Think Before You Tweet – Define Your Strategy Before Using Social Media

It happens all the time.  In a race to hop on the social media bandwagon, you quickly assign someone the task of posting Facebook messages, tweeting on Twitter, and doing whatever else it takes to be social on the web.  However, the social media realm (and the marketing tied to it) is much more complex and volatile than traditional media.  And you soon realize that it should have been labeled ‘Handle With Care’.

Before you jump into the cockpit of one of the many top social media management tools, you certainly need to look before you leap, or in this case, come up with a game plan before you assign it to Linda in the communications dept just because she’s always on Facebook.  Like any company strategy, you need to identify all the players, determine the proper course of action, and review the strategy to make sure you’re meeting your objectives.  Who would have guessed that social media was all business and no play?

The Who

It’s a common thought that anyone can run a social media campaign, but that’s a huge mistake.  Out-of-touch elders, inexperienced interns, and people with poor customer relations should never be placed near a social media tool.  In fact, picking the right person or team to manage your social media strategy is one of the most vital initiatives, because they will represent the face of your company online – your personality, your brands, and your every word.  Make sure you pick someone who’s business-savvy, customer-friendly, well-organized, and understands your business better than you do.

Furthermore, a responsible person will understand the boundaries between work and play when logging on to social media sites, so you won’t need to drop in on them every few seconds.  In addition, an experienced employee will be able to minimize damage in the case of bad publicity or other difficult scenarios.  The last thing you need is for your social media poster fanning the flames with inappropriate or misguided comments.

The What

Once you’ve identified the aforementioned employee or team, you need to provide them with some sort of direction.  Work together with the team member(s) involved to draft up a plan that details how you want customers to perceive your business.  Will your posts be funny, professional, funky, or intelligent?  The way you portray your business in other marketing media should be portrayed similarly on social media sites.

More importantly, you need to align this strategy with company goals.  Is your business seeking to attract new customers?  Do you want to increase repeat sales on specific items?  Are you going to leverage social media to take a load off customer service calls?  Or are you simply hoping to raise brand awareness?  Whatever your goals are, treat social media marketing with the same standards as any other marketing media, wherein your social media managers are held accountable to reaching those goals.

Despite the assumed “free” nature of social media sites, there is an unexpected cost associated with employee resources and time.  These cost implications will have noticeable impact on your business, so a plan ensures you are as productive as possible.

The Where

Once you have developed your strategy, the next step is execution.  You need to determine which social media sites best fit your brand – and subsequently, which audience you are targeting.  Do you sell colorful clothing?  Then photo sites like Pinterest and Instagram could be useful.  Do you target teenagers?  Then focus on sites with tons of youth like Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, or whatever the latest social fad may be.

It’s also important to stay in tune with all the latest social media happenings.   Have your staff subscribe to e-newsletters and read articles from Social Media Examiner, Mashable, and other knowledgeable websites.  It will help them stay ahead of, or at least level with, your competition and your audience.  It will also provide new ideas for promotions, blog content, and other potential marketing ploys.

The When

Even though you have to treat social media with the same respect as traditional media, you also need to understand its differences.  Social media marketing must be acted upon much quicker than traditional media as customers are demanding information and answers in the ‘now’.  Determine how often you will post and tweet, how fast you will respond to regular questions and comments (positive or negative), and how quickly you will react to minimize damaging situations.

As with any good marketing strategy, you also need to review your actions and reactions to see if they paid off.  Set a date sometime down the road, maybe 3-6 months, to evaluate your main social media metrics.  There are plenty to consider, including click-through rates from tweets, unique views on YouTube videos, and conversion rates from Facebook-only promotional links.  If your current strategies aren’t helping you meet your goals, be prepared to tweak them.

Why is all this so important? 

Social media is no longer just a fun way to communicate – it is quickly becoming THE way to communicate – and your company needs to be on the right side of the fence.  In order to navigate the social media universe properly, it’s important to define your strategy before you start.  You need to know who’s in charge, what they’re going to do, where they’re going to do it, and when it’s happening.  Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go forth and start being social!

Learn more about LeapGo’s social media management, options, and pricing.