Failure to Plan, Planning to Fail: Why You Need a Social Media Plan

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What is a Social Media Plan?

A social media plan simply outlines how you intend to use social media to help your brand or business succeed. Social media is a tool: use it to listen to what your customers (and competitors’ customers) are saying; use it to have two-way conversations with those customers; use it to communicate with peers and exchange ideas; use it to generate buzz about your next product launch – but don’t wander aimlessly into it without first creating a map and having a destination in mind.

Define Success – What do you hope to accomplish by getting involved with social media? If you don’t know, now’s the time to figure it out.

Measure Success – How will you know you’ve achieved your goals? What metrics will you use to determine whether you’ve succeeded or not? How will you collect the data?

Create Rules of Engagement – How will you respond to (or escalate) negative feedback from customers? Who is in charge of saying what? Is there a unified message and a strategy for communicating it – and has that been clearly communicated to everyone involved in implementing your plan?

Develop (and document) a social media plan, and do it before you start linking all your social media accounts and blogs and letting them talk to each other while you sleep.  The next few sections of this post will help you to more effectively follow through on your plan.

An Effective Web or Abstract Art?

Auto-cross-posting and linking like bunnies is all the rage, and the tools to do it seem to encourage this compulsive madness. There is such a thing as too much interconnectedness. “All of these various permissions can lead to an embarrassing loop of repeat tweets and/or Facebook status updates if you’re not careful. Consider going manual until you understand exactly which permissions you have opted into for each platform.(from 5 Easy Steps to a Winning Social Media Plan)

A little anecdote for those who don’t understand the concept of an endless loop: Years ago, I was sitting in a chat room with my friend PeterZ, tinkering with an autoresponder. He said, “Hey, why don’t you program it to say, ‘Oooh, it’s a Z word!’ every time someone in the room says a word containing the letter ‘z’?” I thought this sounded like a brilliant idea, and I proceeded to do it. Next time my friend said anything at all, it knocked me offline with an endless repetition of “Oooh, it’s a Z word!”

To make matters worse, we were so amused by this, that about a week later we were telling some other friends about it. We got confused silence and a “Huh?” or two from the less-technically-inclined folks in the chat room, so PeterZ suggested that I demonstrate. After crashing right on cue, rebooting my PC, and reconnecting to the network, I suggested to PeterZ that he change his chat handle. He suggested to me that I fix my autoresponder script – or maybe stop using it altogether – and get less gullible.

You don’t need to be everywhere at once, although the easier you make it for customers to engage with you, the better. You should jump through hoops for them, not the other way around. Wherever you actively engage with customers, do it right – be real, be present, follow up. Spread thin as peanut butter is one thing; spread out like the oily tendrils of the Deepwater Horizon and sinking to the bottom of the great wide Gulf under the weight of your own mess is another.

Autoposting and autotweeting are useful tools – they can help you communicate with people and get your message out to folks in different time zones, while you sleep. But use these tools judiciously, lest you be accused of “just phoning it in.” People want to engage with people – not automatic post pushers and twitterbots.

3 Each: Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Empire Avenue, and LinkedIN Tips

3 Blogging Tips

  • If you maintain multiple blogs, have a solid plan for the content and let your personality shine through. Let readers know what they can expect to find when they drop by – and make each a friendly, inviting place that encourages them to do so often. If you can’t maintain multiple blogs, or haven’t got the time or energy for one, let alone thirty-two of them, be sure you’re using categories and tags effectively. Think of categories as “chapters” (use only 1-2 per post) and tags as “index entries,” and don’t go crazy – better to pick a few really good ones and use them on multiple posts than to tag your post with every word in it that isn’t “the.”
  • Reply to commenters. Answer questions. Follow up. If possible, anticipate the next “big question” as it applies to your business – and blog about it!
  • Learn to respond firmly, but graciously, to negative comments. Learn to recognize an Internet “troll” and don’t feed him. But remember that legitimate, negative comments from unhappy customers are your chance to turn a PR disaster into a major win. Respond graciously and follow up.

3 Facebook Tips

  • Pages can interact with pages, but only people can post on other people’s wall. If you post on your own wall, and refer to one of your Facebook friends by starting their name with “@” your post will also appear on their wall.
  • If you comment and refer to one of your friends, starting their name with “@”, they will be notified that you’ve commented about them.
  • You need 25 “Likes” to get a “vanity URL” for your business or blog page – it’s not that hard to get 25 “Likes,” if you’re likable and you simply ASK.

3 Twitter Tips

  • Use a Twitter client, like Tweetdeck or Seesmic, to keep track of conversations that use hashtags. Hashtags begin with “#” and can make it easy to search for tweets on a topic (e.g., #weblogbetter) but a good client app will let you display them all together in real time, so that they appear as a conversation.
  • Use scheduled tweets (easy to set up, using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck) to invite people to an upcoming event, to promote the occasional blog post, to tell them where they can get help and support using your products. Just remember that it’s meant to be a two-way conversation, not a bulletin board. Follow up.

3 Empire Avenue Tips

  • Remember that it’s meant to be a game. That means, don’t cheat, don’t abandon your virtual shareholders if you opt to play, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing whatever serious work you’re doing. People want to engage with businesses because they: provide useful products and services that help them have more fun in their lives; are interesting; make them feel valued. Not because they are staid, boring, or make customers feel like they’re talking to a wall. (Even if it’s on a Facebook “wall.”)
  • If you’re using Empire Avenue as a brand or business, invest in customers who give you great feedback (“great” meaning useful – it could be positive or negative, but if it helps you to improve your products, services, or the way your company is perceived, it’s worth investing). Be sure to give those customers a Shout Out and a loud “Thank you!” as well, so they’ll know there’s a real person there, someone who’s really listening.
  • Use Empire Avenue to gain insight into your “networking value” and to get a picture of how balanced (or unbalanced) your network presence is. Did you forget to blog regularly, this week? (What would happen if the local newspaper forgot to publish a paper for a week, or the Daily Paper only published on Monday and Thursday?) Were all your “interactions” on Facebook and Twitter really just one way broadcasts? How can you use these metrics in your overall social media strategy?

3 LinkedIN Tips

  • A LinkedIN LION (LinkedIN Open Networker) is someone who is, at least theoretically, open to receiving invitations from people on LinkedIN that they’ve never met. By contrast, some use LinkedIN as a strictly professional network – as it was originally intended to be. Consider asking, first, before sending an invitation to connect there with someone you really don’t know and share no professional or personal history with.
  • “Recommendations” on LinkedIN are good for the ego, but may not be all that helpful as real-world “references.” See Scott Hartsman’s excellent post, “LinkedIn for Pragmatists: Why I Stopped Recommending.” Doesn’t hurt to have recommendations, but may not carry all that much weight, either. And while so much social interaction on the Internet is reciprocal in nature, remember that reciprocal recommendations on LinkedIN are about as effective as a reference from your mother.
  • Join some groups that share interests you’re passionate about, and help start the conversation – or keep it going. Let every online interactions serve as a possible first impression, and contribute something to the community. Explore some of the newer tools on LinkedIN – presentations, collaborative workspaces, plug-ins for your blog and Twitter, and more.

Free, Dynamic Business Cards

Years ago, I made a grown man cry. He’d just received a brand new box of “indestructible” business cards printed on Tyvek. Always up for a challenge, I held out my hand, smiled sweetly as he waxed poetic about the fact that these cards would still be around during the next Ice Age, and proceeded to work a small tear in the edge of one. If you’ve ever worked with Tyvek, you know all it takes is a little determination and a good start…  Anyway, my point is, no business card is perfect – except the one that brings in customers. The “cool factor” will only take you so far. Would I remember a radiologist whose business card looked like an x-ray of the human body? Absolutely! It’s clever, but also says something memorable about him professionally. Same with these fun business cards used by Lego employees. But what about this awful business card? I couldn’t remember where I saw it – only found it again by searching “youtube” “business card” “crap” “guy”. ‘nuff said?

Maybe an online business card is best for establishing your online presence – all your contact info effectively located in one place, where it can be updated and shared and tweeted and embedded in all the places you want to be seen. Here are two good examples:

Jump scan – If you want an online “business card” that proclaims to the world your cutting-edge geekiness and tech savviness side-by-side with your standard social media links and contact information,  then Jump scan is for you. Rather than creating multiple QR codes to go to different sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, your website or blog, etc.) Jumpscan allows you to have all your digital contact info in one place for easy mobile sharing. Or you can download your QR code and share your contact details by leaving a printed version cryptically pinned to the corkboard at your local Starbucks. Jump scan is easy and quick to set up and best of all – it’s free.

BusinessCard 2 – Business Card 2 gives you a free and interactive online profile you can use like a business card – you can share it through your mobile device, email, Facebook, and so on -  or embed it on your website or blog. It’s kind of like a business card on steroids, because you can also use it to stream live video from YouTube, provide live feeds to show how active you are on a variety of sites, share files such as presentations, images, or spreadsheets, use SEO features to get yourself ranked right up there in the search engines for your business, get reviewed and interviewed, and peek at the stats to see how much of an impact any of this is actually having on your bottom line.

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