How to Develop a Social Media Plan for Your Business in 5 Steps
From Mashable - How to Develop a Social Media Plan for Your Business in 5 Steps
Social media can be an incredible tool for your business, providing you with more customer insight, direct communication channels and the ability to measure the effectiveness of these conversations very closely.
But as the proliferation of social media platforms grow, participating can turn into little more than a giant time suck without some sort of structure behind it. With that in mind, we've put together a 5 step plan for kickstarting your company's social media participation:
Step 1: Listen
Social media is a term we use to to discuss the tools that facilitate conversations. Before your company can be a part of those conversations, you need to know what people are already talking about so you can determine how you can best contribute.
Setting up some tools to monitor conversations is easy. The difficult part is choosing the keywords that
will return the most usable results.
Here are some tools to get you started:
Social Media Firehose: Kingsley Joseph used Yahoo Pipes to create one RSS feed that aggregates results from Flickr, Digg, YouTube, FriendFeed and other social media sites.
Latest Blog Mentions Pipe: This is another Yahoo Pipe that will aggregate brand references across several major blog search engines, including Technorati, Icerocket and Google Blog Search.
Alltop: This website aggregates the top posts from the top blogs around the world. Because it divides the blogs into categories by topic, it's also a great place to begin building your list of relevant blogs to read.
Be as specific as possible so that your searches return fewer results more relevant to your brand. This will take some time, but once you've discovered which keywords yield the results you're looking for, you will discover a host of blogs, twitter profiles and videos relevant to your industry. We'll use those results in step two below as we develop an internal social media strategy.
Step 2: Prepare
Social media platforms help facilitate conversations between individuals, not companies. Once you have a sense of what people are talking about, it's time to identify the appropriate people inside your organization to participate.
Find the People
People want to have conversations with company representatives who are experts in their area, who are passionate about their work and who are empowered to act on the feedback they receive from the community. If you want to focus on the marketing vertical, then look to your marketing team. The same is true if you want to participate in social media platforms devoted to product development, engineering or package design. Part of this process should be to provide the proper training for these employees on social media participation.
Set Rules of Engagement
Make sure your company has a social media policy in place that offers guidelines to your employees on the appropriate way to engage in online conversations. Microsoft's Channel 9 Doctrine is a good place to start.
Define Your Strategy
Social media is comprised of many different platforms. Rather than trying to participate in all of them, begin with one or two that seem to make the most sense. Having an engagement strategy will help to determine how much time employees will devote to social media communications, what will be the focus areas for engagement and of course, it will help to measure success.
Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang posted a list of social media strategies from enterprise corporations that's worth a look.
Step 3: Engage
This is the fun part! Start leaving comments on blogs, uploading images to Flickr, building a community on Twitter or FriendFeed or whatever else that strategy entails that helps further the discussion and illustrates your company's commitment to developing these online relationships. It might also be useful for employees to create a social media editorial calendar so that it's easier to structure time to participate. You never know what might happen, as this example from Blendtec illustrates.
Step 4: Go Offline
As stated in step one, social media is simply a group of tools that help facilitate conversations, but there's really no replacement for face-to-face interaction. Use trade shows and other events as opportunities to build even stronger relationships with the members of your online community. This could be in the form of an exclusive session, an informal breakfast or even a group picture on the event floor.
Step 5: Measure Success
Unlike other campaigns, measuring social media success begins by asking more questions:
- Did we learn something about our customers that we didn't know before?
- Did our customers learn something about us?
- Were we able to engage our customers in new conversations?
- Do our employees have an effective new tool for external feedback and reputation management?
We also recommend using a tool like Trendpedia -a blog search engine that allows you to both track and graph topics as well as compare terms- to help benchmark your company against your competitors by running the exact same search and parameters before and after your engagement begins.
The potential payoff for corporate social media participation is enormous. These companies will have a better sense of how they are perceived by their target audiences, they will establish a two way dialog with key stakeholders and they will empower their customers to speak with them, not at them. But without a strategic approach to social media, it is difficult to succeed. Hopefully this 5 step plan can help your company get started.
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