Every month, I write a column about social media for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. My February column is the second in a two-part series about how to develop a social media strategy. You can read part one here.
Developing a Social Media Strategy, Part 2
Last month, I discussed how critical it is for your organization—regardless of how large or small—to begin its social media efforts by developing a strategy. As I mentioned, there are certain steps that must be taken before the first word is written. They include:
- Ensuring that you have support from your organization’s top leaders
- Determine who’s in charge of the organization’s social media efforts
- Assembling a team to work on the strategy
- Establishing a deadline
If you haven’t done this work, it’s unlikely your efforts will get much traction. Let’s assume, however, that your top leadership is committed to supporting your efforts, an individual has been identified as responsible for moving things forward, a team has been assembled that includes the key internal and external stakeholders, and you’ve set a deadline for having a finished document. Where do you go from here?
The truth is, there’s no blueprint for a social media strategy. They are as varied as the organizations that write them. There are several key questions that need to be asked, however, to ensure that you don’t miss anything critical. These questions then form an outline of sorts that includes— at minimum— these sections:
- An overview that details what the organization is hoping to accomplish via social media. This should be the result of detailed debate among the team members assembled to develop the strategy. Why is the organization using social media at all? What are the objectives? Who is the audience for the social media strategy, and which—if any—audiences will the organization not seek to reach via social media? How does social media fit into its larger marketing and communication plan? Equally as important: what will the organization not seek to accomplish via social media, given the reality of finite resources? All of these questions—and others that may be unique to your organization—should be considered prerequisites to the development of the rest of the strategy. All questions should be addressed before the organization attempts to move forward.
- Which social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, online video, a blog, a discussion board, Instagram, etc.) will the organization deploy? This is where many organizations being, but it really should be the last step, informed by all the other considerations that are part of the strategy. In other words, it’s impossible to know which tools you’ll use until you know why you’re using them, who you’re trying to reach, and what resources you have available. This last question is the one that makes the biggest difference in what you’ll be able to accomplish. As with so many things in business, what you get out of social media is at least somewhat contingent on what you put into it, so it’s critical that your efforts be aligned with the resources available to put toward the effort.
- Future considerations—the things you can’t commit to now, but may be able to later. Inevitably, if you’re honest about how much time you can give to your social media efforts, there will be some things of value that just can’t be given top priority right away. That’s where future considerations come in. You’ll use this section to discuss items that, while not being implemented now may be added later. This also serves the purpose of addressing tools that, if otherwise absent from your strategy, might seem like errors of omission.
- Team members and other resources. This is where the seemingly unlimited potential of social media meets the reality of finite resources. In completing this section, your organization must consider how many hours per week it will devote if implementing social media in house or how much it will pay if partnering with a vendor, while also deciding who, specifically, will do the work (while there may be some overlap, the team assigned to implementing the strategy will likely be somewhat different than the one assigned to developing the strategy). The key thing is to be realistic and to be conservative. If you find you have more hours or dollars to devote to social media, you can always expand your efforts. If you overstate the resources you have available, however, it may be hard to scale back.
- How you will measure success. This is another critical step that many brands miss. What do you expect to achieve by deploying social media? Be careful, too, to use real world measures, such as improved customer satisfaction, increased sales, better attendance at events, etc. Many times brands based their success on the number of likes/followers/connections/etc. generated by their efforts, but such measures should be seen only as a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.
- Next steps. Your strategy should be written to incite action. To accelerate that process, include the immediate next steps required for the organization to move forward, and make a commitment to revisit the strategy on an ongoing basis to ensure it remains relevant as social media evolves and your organization’s needs change.
When you’re eager to move forward, it can be tempting to bypass this work and just dive in. Don’t make that mistake. Few organizations, if any, regret the time they spend on developing a social media strategy. Social media isn’t going away, so don’t be in a rush to get it down right now at the expense of getting it done right.