January 23, 2011

Eight Steps to a Great Social Strategy

Social media networks and platforms are highly strategic, highly targeted, and highly effective tools that can help your company achieve short and long-term marketing goals, as well as enhance branding and positioning.  But trying to launch a social media strategy without setting the stage is like trying to get high yields from a shiny new combine harvester without first preparing and planting the fields. Too many companies expect social media strategies to yield instant results, when they haven’t yet done the ground work to create a presence and a portfolio of tools. Here are eight first steps companies can take to set the stage for social media strategies.

1.  Create Social Media Accounts – Not ready to tweet yet? Still developing a Facebook strategy? That shouldn’t stop you from going ahead and creating a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel (and reserving your company’s name before someone else does!)  Most importantly, no company should be without a LinkedIn Company Profile. It puts your company on the LinkedIn “map,” links to employees’ profiles, and allows other users to follow your company news.

2. Start Listening – Use some of the tools available to monitor what people are saying about your company, your industry, the sectors you serve, and your competition. Free tools such as Google Alerts, search.twitter.com (is this supposed to be search (dot) twitter?), Social Mention, Blogpulse. Bit.ly, and Boardreader or paid tools such as Scoutlabs, Heartbeat, and Radian6 help you monitor search terms, sentiment and relevant news.

3. Create Branded Social Media Icons -  Social platforms can be customized to reflect your company’s branding but you may need to adapt your logo and imaging. Make sure you have a small square version of your logo or photo for Twitter, a long rectangular version for your Facebook icon, a simple, high contrast version for LinkedIn, etc.

4. Create Social Media Buttons and Links – Google loves links so wherever possible, increase your company’s searchability with social media links. List all your social media URLs on your Facebook info page, on your LinkedIn profile, and on your YouTube channel. Add social media buttons to your Website and to your email templates. Comment on articles and blogs with a link back to your company’s website or Twitter account.

5. Train Your Staff –  Empower your staff by letting them know your company’s social media guidelines, expectations, and policies. If you don’t have guidelines yet, create them! Bring in a consultant who can train staff in best practices and social media “culture.”

6. Set Up A Web Browser Folder with Social Media Links  – Use your web browser’s “Favorites” or  “Bookmarks” function to collect social sites, blogs, listening tools, etc., in one handy folder. That way, all your social media sites and tools are quickly and easily accessible, creating efficiencies and saving you time.

7. Gather and Create Content – Chances are your company already has shareable content, such as slide presentations, videos, photos, and white papers. Start collecting what you’ve got so that you can share it via social media platforms. Prepare a calendar of upcoming news and events that could be shared via social media. And make sure your staff has the tools to create and post new shareable images, such as flipcams and smartphones.

8. Use Analytics -  Make sure you are using web analytics tools (such as Google Analytics or HubSpot) in order to track which social media sites or posts are successfully driving traffic to your website.

By taking these first steps, your company will be on solid ground when it’s time to start developing and implementing a social strategy!

This post was commissioned by British Airways. The opinions are my