It may seem that everywhere you turn there is some sort of breaking news about social media. By now, you or your company may have even gotten involved in some capacity. But to what end? Whether it’s managing your own personal online identity or that of your organization, here are some guidelines to get you started.
There are many benefits to creating a social media plan. The key is identifying goals and then using online social networks to achieve those goals. For example, a Seattle-based company recently wanted to increase the number of votes it was getting in a contest on a local news station’s Web site. Because the initial goal was so specific, the firm was able to narrowly focus on a social media strategy that best suited its goals. In the end, this narrow targeting helped the company take the number one spot by leveraging an existing base of customers who were already participating in a social media environment.
A big advantage to having an online presence is the ability to quickly update and stay current. The downside is that not providing regular updates to one’s social media identity leads to the perception that you or your company are stale or old news. Now that several popular social networking sites such as Twitter are being indexed by search engines, many companies are turning to social media as a way to broaden their search engine optimization efforts, which enables them to keep their messages current and relevant in an ever-changing digital environment.
Technology is Your Friend
Technology is often viewed as the barrier to participating in a social media environment. In reality, the technology has become easier to use. When blogging first started growing in popularity, users were limited to those who could understand basic code language. Now tools such as WordPress and Blogger allow anyone to quickly and easily publish their own blogs.
Before even considering a social media strategy, do some research to find out the scope of the potential opportunity. Based on your organization’s goals, figure out the size of your online market. There are some free and excellent tools to help determine where your audience is located. For example, Facebook has an advertising component that provides data about user age, gender, hobbies, marital status, etc. This information can be paramount in learning if your target audience exists in a meaningful way. Once you have the facts you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision about the potential ROI of engaging in a social media campaign.
Don’t Focus on the Platform
One big misstep that many organizations make is focusing on having a presence on a single platform (such as LinkedIn or Twitter) instead of taking a big picture look at the social media landscape. Once your organization has set goals and done research, think about which platform best speaks to your audience and offers the greatest potential of achieving your goals. Don’t fall into the trap of building a Facebook page just because everyone else is doing this. Make sure the tools you use will be effective in the long run for your specific needs.
Invest in the Program
Nothing kills a social media program faster than a lack of attention and resources. A common misconception is that “if you build it, people will come.” This is simply untrue. Just like any other activity your company engages in, success is often directly related to the amount of time, energy and financial support invested. Initially, expect to devote at least five hours a week to your social media program.
Learn from Experts
There are plenty of resources to help guide your company’s social media program. Popular blogs such as Mashable, TechCrunch and eMarketer are just a few places worth checking out to stay on top of the latest trends and news. Or consider retaining a reputable consultant to advise and whip your social media program in to shape.