Three keys to social-media success in 2014: this month’s Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column

Every month, I write a column about social media for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. I kick off 2014 with a few tips for getting better results in the coming year.

“2014 Calendar” by Dan Moyle on Flickr

Three keys to social-media success in 2014

It’s a new year: time to instill better habits, establish new goals and look ahead to where you’d like to find yourself in 12 months. That makes it a great time to evaluate your business’s social-media efforts to ensure you invest your time wisely and get the results you’re looking for. With that in mind, here are three things to focus on as you plan for the coming year:

1. Have a strategy. Few organizations take the time to approach social media strategically. Instead of determining goals, considering the audience, and allocating resources toward the effort, they take a shotgun approach, dabbling in the use of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — to name just a few examples — without ever considering whether those tools are best suited to their needs and the needs of their audience.

Even if you have a well-established social media presence, it’s worth taking a few steps back to consider what you hope to accomplish and what strategies, tactics and platforms will get you there most effectively. The truth is, without a written social media strategy, it will be difficult to avoid knee-jerk reactions to things that, in the long run, don’t deserve much of your attention. A strategy is critical to keeping your efforts on track.

2. Integrate your social-media strategy with your larger marketing/communication strategy. As you develop your social-media strategy, be sure to align your efforts with your larger marketing and communication strategy. Doing so will allow you to leverage efficiencies and anticipate opportunities to position your brand in the right place at the right time.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your organization hosts a big event every year. You’re probably using traditional marketing and communication methods to get the message out, whether you have an exclusive invite list or the event is open to the public. You also have probably considered the importance of the event — whether it’s for fundraising, customer engagement or employee morale — before establishing a budget and determining what tactics you’ll use to make it successful.

In the same way, you’ll want to consider what role social media can play in supporting those traditional marketing and communication tactics. Use social media prior to the event to get the word out and thereby increase attendance. Post photos or videos to your social-media profiles during the event to generate interest from and improve the attendees’ experience. And share recollections from attendees after the event to turn them into advocates for your organization and get others thinking about what they missed — and why they should be part of the event next time.

This is just one example, but it underscores the way in which social media should be a part of, not apart from, your marketing and communication efforts.

3. Evaluate your team, and invest in training, if needed. Like anything else in your business, the success of your social media strategy is contingent upon the skills and abilities of the people doing the work. It’s worth considering, therefore, whether you’ve assigned social media to the right people — those who are reliable and who communicate well. (Remember, managing a business’s social media strategy is a serious responsibility; the person you put in the lead effectively holds the keys to your brand.)

It’s also worthwhile to evaluate whether you’ve put enough resources toward social media, or whether it’s time to up the ante — perhaps even looking outside your organization for support. Even if you have the right people in place, you’ll also want to think about whether your team needs training in order to keep up with the ever-changing social-media environment.

Many organizations think they can get by staffing social media with those who are self-taught. Many of those same organizations end up with less-than-stellar outcomes — or, worse yet, serious public-relations problems — when a staff member uses poor judgment. The cost associated with those issues far outweighs the cost of training your employees in best practices.

Don’t wait another year to refine your company’s approach to social media. Investing a little time up front is certain to pay off when the time comes to look back at 2014.

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