Cover of "Are We There Yet ?"
Cover of Are We There Yet ?

I’ve seen a lot of people – and businesses – jump into social media well before they’re ready. Instead of going in with a clear idea, strategy, or even some sense, they just decide that it’s enough to have a Facebook or Twitter profile. It’s not. The “me too!” mentality doesn’t work. You have to have a purpose.

Before starting any social media efforts on behalf of a brand, business, or even yourself, you must take a look at four important things.

Deciding to Go

First, one must ask the question, “Can I invest the time into managing social media profiles?” If so, that’s great. You can now move on to developing a strategy and setting goals. If not, then it’s best to consider your options. Businesses or non-profits can hand off social media to employees, volunteers, interns, or even an agency if the owner doesn’t have the time or ability. If you are letting someone else take the wheel on your social media presence, make sure that he or she knows the environment. Choose someone who is familiar with social media best practices. Do your research. Know who you’re trusting with your image and online persona.

Also, make it your responsibility to know social media and at least attempt to understand its function in the big picture. Remember – social media is not an end. It’s a tool. You may not need to know all of the subtle nuances, but you have to have a general idea of what it does and how it can help you.

Where Am I Going?

Then ask, “What are my goals in social media?” Setting goals is an important part of any marketing or branding strategy and social media allows for you to do both. Think about what you want and then set realistic expectations and actionable steps. Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Do you want more reviews from customers? Do you want to solve a customer service issue? Do you want to generate leads? By identifying your goals, you enable yourself to develop a smarter social media strategy that includes action that leads to an end. You don’t want to walk into your social media presence with a “me too!” attitude. It’s not enough to just be in social media. You have to have a purpose.

How am I Getting There?

Next, ask yourself, “How will I achieve those goals?” Make a list of ideas and steps that can move you closer to that goal. For example, generate ideas for what kinds of things you’ll post and share on your profiles. Also, think about how you can differentiate yourself from your competition. Will you provide faster feedback? Will you answer more questions? Will you use a custom Twitter background to achieve your goal of better branding? Brainstorm with employees, friends, and even customers to find out ways to reach your goal. Also, during this step in the process, it’s best to start brushing up on your social media skills. Read blogs, attend webinars, and do everything you can to find out what others are doing to gain social media success. Find out what the best practices are and then relate them back to your goal. Take actions you think will work. Don’t just try a “spray and pray” strategy where you’ll try everything once.

Are We There Yet?

Finally, determine how will success be measured. Will you measure success in more traffic? More followers? More wall posts? More leads? More phone calls? Begin your foray into social media with a clear idea of what you want and think of different metrics to determine whether or not that goal is met. Everyone is different, so don’t worry about measuring your business by, let’s say,  the same standards of a major brand. Have a clear idea of what you consider a success before you start and you’ll always keep your expectations within reach – as long as you stay realistic.

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