Developing a Social Media Strategy for your Organization

As easy as it is to engage social media personally, for  organizations, the dynamic is different. After all, when you are using  social media to broadcast your lifestream, there isn't  necessarily an objective in mind. For organizations, there has to be a  purpose.

Here are some things to consider when mapping out your social  media strategy.

What is the mission of your social media efforts?
This could be as simple as "create a presence" to something more  specific, like "engage our clients in a dialogue" or "discover the  needs of our community."

What platforms will you choose and how will they connect to  each other? 
According to Social Media Examiner’s 2010 report, by a long shot, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs were the top four social media tools used by marketers; however, the platforms you choose are going to be completely dependent on your mission. Also, don't overlook how the platforms can interconnect with each other.  Twitter can drive your Facebook status, YouTube videos can be embedded in a blog, Posterous can take content and send it to a variety of outlets...there are a wide range of possibilities.

How will you feed your content stream?
This includes both the type of content you want to provide and how  that content is captured and produced.  Social media lives and dies by  current postings.  If the content on your outlets of choice becomes  stale, you will lose your audience. (Is the reason most broadcast  channels now have new shows in the summer rather than relying on  re-runs.)  In addition, you have to have content that will connect with  the people you want to reach.  There will likely be some trial and error  in this as you experiment to learn what connects in your context.  If  possible, you will want content to come from a variety of sources.   While one person may be able to oversee your social media efforts, it is  almost impossible for a single person to create all of the content  needed to feed the stream.

Determine frequency of posting.
While personally, you may use social media in fits and spurts, social  media for organizations is more effective if there is a rhythm to the  posting.  For example, a blog could be daily, weekly, bi-weekly or  monthly.  Twitter is more effective daily, yet you can "over-tweet" and  have people unfollow you because you load up their stream.  Think about  frequency in terms of the context of your mission then set an internal  structure that allows you to produce content on that timeline.

How will you brand?
Customizing your social media outlets to reflect your visual branding  is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed.  While the options won't be  extensive as on a website, you can usually modify colors or add images  that make your social media platforms your own.

How will you monitor the feeds?
Because the social media outlets are designed to invite  feedback, an important part of your social media efforts will be  monitoring the streams. Unlike a website that you can "set and forget"  for a certain amount of time, comments and posts need to be engaged and  responded to in as close to real-time as possible. Just as you would  never put a phone system in and never answer it, you can't set up a  social media presence without communicating with the people on the other  end.  As with the content stream, this effort will likely  require more than a single person to truly be effective. (And to prevent  burnout.)  You should also determine up front how you will respond to  negative comments.  Will they be removed or simply responded to?

How will you promote your social media presence?
Once your social media presence is in place, all you have to do is  promote it.  This might be something as simple as adding links to your  website or as  targeted as purchasing an ad to promote your site on Facebook or  proactively following all of the "Twitterers" who engage on the topics you care about.

While setting up a social media presence isn't difficult, effectively  leveraging the tools to meet mission takes time, creativity and  dedicated people with a passion to connect.

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Maira Gall