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Ten Considerations for Social Media Strategy Implementation

by | Apr 8, 2010 | Industry News & Trends

Why? It’s a stage in childhood development that most parents find annoying. At first parents try to address the questions in ways the child can understand, taking the time and deliberation to formulate a thoughtful response. After thousand of similar questions the word “why” becomes as annoying as nails on a chalkboard and many resort to a snarling, “Because.”  

Yet how often in our professional lives do we make decisions without considering the why? The immediacy that has invaded our work culture often causes us to spend most of our day (or career) in reactive mode, responding to issues not planning strategy and goals. Social media is a prime example of this reactive culture. Social media (on behalf of an organization or company) is a campaign, not an experiment. To be successful a commitment to the site/software (whether it be private online community, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or a combination of all of these spaces) and a commitment of time must occur. But it goes beyond that.

Ten things to consider as part of a social media strategy/planning prior to implementation:

  1. Where. It’s the obvious question involving knowing where your audience is and reaching out to them. You’ll want to decide whether you want your own private community. There are many reasons to consider this including privacy (particularly important if your members will be sharing/discussing sensitive information such as healthcare concerns, company research and development matters, etc.). For more information on private vs. public networks read this.
  2.  Why. What do you want to accomplish for your organization by undertaking social media? This is not the same thing as setting goals. Think more about your ultimate intentions. Focus on the nebulous, we’ll get to the particulars in the next step. Do you want your organization to get more recruits as a result of social media. Do you want to be seen as an industry expert? Do you merely want to educate the world on your cause? Isolating your main theme will set the tone of your social media campaign. Keep this in mind and provide this information to everyone who will be conducting social networking on your organization’s behalf. Consider writing a social media mission statement.
  3. What and When. Make your goal(s) measurable in both duration and quantity. Chris Brogan had a great quote in his blog, “Plans without deadlines and measurements are wishes.”  Setting a goal of increasing the numbers of followers you have is like saying someday I want to get a job. An increase in followers could be one. Does that mean you’ve met your goal? Set a number, set a date. Track your results.
  4.  Duration. As mentioned earlier, social media is a campaign. Just like any long-term relationship you cannot end it prematurely and announce that you were successful (or unsuccessful). Commit yourself (or others, preferably and others) to the project. The commitment to social media is akin to a marriage. If you’re doing it successfully, you won’t want this relationship to end. It will be something your organization will do from this day forward. If you’re not finding success in it you may want to reevaluate your expectations and get help before you simply call it quits. Remember, you will not achieve world domination in a weekend of tweets.
  5. Cost. All social media plans cost. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Even if your software or chosen platform is “free” your time to stoke and manage a community is not. Investing your time in a public social media platform is like rehabbing a rented home. A lot of people do it and if you don’t mind at the end of the day that your contribution and time have created beautiful things that don’t technically belong to you — then go for it. Private online communities have start-up costs associated with them too but the content is yours, the reporting features are more robust (useable data is after all, what we’re all after) and the advertising dollars associated with your community are yours versus an entity like Facebook’s. Read the Facebook Page Conundrum on Maggie McGary’s blog.
  6. Friend or Foe. Like all good campaigns that are waged, one must take a look at what others are doing in similar platforms. Analyze your competition. What seems to be working? What doesn’t? Besides product or service (we all think we have the superior one), what do you bring to the table that they don’t. Base your social media interaction on these questions. 
  7. Practice. After creating your social media plan and prior to launch, consider entering into these same spaces on your own. Whatever site you choose you may want either multiple personal accounts or a “persessional” account (which will be a blend of your personal and professional interests). This blended account works well when you are on a professional chat and want to ask a question or comment as an individual rather than on behalf of your organization. This approach can yield a more personal connection to those involved and you may find you receive more thoughtful responses when people feel like they are dealing with an individual over a group. Just remember if your personal account is public, business contacts may “find” you. Do not post questionable content that could alienate potential members/constituents. It would be a shame to distance someone who’s interested in your group because of a political icon you had posted on your personal site. The lines between personal and professional are blurring but continue to be mindful of distancing topics (if they are not a part of your organization’s mission) such as religion, graphic content, political persuasion, etc.
  8. Content Creation. Another essential component or your strategy should be how, when, what and where will you get content.  Will you be posting a daily blog, tweet, status update, forum post, etc.? Who will draft content? Will you spend much of your day posting others’ content (with proper credit given, of course)? What will the review process be? How will you handle comments to your posts? Brain storm on the what-ifs. Construct an editorial calendar (particularly helpful with multiple social networking posters/admins). We have all become content curators. Content brings people to your site and if they can get the same information elsewhere, they just might.
  9. Bring Joy. In addition to content, people are looking for a sense of community. Monitoring your space to ensure that it remains a positive place for exchange and growth is important but don’t stop there. Consider posts from your members utilizing their talents; wiki pages so they can contribute their knowledge; file libraries of their industry articles. Solicit members for ideas and content. They’ll feel valued. Help them get published (in a virtual sense), feel appreciated. Make introductions, facilitate connections and garner loyalty.  
  10. Fail Big. Why write this blog post about how to succeed in drafting a social media strategy only to talk about failure? Oxymoronic? Lose the fear of failure. You cannot try something as monumental as implementing social media without considering, what if this doesn’t work? The only way to fail at social media is not considering the time and energy it will take to get the community off the ground. Waiting for your community to go viral (without promotion and quality content) is like hoping to be discovered as a rock star by playing Wii. Make plans for the acquisition of the resources involved. Where will the man hours, content and funding come from?

For some, what happened to Nestle’s Facebook page (unfriendly forces posted all kinds of unflattering commentary to their wall) is seen as the ultimate social media failure but as terrible as the marketing department may have considered it initially, Nestle has become a case study for social media gurus around the world. People are talking about it. Plus, it wasn’t the fact that they had a Facebook page that was the source of failure it was their reaction to the unexpected. It was handled with brashness from an ivory tower (but most likely a knee-jerk reaction from someone at the helm lacking the knowledge of the company’s social media goals/intentions). Failure is not a yes or no concept in social media. It’s not what happens but how it’s handled. All organizations have weaknesses but it’s up to you to display them or not. Sometimes they’re displayed unintentionally by others and if that happens you should have a planned response or a chain of command behind organizational reaction (not the twenty-something intern who just happens to “get” social media, unless of course he or she is onboard with the mission and goal of your campaign).

Social media requires strategy and adherence to a mission or intention for your organization. It is not something to merely play around with in between meetings or to give the boss’s teenaged son something to do over the summer. It should be an intentional, thought-provoking extension of your organization. Taking the time prior to implementation is crucial to your success (and enjoyment) and increases the long-term value of your efforts.


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