Think Before You Jump into Social Media

The potential to interact with customers and prospects online can be compelling, but before anyone takes the plunge into the social media arena, they should think well beyond their first post and give serious consideration to standards and strategies for the long-term effort.

Goal-setting should be one of the first pre-launch considerations. Ask yourself why you’re investing resources into social media in the first place. Is it all about engagement and interaction with customers? Or do you want to educate followers on industry trends? Goals will help you focus your efforts and determine criteria for measuring results.

While an online conversation can never be fully controlled, creating social media policies and guidelines before making the first post live to the public will help keep the conversation on the right track and build a voice for your brand. Within the guidelines, be sure to include any industry regulations that could affect your social media strategy. Apply your new policies to all of your social media outlets to improve brand and messaging consistency.

To create your own social media policy, you can leverage what other companies have done – many have even posted this information to their website. Take a look at this article from Inc., and this one from Mashable, for more on writing a policy.

Be sure to take post frequency and tone into consideration as a part of your strategy. Securing fans, visitors and followers takes time; generating a plan for acquiring and retaining them will include determining how often they need to hear from you and what interests them. Stagnant pages will lose their audiences quickly, so plan frequent updates with relevant, engaging and helpful content.

But you don’t want to inundate your audience with too many posts, either. At Stewart, we organize our posts and keep them on schedule by generating content calendars, and assigning a contact person to ensure the effort stays on schedule.

Meaningful interaction requires timely response to inquiries and comments. Assign someone to  review feedback, keep track of what you hear and reply as needed. Don’t miss the opportunity to strengthen a business connection or build a new one.

Successful efforts take significant investment, so companies should identify resources at the outset of the program. Much like a media relations effort requires dedicated spokespeople, a dedicated person (or group of people) should be appointed to oversee social media efforts and keep the message consistent.

Social media has potential to deliver significant rewards by starting meaningful conversations that can drive business and increase credibility over time. Establishing guidelines before you begin your effort will help keep you on the road to success and ensure you reap the rewards you want from your journey.

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