The 5 Key Elements Of Any Social Media Plan

Regardless of who I talk to about Social Media, one question that keeps coming up is that “this all sounds great, but where do I begin?”

Or from the slightly more developed Social Media practitioner comes the question: “How do I know I’m doing all the right stuff?”

Both are simple and valid questions. Wherever you are in the execution of your social efforts, I think it’s important to take a step back and examine how you’re measuring up to some basic principals and goals you may (or may not) have laid out when launching your Facebook page, Twitter account, blog, etc.

PLAN, WHAT PLAN?

If you didn’t lay out an official Social Media Plan before diving into using social tools for your business, you’re not alone. A recent report from Digital Brand Expressionsindicates that up to 50% of companies are diving in to social media without a plan.

Regardless of what industry/market/segment you’re in, there are some basic principles that will help you identify key strategies for engaging with your customers in the social space. The list below isn’t meant to be an end all be all, but rather my personal take on key elements that I think are essential to any social media plan.

1. FIND THE RIGHT PEOPLE

As with everything else your business does, your employees are the key differentiator between you and the next guy. Before launching any social media plan, I think it’s important to identify who’s going to be managing these efforts.

Don’t try to outsource execution as these team members are the heart & soul of your brand’s voice. By first identifying the right people to lead these efforts, they can help drive key decisions moving forward.

Check out Olivier Blanchard’s (The Brand Builder) post on the different roles required for a successful Social Media Plan: Best Practices for Social Media: The basics of program planning

2. LISTEN FIRST

No one likes the annoying guy from work that talks about himself all day long; don’t be that guy.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tools to monitor what’s being said about your company or brand.

This can be as simple as setting up Google Alerts for keywords related to your brand/company or even using search.twitter.com (or searching from the site/various twitter apps.)

Both of these methods are can become quite tedious, so I recommend outsourcing some of this to a social media monitoring company.  More on that in a minute.

3. ENGAGE EARLY & OFTEN

There’s a reason Brian Solis recently published his book entitled Engage!  It’s the bread and butter of any successful social media effort.  And it takes dedicated, passionate people to achieve engagement with any community.  If you’re going to simply push out one way messaging, there’s plenty of traditional media channels for that…take your pick.

4. MEASURE EVERYTHING

Unlike people, I think this is an area that you should certainly look to outsource (unless you’re a whiz with tracking, analyzing, and reporting on every online conversation about your brand.)

I’m a big fan of Radian 6 myself, but Jeremiah Owyang (Web Strategy) shares a snapshot of the larger social monitoring industry: Brand Monitoring, Social Analytics, Social Insights

5. LEARN & ADJUST

While traditional brand communication models might have delivered similar results year in and year out, social tactics involve conversations with real people. Dialogue changes everything. You must be willing to learn and adjust your tactics based on your community.

Of course, it never hurts to have a plan in place at the beginning of the fiscal year but I’d include a big asterisk on the front when sharing with leadership: *Subject to change!

What do you think?  Are there basic principles that guide social media efforts at your company?  If so, I’d love to hear what key elements you have found essential to your success.  Leave a comment below and let us know.

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