Diving (Safely!) into Social Media: Getting Ready to Get Social

by Kat French |

This is the first of a four part series on getting your brand involved in social media. We’re going to be discussing laying the groundwork for introducing your brand to the social web by posing and expanding on a few key questions. You’ll need to get a handle on these as you begin formulating a corporate plan for social media involvement.\

It might seem like the obvious first step is determining whether or not your brand should even be involved in social media. The truth is, your brand is quite possibly “involved” in social media already. Is your brand big enough that people talk about it in real life? Then guess what? They’re probably talking about it online. Do you have employees who are under the age of thirty? Guess what? They’re probably on Myspace, or Facebook, or blogging, and your organization’s brand is in their profile.

So let’s tackle the first question. What is your current, “unofficial” level of social media involvement? Are you monitoring for brand references in social media in any way? Are there any employees or communications team members who are actively blogging or otherwise participating in social media independently, who are openly affiliated with your organization? Does your brand already get strong “organic” social media buzz? Is RSS understood and utilized internally so that everyone in your organization can stay informed on the relevant conversations in your industry?

What are the critical goals that you will need to achieve to justify a social media plan? These will directly influence the level of involvement and kinds of activities you’ll need. Do you need to improve SEO, web traffic, conversions, or other e-commerce and lead generation goals? Is online reputation management and public relations a concern? If so, what metrics are you looking for: faster response times, higher ratio of positive to negative mentions, or would 4-5 positive posts from an authority blogger in your industry be an acceptable goal? Are you trying to improve internal communications, customer support, or consumer engagement with the brand? If so, what are the specifics that will help you measure that goal?

What is the desired and appropriate level of involvement for your organization? Are you looking to create an ongoing social media presence and use social media as a strategic communications platform (for example, with a corporate blog)? Is your goal strictly monitoring to get advanced warning for when your PR firm needs to do damage control? Do you want to do blogger outreach to leverage the influence of authority bloggers in your field? Do you plan to use social media as a way to get extra mileage and buzz for your advertising campaigns by deploying creative as widgets or gadgets? Are you looking to add an interactive online community element to your support or CRM programs? What about corporate social networks, like intranets, to improve internal communications?

Is your corporate culture ready for social media participation? If not, what can you do to get there? Do you have a corporate/employee blogging policy? Do you know which (if any) of your employees are currently blogging? Do you have adequate internal resources to commit to executing your plan, or are you willing to budget for adequate help from partners and vendors? Have you checked your goals with someone with social media experience and expertise to ensure that your goals are realistic and achievable, including the timeframes? Do you have buy-in from the necessary parties to engage at the level it will take to achieve your goals? Are you willing to bind and gag the entire legal department for a few months? (Just kidding on that last one. Mostly.)

What elements of social media participation will dovetail well with your existing marketing efforts? If you’ve got great, fun video content, then widgets or social video deployment makes sense. Are you planning a campaign with grassroots appeal?

What are the smart first steps to take? (I’ll help you cheat just a little on this one: monitoring. At some level. Even if it’s just setting up a Google Alert on your brand name. Find out who’s already talking about you online. And don’t be afraid to reach out to your agency, your PR firm, or any trusted partner who has expertise in social media. It’s better to get them involved early.)

Obviously, there’s room to go into much greater depth on any of these points of discussion, but for the purposes of a (lengthy) blog post, this captures the essentials that need to be addressed when forming a corporate social media plan. I think they should be good for sparking discussion among your internal team as you investigate adding social media to your marketing and communications strategy.

Next week, we’ll be talking about bringing outsiders on board: Creating an RFP for Social Media Partners.

img: “Getting Suited Up” by GoodOilMan on sxc.hu

About the Author

Kat French

Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.