There is no doubt that social media is emerging as a standard aspect of any business, rather than an exception. Even luxury brands are indulging in Twitter and Facebook and blogs. However, contrary to popular belief, correctly and effectively using social media requires a careful planning and strategic execution.
1. Don't view social media as a trend.
If you think tweeting and facebooking and blogging your brand from here to the moon is something you'll have to do for just the next couple years, don't bother. It's not a wave you're riding; it's a permanent new fixture in your business model that needs to be treated as seriously as any other aspect. Remember, if you fail to plan. then you plan to fail. Treat social media as a long-term marketing or PR tactic.
2. Observe and learn.
If your business is charting new waters, don't sail at full speed. Start off slow and cautious, and take time to observe how other businesses are taking advantage of specific platforms. What seems to be working? What doesn't? Why do you thin that is so? What has people engaged, and what seems to attract no attention? What are the differences between businesses that are actively engaged, and others that are investing less time and effort into their social media strategy?
3. Define social media roles.
While only large businesses would ever require a full-time social media strategist, that doesn't mean nobody should carry specific responsibilities. At least one staff member should have dedicated social media responsibilities. When you do this, don't gripe over paying people to tweet because you think a half-dead monkey could do it. Strategic social media usage requires smart, clever people spending a lot of time on various social platforms—from engaging potential customers, building brand loyalty, and increasing sales, a dedicate social media role can prove invaluable.
If nobody within your business is a good fit—and you need a good fit—consider hiring somebody who can work part time on social media, and part time with your marketing or PR staff.
4. Base your plan around your business.
Every business uses social media to achieve different goals. A luxury goods maker isn't using social media to pump out sales; instead, they'll more likely use it to distribute videos, photos, and news about events that evoke the lifestyle promised by their luxury products. Alternatively, a low-end retailer will frequently offer discounts to its fans and followers, while a non-profit organization may be focused on driving donations and rallying supporters.
Identify what you want to achieve primarily from social media, as well as secondarily, and then focus your efforts on prioritizing these objectives through your strategy.
5. Consistently monitor successes and failures.
Chances are, you're not going to perfectly execute a genius social media strategy right off the bat. But you can get there. In order to accomplish this, you must continuously analyze consumer reception. How are customers and potential customers reacting to your Twitter? Your Facebook? Your blog? You may need to rethink how you use one platform, but not the others. Or you may need to reduce content distribution, but increase conversation—or vise versa. Over time, you'll be able to develop a strategy that's well aligned with your business goals. Don't get too comfy, though: social media is fast-paced and staying in sync requires an everlasting effort!