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7 steps to an effective social media plan

August 29, 2011

I get a ton of requests for a “social media plan” and then once I start to talk to the client it turns out what they really want is a magic black box from which they can pull a big red button. When they push the button they will have instant social media success. Their business will be known everywhere with thousands of avid followers and word will spread like wildfire. Oh, and of course no employee resources will need to be taxed to make it all happen.

HEY! I’m a social media coach not a magician. Creating a social media plan has to be very specific to the needs, resources and market of the business who needs it. It’s a unique, living breathing thing. It’s got needs. Sure, you may decide to use the same tools and some of the same strategies and techniques as someone else but still, your particular resources, markets and needs are subtly different from everyone else’s or there would be no need for your specific business.

Think about your marketing plan (tell me you have one). Nobody creates a marketing plan without a lot of work right? Then it has to be constantly tweaked to suit the needs of the company, the market, changing trends in the marketplace, news, corporate changes, a ton of factors, right? And of course this constant evolution has to be monitored, policies and positions subtly changed. Fires put out (preferably before they become conflagrations) and staff alerted to all of the above.

So what to do?
If you’re reasonably savvy about social media you may want to do this work yourself, at least the research, and then consult with someone (yes, like me) who’s got the on-the ground experience working with social media and businesses to help you see the tools and strategies to make it all pull together without spending all day every day buried in social media networks. The list below gives you a game plan to get started.

1. Evaluate your resources
How much time can you spend working on this every day? What about your staff? Interns? Volunteers? Out sourced staff? What do you have at hand you can share? Videos, white-papers, industry knowledge and expertise? Do you have your messaging for your business down so you can rattle off the value proposition in 140 characters or less?

2. Evaluate your market
Do some searches on SocialMention.com, Search.Twitter.com and see where people are talking about what you’re selling, your brand, even your competition. This will give you an idea of what networks might be a good fit for you.

3. Define your goals
What do you expect social media to do for you? If you don’t have clearly defined goals you can find yourself flailing around trying to establish them on the fly. Not a very efficient way to market your business…

4. Explore social networks
All of the networks have their own characteristics. You need to find the ones that are a good fit for your market as well as for you. Pick a few and spend some time learning which ones are a good fit. Are you comfortable with the user experience? Can you see how users engage with each other? Is the “voice” of the people on the network corporate? Relaxed and fun? Somewhere in between? Is this a network you can be comfortable with? Just “listen” for now, get to know who is there talking about the same subjects you want to talk about. Look for people you can learn from.

5. Make a plan
Now you’re in a position to make intelligent decisions. These will not be etched in stone. More like pencil. This is not a big deal because you will revise it as it goes. New networks crop up, you find the style of messaging needs tweaks, you hire a new person who opens your eyes to the potential of a completely different network. Change is good. Your plan should include what networks you’re going to start with, who is going to do most of the work, how often and on what subjects. Initially you’ll want to carefully craft the message people will hear when they first find you on a social network. Fill out those bios and tell us why we should care. Then share something your network will find useful.

6. Give it a spin, see what happens, re-tool as often as necessary
There really is no perfect answer for how social media works for you. It’s trial and error, and most importantly watching to see what works and emulating that if it works for you too. If something works really well how can you do it again without repeating yourself?

7. Listen some more
You really should spend at least 60% of your time on social media networks gathering information, strategies and listening to what people are saying. You may find that your market has shifted to another platform or see an opportunity to fill a gap you didn’t know existed. Take the time to listen and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

If you’re really not sure what to do to create your own social media plan, my Social Media Quick-Start e-book can  help you find your way. It’s free, so go download it. Of course I’m here to help, and if you need a custom social media plan that is really designed to take your business to the next level, or social media training contact me any time and let’s talk. Just don’t mention the red button.

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  1. Great points, Janet! Social media marketing is successful because people/businesses/brands put the time and effort into developing an actionable plan, setting goals and managing expectations. Social isn’t a quick fix – takes time to develop and build those relationships and truly succeed in social!

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