Developing a social media strategy should be the first thing you do before taking a dive into the world of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Unfortunately, for a lot of organizations, this strategy can fall by the wayside in the race to set up profiles and post.
Recent changes to social media algorithms and filtering options mean it’s even more difficult to get your message in front of your target audience. Creating content and then randomly throwing it out into the social media black hole isn’t the solution… it’s a big waste of time. Organizations without a strategy and policy guide to fall back on are flying blind… and the last time I checked, that’s not a good way of doing things.
When I raise the idea of a social media strategy during a presentation or workshop, it’s often met with looks of “We have to create what?” or “I don’t have time for that”. Most view strategy development as the “boring” side of social media. Taking pictures, creating Tweets, pinning a recipe to Pinterest and commenting on Facebook is the fun stuff. Developing a list of policies, identifying goals and assigning a gatekeeper isn’t nearly as exciting.
If you want to have any longevity and impact on social media, put the horse before the cart and develop a strategy. If you’re organization is ok with Tweeting and Facebooking (I’m not sure if that’s even a word) with no real reason, disregard the rest of this blog post.
A simple social media strategy can be brief and can probably be wrapped up in a couple of pages. It’s a way for the business owner, marketing manager, etc. to create some goals and develop a plan. Even a one person company should build a strategy. They might find that social media isn’t a good fit based on the resources available.
I came across a great resource during some research for a client. The University of Oregon created a social media checklist for any school departments that want to hop on social media. It’s a great way for them to weed out those that want to jump on for the sake of being on social media and those that want to get on it for the right reasons. They understand that a bunch of dead or rarely used social profiles displaying the University of Oregon name isn’t good for business so they want to limit who does what.
The checklist is almost a mirror image of the one that I use with our clients. It features 8 key points/questions…
- Resources – Who will manage the social media activity? Do you have time for social media? Your company probably has a designated person(s) to speak to the media, write press releases and act as the face of the organization. Your social media gatekeeper should be viewed in a similar light. Having the “young guy that knows lots about that Facebook thing” as your social media go-to might not be the best idea. Time is the other big factor here. If you don’t have time that you can set aside for updating and maintaining a social media presence, don’t bother finishing your strategy document and go back to work.
- Goals – What are you hoping to get out of social media? If you answer is “I want to sell more stuff”, you might want to dig a bit deeper. Develop some realistic goals and briefly describe how social media can help you achieve them.
- Tracking – How will you track your results? What is success? Tracking social media can be done and there are a lot of great tools to help you out. Have a look at what’s out there and develop a list of metrics that you wish to track. Go back and look at your goals and try and attach a value to each.
- Audience – Who’s your audience? Where do they hang out online? You engage with your audience on a daily basis – the guy that buys your stuff, the lady that phones you for an estimate, the person that emails you for an appointment. It’s your job to figure out what sites they use. There’s a bunch of demographic information available but the simplest solution is to ask them. And don’t always assume Facebook is the answer…
- Engagement – How will I engage? What will I talk about? This fits hand in hand with content. Develop topics that will interest your audience and think of ways to get people to care about what you’re talking about. Get too technical, you might lose people. Get too broad and fail to focus, you’ll be wasting your time and their time. You’ll also want to consider resources in this section. Will you have time to carry on conversations if/when they happen? Failing to converse on social media is like not picking up your phone when someone calls.
- Listen – What are people talking about? Where are they talking? Before you start posting like a mad person, take a step back and listen. Listening is a vital part of social media. Use some of the free listening tools available (Google Alerts, Brandmentions.com, Samepoint.com) and check out what people are saying and where they’re saying it.
- Content – What will I talk about? Can I create content? What kind of content? Your social media program isn’t really much of a force without content. This is where many organizations fall off the horse. Creating content can take time. It can take some skill. It might even require some funding. Do you have the time, skill and resources to start a blog or populate a Facebook page?
- Evaluate – How do I know what’s working? This point ties into the “Tracking” one. Develop a schedule of checkpoints… maybe every couple of months. Take some time and evaluate what you’re doing. Change as needed. Then repeat.
Get your social media program headed in the right direction. A bit of planning and researching now can help yield results in the future. Have a question about developing your own social media strategy? Drop us a line!