Creating a Social Media Strategy – How to Get Started
For many companies, non-profits and government agencies, engaging in social media has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Social media represents new ways to interact with customers. However, few organizations are aware of how social media fits within a company’s overall marketing and business strategy. In addition, they often lack understanding of how social media technology works, what to prepare for, who should manage it, what makes sense for customers and how the technology supports business objectives. Fortunately, best practices have emerged that provide answers, guidance and standards.
By Kara Reinsel, Senior Strategist, Digital Integration & Innovation
Any organization considering social media should identify why it wants to use it in the first place. Does it support a business objective? Are the target customers regular users of the social media technology that is being considered? If business objectives are fuzzy or customers don’t use the technology, then reconsider using social media or use another marketing channel that better supports business and customer needs. However, some organizations may find that getting started with social media is, in and of itself, a valid goal even if it’s not directly supported by business goals. Under these circumstances, the business must clearly define how success will be measured.
The next step is to create a policy and plan that will govern social media usage. This can include both how employees should represent themselves when using social media on behalf of the company, and how an organization should use social media. Resist the temptation to create a Facebook page and start posting immediately, for example. For highly regulated industries such as financial services or pharmaceuticals, using social media improperly can land a company in hot water with authorities. Industries such as consumer packaged goods don’t have the same regulatory concerns, but angry customers can use social media to launch PR attacks, as was the case with Nestle16
The social media policy should outline the expectations on how social media can be used, the content it supports, employee obligations, and definitions and terms. The policy shouldn’t recommend one social media technology over another—rather, its purpose is to provide a framework.
The social media policy is supported by publishing guidelines and how-to guides that lay out the details on how to actually use social media technology. Publishing guidelines answer the question, “How should a social media technology be used?” Publishing guidelines are also a good venue to document how frequently a social media technology should be monitored and to provide recommendations on what to do in the event of a negative response.
The how-to guides delve into the nitty-gritty of creating the actual social media accounts. How-to guides should cover items including but not limited to administrative access, setting privacy controls (if necessary), how to post content, preparing design assets, creating “Find us on X” icons to display on the organization’s website, and take-down plans.
Implications and Action Items
Creating a social media policy, guidelines and how-to guides takes time. However, the investment will pay off in terms of social media technology successfully meeting business objectives and engaging with customers. For companies that are considering using social media, keep the following in mind:
16 “Nestle Takes a Beating on Social Media.” The Wall Street Journal. March 29, 2010.
1. Assemble a cross functional team. Have a dedicated team of individuals from different parts of the organization work together to create the social media documents to ensure that the policy has broad acceptance across functions.
- 2. Educate everyone. Not everyone on the team will have the same knowledge of social media, so take the time to educate. The process is ongoing since technology changes and evolves.
- 3. Divide the work into achievable phases. As outlined above, break the work into phases to make it easier to get things done and demonstrate real achievement as each phase is completed.
- 4. Aim for efficiency. A highly knowledgeable, dedicated team in a less regulated industry could prepare all of the social media documentation and start using the technology in 60 to 90 days. For highly regulated industries or less knowledgeable teams, the timeline will at least double.