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Kick starting a social media strategy plan for your business

When it comes to social media marketing, many business owners and marketing managers are quite clueless. The vast amount of information and views on the subject available everywhere don’t help much either. In their desperation to do something, anything, they turn to social media experts. Most of these charge a bomb and often deliver very little in real value for the business.

But social media strategy does not have to be so complicated or such an unknown quantity. Here are a few ideas and suggestions to help you get your social media strategy off the ground.

Do you really need a social media strategy for your business? A resounding ‘Yes’.

A common misconception among many businesses is that social media does not make sense for them. This is because they look at social media from the narrow view point of business development. Social media can be much broader than just sales and marketing. If you have human beings as employees and human beings as clients than social media is very much an option for you.

Let us look at some uses of social media other than direct sales & marketing.

A business cannot run in isolation. It is an eco-system of managers, employees, customers, support staff, consultants i.e. a huge set of people with a direct or indirect link to the business. Depending on their role these people spend time working with your business or in it. Hence their lives are affected by it and hence they are eligible for connection through the social media networks.

Some non-sales uses of social media could include:

  • Fostering a sense of community among the business eco-system
  • Sharing news and updates, both good and bad, related to the business
  • Using it for CSR activities or discussions on social issues that impact the people.
  • Sharing opportunities and knowledge among the eco-system which might or might not be directly related to the business.
  • Celebrations of social events like birthdays, anniversaries, religious festivals and more.

If you take away the hard core marketing and sales agenda, you will see many opportunities for social media development.

Starting with the objectives is important before selecting the tools and platforms

As seen above, social media can have a lot of uses. However you need one overarching objective to give all these activities a direction.

The objective can be something as broad as ‘Use social media to share the company culture and create a sense of community among the various stake holders’ or something as narrow as ‘Share company information and activities with share holders and investors’.

Some objectives we have come across for our clients include:

  • Help home bakers with information, resources, recipes etc.
  • Give couples trying to have a baby a place to share and discuss options.
  • Give kids a place to get their daily dose of general knowledge and fun stuff.
  • Create a community of dog owners whose pets are suffering from cancer.

For more information on objectives check out this post - Determine the objectives before you begin any social media initiative. (http://www.miracleworx.com/blog/2013/03/determine-the-objectives-before-you-begin-any-social-media-initiative/) Once you have decided your broad objective then you can begin with the tools and platforms.

Select a simple and easy to manage set of tools and platforms to begin with.

The number of social media sites and tools is bewildering. But it helps to have clear objectives. The tools often select themselves.

I like to use a trinity combination for my clients trying to build a community – Facebook, Blog/ Micro site and newsletters. Throw in a dash of twitter to complete the picture.

Each one performs a specific function – Facebook keeps users connected and informed, the blog / micro site stores all kinds of information like articles, videos, etc which you can categorize and make searchable and newsletters to keep those not in regular touch updated.

There are many other tools and platforms like LinkedIn, Google +, Google Groups, Pinterest etc. each with its own advantages and limitations. You have to choose those that help you achieve your objectives.

Whatever activity you do remember these simple guidelines

  • Keep it simple. Don’t try to make the initiative too complex or convoluted. Use fewer tools and only selected platforms.
  • Remember that people don’t have much time, so keep it bite sized. Remember this, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’
  • Be nice and politically correct. As much as you may be tempted to comment about a social issue, a competitor or any other such dicey issue – don’t. Controversy might be okay for a Red Bull or a Coca Cola but for a small business it could mean death.
  • Be as hands on as possible. Many businesses hand over their social media responsibilities to an agency and ignore it, only to either find a mess or complete lethargy. Be involved, make sure top management posts regularly and give it the time it deserves.

If used properly social media can become the glue that binds the softer elements of your business. It can show the human element of organization, motivate employees, and make you friendlier to do business with. And of course, it can have a significant impact on sales too, but indirectly.

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