Social Media: How to start your social media plan

Posted Mar 15th, 2012 in Entrepreneurship, Social Media

Social Media: How to start your social media plan

Planning is important to the start of a successful social media strategy.   Don't just build it and hope people will show up to find you on your social media profiles.  Set realistic goals, write down your plan, and then get started!  

If you are reading this, you are convinced that having social media as part of your business strategy is something that needs to be taken seriously, and soon. (You did read my last blog, right?  Social Media: Getting started - Research).  So now what?  "Just build something and let's see how it goes" - NOT what I would suggest, for various reasons.  I know many of you (probably all of you) are struggling with finding time to deal with current day-to-day operations let alone add in a new initiative - BUT - as you move forward, this exercise of developing a social media plan will save you time, money and potentially your company's reputation in the near and far future.

Social media can quickly take a lot of your resources (primarily time) so you want to make sure they are being used effectively, you need to have guidelines put in place for your employees, and you will want this to be positioned so that it supports your overall business strategy.  At the end of the day you need to measure your ROI (Return on Investment) to not only justify your expenditures, but to motivate and guide you throughout.

Write it down -   It is so tempting to just ask your manager/tech-savvy employee to design a Facebook page  and start posting  store 'stuff', but if you want to get real results, you need to have a plan written down and reference it regularly to make sure you are still on track.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy;  however, if you have the resources, calling in someone trained in communications with social media experience will save you time putting the plan together and  they will be able to offer you some advice on best-practices.  If you choose to have them assist in implementation and training, make sure that their price is included in your budget as an option for you to review. (Budget coming up in our next blog).

  • What does success look like to you?  - Objectives must be clear, realistic and measurable.  Set milestones, expected results, and  how you will evaluate at the end of a certain period.  Create short-term and long-term goals.   If  it is customer engagement (i.e. to build an audience for your business) then 'LIKES' to a Facebook page could be included.  Are you looking to promote a new product?  Then measure the number of mentions, sentiment toward the product and increase in purchases directly related to traffic from your social media sites (i.e. short survey at time of purchase) could be part of your objectives.
  • What social media sites to target?  - This is where your research notes come in handy.   Location, Location, Location - is the famous retailers phrase for success and it is not so different here.  You need to be where your customers are, be involved with their online conversations, and make sure you have a call to action so they know where to find you and how to buy from you.  Monitor these sites for opportunities to respond to any negative conversations to keep your reputation in tact.  If a customer has a complaint, and they are active online, they will most likely share that complaint with MANY people through their online networks.  If you are monitoring these networks you can respond in a timely fashion.  This is now an opportunity!  It will give you a chance to show exceptional service and turn that complaint into a possible 'Thank-you".
  • Policies / Guidelines - Many forward thinking companies encourage their employees to be ambassadors for their company - online and offline.  Because of this, it is well worth the effort to put down some guidelines for your employees to protect your company's reputation.  If managing content for your social media sites is their job, you will want it to be more thorough since they will be the 'voice' of your organization.  No matter what, make it clear on what your expectations are.    "You cannot effectively hold employees accountable for their actions if you are not clear as to what these workers should and shouldn't be doing"  Jodie Shaw - ActionCOACH.  If you are looking for more information on developing these guidelines, Hearsay Social offers A "How-to" on writing a social media plan and policy that can be downloaded at this link.
  • Get out your calendar!  - Once you know what you want to achieve, so now you need an evaluation period.  Remember, you need time to get your plan started (designed and implemented), your staff trained and then opportunity to get the word out that you have a social media presence, so make sure you pick a reasonable period of time to give this a chance.  In my opinion it has to be at least a twelve month period from the point of having everything online and active.  Use this daily!  But also consider using it in parallel with other business events that involve your targeted stakeholders- Sales, Customer appreciation days, Team Races, Community festivals, Staff birthdays,  monthly Facebook contests (see, now we have potential for even MORE kinds of events now that you are being 'social').

These are just a few thoughts to ponder as you work through your plan.  Don't forget that this is all a work in progress, and you will be learning as you go.  Once you have a basic plan in place the next thing is the (dreaded) budget.  However, it may not be as bad as it seems if you are used to spending high marketing dollars on print  in the past as your primary form of communicating to your customers. Keep your research & plan notes on hand- you will need these for reference as you build your budget. Have fun!

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