1. Determining why (or if) social makes sense
Social networking may or may not be right for your organization at this point in time. But if you have decided that it is, you must be able to articulate sound business reasons for it. "Because everyone else is doing it" doesn't cut it. (You do remember what your mother said about "everyone else" and that apocryphal bridge, don't you?)
Will it help your company improve brand recognition? Could it save on help desk costs? Will it help your company retain existing customers and add new ones? Will it improve internal collaboration? Will it raise the profile of thought leaders within your company via original content?
Maybe social networking can do all of these things for your organization; maybe it will check off only one box. But the important thing is to have clear reasons for embarking on or extending your social networking journey--and clear metrics in mind for measuring success.
[ Want more on how to develop an effective social strategy? See 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now. ]
2. Deciding what social looks like
Once you've decided that social does make sense for your organization and you've determined business goals, you need to decide what your social presence will look like. Will your organization have presence on all the major social networking platforms, or will it focus on just one, at least to start? If you're starting small, which platform makes the most sense: Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? LinkedIn? SNPTBA (Social Networking Player To Be Announced)? Will your organization incorporate internal social networking tools for collaboration? Note that Task 2 is a lot easier if you have been careful in your undertaking of Task 1.
3. Creating a social media policy
It's unwise go too far down the social networking road without some kind of official policy around social media. This policy can be integrated into an existing acceptable use document or it can be developed separately. It can be a challenge for companies to articulate what is and isn't OK in such a fast-moving environment, but a solid social media policy will protect your organization, and ultimately, your organization's employees, partners, and customers.
4. Delegating resources
Once you know why your organization is involved in social networking and what you want it to look like, you need to delegate resources to the cause. Who will update the organization's presence, and how many times a day should that happen? Who will respond to customer comments, and what's a reasonable window between comment and response? Will original content be developed for social media? If so, who will develop it?
While clear articulation of goals and a concrete plan for social presence will make this task easier, in the end you have only so many resources. You might have to adjust your plans (or your headcount) accordingly. You might also have to adjust your employees' understanding of how social affects and fits into their roles.
5. Figuring out how to engage your audience
What catches on in social networking circles is a little like appreciating The Three Stooges--either you get it or you don't; it can be very hard to explain to someone who doesn't get it; and the people who do get it form a tight group that can garner recognition and action from each other with just a simple phrase ("Why, I oughta …").
To figure out what will work for your company, you'll have to experiment and be willing to try new things. You should also realize that the customers who engage with you on social media may represent only a sliver of your total base. Does your audience respond to a humorous tone, or do they prefer a more serious one? Do they click on contests? Questions of the day? Coupons? White papers? Photographs on Pinterest? Getting it right will "soitenly" require lots of trial and error, and that trial and error will have to continue over time as your audience evolves, and with it, your organization's social goals.
What is the most taxing thing about social for your organization? Please comment below or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter at @debdonston.
This free Enterprise 2.0 webcast, The Management 2.0 Challenges, will explain the next-generation management model leveraging social technology that will make your company more adaptive, innovative, inspiring--and fit to embrace the opportunities of a fast-approaching future. It happens April 18.