Our company needs to get with the times and do all things social media. We need to have a Facebook presence, make sure we are chirping…um…I mean tweeting regularly on Twitter. Oh yeah, don’t forget to upload a few shots to Instagram and definitely don’t forget  to pin up some great images on Pinterest. Is that everything? Oh no, how could I forget to put up a blog on WordPress and roll over to Tumblr?

It seems that social media along with other MarCom (marketing communications) staples like email marketing and the organization’s website, have us in a flurry of activity but is it really worth it?

In order for social media to be effective we need to step back and take a critical look at what we really need and how well our social media strategies are working.

Here are some things to think about when creating a social media strategy:

1. Who am I really trying to target?

This question is an essential springboard for everything you do with respect to social media. You may think the more social channels being used, the better, but remember that all that tweeting, posting and pinning is taking time. Even if you use sites like Hoosuite to automate many of your interactions, you still need staff who will monitor this automation and schedule posts. Also, people are needed to respond in real-time to the changing business and industry news and deal with any unexpected surprises that may arise.

Therefore, it is a good idea to zero-in on the social media sites that are the most popular with your specific target group(s). Make sure you know your audience, so you’re maximizing your time and human resources in the parts of the social media world that matter.

2. What do I hope to accomplish?

Don’t just tweet for the sake of tweeting! Or join Facebook because everyone seems to be on it and you can’t be left out. You must have a clear idea of why are you using social media. You need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish? What are your goals for your social media presence? These answers should align with your broader organizational goals and objectives. Are you a non-profit, humanitarian organization that wants to build awareness about certain issues? Are you a news-driven organization that wants to create a buzz about particular events? Or are you a profits-driven business that wants to create a relationship with potential customers and get feedback from current ones? Knowing what you want to accomplish is another fundamental part of creating an effective social media plan.

3. What methods, not just what types of social media will we use?

Now that you know who you’re trying to reach and for what purpose, now it’s time to get into the practical hands-on side of things. What social media tactics are you going to use to accomplish your purpose. Building upon the examples in step #2, if you are a non-profit, humanitarian organization building awareness you may decide to launch a social media campaign showing your audience the real-life living conditions of certain groups for which you are advocating. This may include posting dramatic photos on harsh realities and blogging about personal accounts and dire conditions. It may include Twitter appeals for various fundraising efforts that are tied to the photos and blogs.

If you’re a profits-driven business, instead of simply promoting new products and sales events, you could try to connect with the audience based upon your main products. For a fashion retailer that could be the projected new fall trends in shoes or coats. If the organization engages in community relations providing shoes for those who cannot afford any, that is also a great thing to highlight with the social media channels. If possible, include pictures of regular people (not just fashion models) wearing the products or being helped by the company. The key is to develop a human connection with your audience that is built on something other than pure consumerism. In between the interesting info and social involvement pieces, the company could inform about things like new products and sales.

Some organizations, like those in health care may offer free white papers and other educational documents that don’t require the recipient to buy or sign-up for anything. If you’re a business that targets other businesses then you may ask the person to give you information like a phone number and email in exchange for being able to download or receive an email copy of your free document. Whatever you do, make sure that the document is worth taking the time to read and not a superficial document for marketing purposes.

4. How will success be measured?

When you know what you want to accomplish, you will be able to identify what success looks like and how to measure that success. Be specific about what kind of data is relevant for your business. If you are a for-profit business, you may be concerned about comparing the number of click-throughs on your social media networks to any increase or decrease in sales during a specified period. If you are a non-profit running an information campaign you may be more interested in the number of social media posts that are reposted and the number of mentions you or your campaign receive.

Whatever you do, make sure your measurements are not just impressive looking numbers and charts but really do relate to what you are trying to accomplish.

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