Are you getting the maximum impact from your social media efforts? Many organizations have implemented the first stages of social media engagement, typically including a facebook fan page, someone tweeting occasionally, and perhaps a LinkedIn group or Flickr feed. Experimenting with different tools and techniques, promoting a specific event or product is always great.

But to be truly effective and promote your brand and mission, you need to have a strategic social media plan that outlines the objectives, strategies, and outcomes you are seeking. It should align with your organization’s strategic mission and objectives and how you are using other traditional marketing and public relations techniques to meet them. And it needs to clearly define what success looks like and how you will measure it.

This doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy. It does need to be fluid and continuously updated as you learn what works and doesn’t work for your organization and goals, and as the social media world constantly changes.

The Direct Business Impact of Social Media Outreach and Engagement

A huge benefit of social networking for most organizations is that the more  you can engage and involve your current and potential customers, members, or clients, the more likely you are to retain them and to increase your share of their business. One of the greatest values of social media is to better understand your audience, get instant feedback, and provide an opportunity to listen and engage.

There are a wide variety of tools for listening ranging from Google Alerts to paid services like Radian6. For example, Social Media Examiner just published a great article on How to Build a Free Social Media Dashboard.

The key is to learn where your constituents are already engaging and to listen carefully to what they are saying. Continuously research where your key segments like to hang out, whether it is facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, foursquare, or on proprietary social communities.

Many associations and nonprofits are developing their own vibrant social communities, which takes a tremendous effort from staff and volunteers to properly cultivate. However, it is still important to maintain an active presence on key external sites like facebook and LinkedIn.

Delivering Valuable Content is King

It is also critical to deliver real value or content through your social outreach and networking, not just promoting your organization and products. Otherwise you may be ignored or at worst viewed as social spammers. The tone or style you use needs to fit in with your brand image. One of the most valuable guides to cultivating great content that supports your organization’s goals is the new book Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman.

Think through the resources you can devote to these efforts and be realistic about what it will take. It’s OK to start smaller and focus on one aspect of your plan and then build on the results you see. As you see success with some efforts, you might decide to increase the resources devoted to some of the social networking strategies and decrease other approaches. Consider if you or your team need training or coaching to be successful.

The main components of an effective plan include:

  • Your listening strategy to monitor what is being said about your brand in the main social media networking sites and key blogs in your industry.
  • Targeted goals you want to achieve and branding guidelines.
  • The value and content you will deliver through different channels.
  • What success will look like and how you will measure it.
  • How your social media plan aligns with your traditional marketing and public relations strategies and overall organizational mission and objectives.
  • The resources you are devoting to the plan, including training and whether culture change will be needed. (Consider a phased in approach if you don’t have the resources to deliver the ultimate plan you’d like to implement.)
  • Discuss potential risks and how you will use social media as part of your crisis management plan.
  • Your strategy for continuously, quickly updating your plan based on the results and technology changes you see.

Are your social media efforts delivering what you are trying to achieve? How are you strategically managing your social media plan and updating it on the fly to maximize your impact?


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[…] if you don’t have time to think through a full blown social media plan, it is important to at least briefly reflect on your most important goals for why you are using (or […]

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