Before You Pin, Plan

July 24, 2012
Planning your social media strategy

While participating in social media requires a certain amount of derring-do, jumping in without a plan is akin to jousting in paper mache armor. Before you send your first tweet or pin that first image on Pinterest, you need to strategize.

Dedicate resources

This means money, time, and staff. Social media does not have a “set it and forget it” option; instead it’s more like a toddler: needy, fussy, and capable of burning the house down in the time it takes you to get that second cup of coffee.

While research by Advertising Age and Citigroup show that most marketers spend less than 20% of their marketing budget on social, that number is growing: over 70% of those same marketers said they were planning to increase their social media spend over the next year. Start with a small budget if you wish, but remember that social media is not free — if you want to see ROI, you need to invest.

Be careful when selecting a person or team to spearhead your social media activity; just because Bob’s college-age kid is on Facebook all the time doesn’t mean he has the experience to run your company’s Facebook page. Social media blends heavily into brand reputation and customer service, and has the potential to make or break your company — make sure the person or people you hire know what they’re doing.

Identify and track goals

If your company is like most businesses, proving a return on investment is crucial to securing future funding and assistance. Your social media goals will keep your online activity on track, and finalizing those goals makes it easier to measure performance.

Articulating meaningful social media goals can be difficult, measuring return on investment more so. But it’s worth the effort; after all, if you don’t know your goals, how do you know whether or not you’re succeeding?

Conduct a social media audit

An audit helps you finalize your social media goals, see where you are today, and create a plan to bridge the gap. You can conduct a social media audit internally, or hire a marketing agency to complete one for you. It should help you answer questions like:

  • On which social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) do my potential customers spend time?
  • What do those potential customers like to see on those platforms?
  • Are my competitors on social media? What are they doing, and what can I learn from their successes and/or failures?
  • What do I need to do to create and brand an account on a given platform?
  • What effort/resources will it take to develop a presence on a platform?

Create a social media playbook

Like those created by football coaches the world over, a social media playbook should give a company’s employees everything they need to represent your organization and themselves online. Having a playbook empowers employees to become brand advocates, and can provide upper management the foundation they need to feel secure in the company’s participation in social media.

Playbooks can take many forms, but every one should include at least these items:

Social media goals

Including your company’s goals for each platform will give employees a frame of reference when considering what to post, where. For example, if the goal of your company’s Facebook page is hiring new team members, it’s better to share interview tips than promote a whitepaper only a potential buyer would find interesting.

How-tos

  • How can individuals create personal or business profiles?
  • What actions can individuals take on the various platforms?

Behavior Guidelines

  • How are employees expected to behave online? What behavior is acceptable, and what is not?
  • What are the best practices for interacting with customers (potential or existing)?

Crisis management plan

With major marketing disasters happening online almost daily, it’s critical to have a plan in place for dealing with a crisis. Employees managing your company’s social media accounts should know how to handle a crisis, as well as when to bring it to the attention of their superiors.

Just like fire drills, this plan should be practiced.

For more ideas of what to include, check out Eloqua’s sample social media handbook. It’s a great template to use if you’re considering developing your company’s playbook internally.

Social media resources  

[Image: Jeff Kubina]

Comments

Excellent advice for any

Excellent advice for any business to consider when entering into the realm of social media marketing. There were issues mentioned here that I had not considered.

Glad you found it helpful,

Glad you found it helpful, Bert. Feel free to pass it on to anyone else you think will get some use from it.

It has already happened.

It has already happened.

Great, and thank you! I hope

Great, and thank you! I hope others find it as informative.