Cross-posted from K Street Cafe
Last week I gave a presentation at America’s Small Business Summit, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about how small businesses and organizations can develop an effective — but manageable — social media strategy.
I deliberately stayed away from talking about the latest and greatest tactics, and the newest and coolest tools. Why? It has become far too easy to get caught up in looking at what’s new, interesting, or different. In reality, what we should be focusing on is what will fundamentally help our organizations achieve their missions on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.
Organizations too often develop a social media strategy that is not properly integrated into its overarching goals. So rather than spending time on the latest Twitter app or discussing the merits of Facebook’s latest design changes, I encouraged attendees not to get bogged down in the tactics. Instead, I urged them to develop their social media strategies in the context of their organization’s key goals.
If your organization is looking to develop or refine your social media strategy, here are six steps to guide you along the way.
- Clarifying the Organization’s Priorities. Even if you “get” social media, you can’t jump right in to creating a tactical plan. First and foremost, it is critical to identify your organization’s goals. For a business, it might be trying to win more customers, to recruit top talent, or increase revenue by a certain percentage. For an association, a goal might be to recruit and retain members, to increase attendance at a tradeshow, or to achieve a certain policy objective. Before you even think about tactics, you need to start by understanding what is driving your organization as a whole. Otherwise, you will be implementing a plan that lacks any real purpose.
- Setting Social Media Goals. With these key goals in mind, you should move on to develop specific goals for your organization’s social media efforts. One example: increase your Facebook page’s monthly views by 50%. Although traditional PR campaigns focus heavily on setting goals for media coverage, we often skip this step for social media efforts because we have no idea what to expect. But even if social media represents unchartered territory for your organization, forming goals does two important things. First, it focuses your social media team on what is really important. Second, it gives your team an idea of what to work towards, even if that goal turns out to be unrealistic. A corporation would never launch a new product without giving its sales force target revenue goals. That’s true even if the company is completely unsure of how the product will perform. Setting social media goals, even if they are somewhat arbitrary, provides direction for your team and sets expectations.
- Choosing Social Media Tactics. Perhaps the most overwhelming step in this process in deciding where and how to spend your social media resources. Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in social media sites, especially those designed to facilitate sharing. But in the past year or two, the dust has settled. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have emerged as the three most widely used social media sites and the most important sites for your organization to consider using. Picking among these sites requires knowing your audience. Each social media outlet has pro’s and con’s for individual audiences. Facebook, for example, is best for appealing to a broad-based, mainstream audience. In contrast, Twitter users – although far fewer in number than Facebook – represent a highly engaged segment of the online population and are much more likely to create (rather than just share) content. Finally, LinkedIn is a professional site that might be right if your organization is hoping to impact the business community or to use working groups. Choose the right vehicle (or vehicles) for engaging your target audience.
- Developing an Operational Plan. The next step is taking your goals and your selected tactics to form a comprehensive plan that breaks down what your organization should be doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This operational plan should lay out each activity and assign each one to a specific person in the organization (in some cases, that may be the same person). Your operational plan should also detail how you will monitor responses to your online activity and what your approach to engagement will be (for example, it should detail your comment policies). Finally, your plan should include a process for reporting and evaluating your progress. You might wonder if such a detailed approach will stifle creativity. It shouldn’t, as long as your plan allows for opportunities to be creative along the way. The key is to set specific times to reevaluate and refine your tactics and goals
- Getting Organizational Buy-In. Your strategy will only be successful if it has organization-wide support. One way to get buy-in is to involve as many people as you can in the planning process itself, which will create a sense of ownership in the employees who participate. Once you have your plan, be sure to educate other employees who may not have been part of the planning. You should emphasize that social media success will translate into broader success for the organization as a whole, ultimately benefiting every employee. Finally, to the extent that is possible, delegate responsibility for the social media strategy to as many employees as possible.
- Implementing the Strategy. The last step involves executing the strategy you have created. At this stage, it is best to think of classifying each of the activities listed above into the following categories: research, design (organizational priorities, social media goals, and tactics), implementation (getting buy in), administration (operational plan), and optimization. As I noted above, implementation will work best if you have carved out time to refine and optimize your strategy as you move forward. These opportunities will ensure your strategy remains effective and manageable.
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