Whether it's because of the tough economy, its growing legitimacy or just a dawning awareness that this stuff is here to stay, more and more companies are adding social media to their marketing plans.
What's more, they're starting to back up those plans with budgets. A recent study by eMarketer shows that, in five years, nearly one-fifth of marketing dollars will go to social.
But, we've learned over the years that a company who is "ready" to start using social media is not the same as one that is "prepared."
Having budgets and desire are a good first step, but here are eight other tasks you might want to consider tackling before you dive in:
Social media can be a game changer for a company. Problem is, there are always a few people internally who like the game just fine the way it is, thankyouverymuch. If that's the case for your company, your first step in the preparation process should be to do some education or bring in some consultants to help you set the scene and get everyone on the same page before you open the floodgates.
Social media is a two-way communications platform, just like your company’s phone lines. This means that – even though your company may want to use it to push out marketing messages – your community is in no way obligated to “talk marketing” back to you. Instead, they might use your digital phone lines to respond job inquiries, share customer service complaints or ask to interview your CEO for an article in a magazine. So, before you start dialing out to the world, you should determine which departments need to be involved in the conversations that will result.
The key to your success in social media will be how your brand talks, to whom, and about what topics. With that in mind, who are the key players internally that might be skilled in helping you set up and manage those conversations? What does your brand voice sound like and who best do you think can embody that voice? How well does that person think on their feet and keep a conversation moving? Do they have time available in their schedule to commit to social communications? If not, is there anything on their plate that you can free up?
What is your goal for using social media for your company? Build brand recognition? Increase loyalty? Drive sales leads? Deepen customer/client relationships? Have an honest discussion internally about what you are hoping to achieve so that you can build a strategy that will accomplish it. Then, determine if that goal is in line with what other departments want to achieve so you avoid any power struggles down the road. Lastly, tie some numbers to those goals. Drive leads? (How many and how fast?) Build recognition? (How are you measuring your brand recognition now? How much more is "more?").
You may want to wait until you’ve further fleshed out your social strategy before you start writing formal policies for engagement. However, it’s never too early to start doing homework to help you prepare for that process. Do you already have internal crisis communications plans or communications policies to refer to? How about visual identity standards? These and other documents will help lay the groundwork for your official social media policies and help to provide the first wave of support in getting you up and running.
Social media often produces an immediate result, but not always an immediate return. And, that’s okay. With social media, you conquer the marketplace in increments. The first step is to build a community and earn their trust. So, starting out, expect to give more than you'll get. Be clear with management that no one is rewarded in social media simply for showing up. Your company will need to commit human resources, time and attention up front in order to reap any rewards. If they don't agree, or start talking right away about what you should get people online to do for you, you may need to rethink whether this is the right tool for your company.
Does your company have a firewall to limit social media interaction? If so, is your IT Department prepared to open a hole in it when it comes time to start implementing your social plans? This step may seem like a no brainer – but it’s a no brainer that we’ve seen derail more projects than we ever thought possible.
Your social media efforts will be most successful when your company is directly involved in implementing them. However, it may take some time before you are comfortable doing so. In the meantime, consider bringing in outside firms such as ours to help you develop your plans, prepare for engagement, build your social presence and communities of influencers, train your team and set up monitoring protocols and measurement reports. There are a lot of nuances in building a smart social strategy. It's worth making an investment to ensure that you cover them all.
Social media is notorious for presenting endless chicken and the egg scenarios -- and that includes preparing to start using it. The reality is that there is no one right way to do this and the process won't always move forward in a tidy linear fashion. However, these steps should at least get you started out of the gate moving in the right direction. What other tips would you add?
I’m a consultant, strategist, author, educator, and speaker with more than 30 years of professional experience. I’m passionately curious, fairly sassy, kinda dorky and seriously good at what I do.