the long-term success of your strategy.

One of my favorite social media blogs, Social Media Examiner, offers seven key points to consider when designing a social media strategy:

  1. Determine your goals and objectives: How do your social media goals and objectives fit within your overall business goals?
    Here are four common objectives, but there are many more:
    a. Improve brand presence across social channels
    b. Increase positive sentiment about your brand
    c. Develop relationships for future partnership opportunities 
    d. Increase traffic to your website
  2. Research, research, research: Test the waters. Start by developing a list of social media sites where you can potentially engage with relevant people. Check out each of the social media sites on your list and search for your brand name, your competitors and your target keywords.  This research helps us determine how relevant each site is to our objectives.  By listening (hmm, I seem to remember a helpful blog post about listening ), we get a sense of who our target audience is, where they are and what is important to them.
  3. Create a Digital Rolodex of Contacts and Content: Get to know the influencers who are relevant to your business.
  4. Join the conversation and develop relationships: Post comments on blogs and forums, answer questions on Yahoo! and LinkedIn, join groups related to your industry and join Twitter chats. Begin fostering relationships by following influencers and others in your industry.
  5. Strengthen relationships, when possible, with face-to-face interaction at industry events. While so much can be done with a keyboard, nothing beats the offline, in person conversation.
  6. Measure results: Constantly return to your objectives. Choose the metrics that make the most sense, but stay open to considering others as your use of social media evolves. You may find, down the road, that different metrics help assess your success even better than the first few you chose. For example, measuring the increase in your followers and fans may take a back seat to measuring your brand’s positive mention ratio, as your brand emerges and grows.
  7. Analyze, Adapt and Improve: Analyze your social media campaigns, adapt any new findings into your current processes and improve your efforts. Returning to what was mentioned in the introduction to this post – testing and experimentation are ongoing and help you fine tune your social media efforts.
Thank you Nick Shin, author at Social Media Examiner, for your guidance.

Relationship building is the overall purpose of social media. Be patient as your social media efforts gain traction. You are in it for the long haul! Use your well-designed, unanimously accepted social media strategy to help guide you as opportunities emerge and to ground you when it gets overwhelming.

What have you found helpful or difficult when creating your social media strategy?

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