Where Does Social Media Fit Into Your Business Plan?
What originally started as college kids on Facebook has now grown up. At first it was simply updates and gossip about who is a couple and who’s not. Then came Twitter, and now Google+. LinkedIn, which started years earlier, was there too. Somewhere along the way all of these platforms became simply known as social media. And, now almost every business in the world is either participating, thinking about participating, or explaining to itself why not. And it’s time to relate that back to your basic business planning.
So the real question is actually three questions:
- How does your social media strategy fit into business strategy?
Like all elements of strategy, your social media has to address needs and goals. Are you looking at it to affect marketing, sales, customer service, or something else? You need to think this through.
The most common use is as a part of your marketing. Businesses use social media to reach more people and to present the business as a persona, participating in public discourse. Does it replace other more traditional marketing programs for you? Or is it an extension of other programs? Determine how it relates to the strategic marketing process of getting people to know, like, and trust you. Set realistic goals for realistic business functions and benefits. Social media doesn’t do advertising well. It’s about participation and discussion, not just selling. It broadens your voice, but that doesn’t mean you’re able to just shout ad slogans at people.
Social media can extend beyond marketing into other functional areas. My favorite example is the taco truck using Twitter to announce its location every day. And we can all see some larger companies using it to soften the tone of complaints. Make sure you include these elements in your social media strategy if they fit your business and your overall strategy.
What matters is that you position your social media with its business function in your business. It’s not just doing it because everybody says you should. Think of the business benefits.
- More important, how will you execute that strategy?
Social media is littered with the remnants of business efforts that failed. That includes blogs with only a few posts, Facebook pages left unattended, Twitter accounts that are inactive, and so on. That’s because so many people think it happens automatically, when in fact you need to manage the work involved.
One of the biggest fallacies in business social media is the idea that it just happens in your spare time. The accounts are free, but the updates take time and effort. Here’s where your business planning becomes very important: figure out where that time and effort is coming from. Who is going to do it and where will they find the time to do it? If you and your people are already working well, how then do you add this new set of duties into the mix? Is there spare time to dedicate to this? What will people not be doing so they have time to do this?
Good business planning involves not just high-level strategy but also day-to-day execution. Make sure your plan includes the details of what you expect to do with your various social media accounts, who is responsible, and how will you measure results.
- And even more important, how will you track results?
This is always a good question for business planning: As time goes on, how will you know whether you’re executing or not? With social media, as with any other component of your business plan, you develop your metrics as part of the plan. By metrics I mean numbers such as Facebook likes, Twitter followers, mentions, retweets, pluses, and so forth. There are tools for social media measurement available on the web (just search social media measurement and you’ll see).
The main thing is having the discipline to not only track but also to follow up with reviews and revisions. Your original plans will need changing. Unforeseen factors will require reviewing goals and metrics, changing responsibilities, and adjusting the strategy. Like everything else in your business, the planning, which includes regular review and course correction, is what ends up generating the management and steering the business.