The Essential Social Media Checklist for Business

The Essential Social Media Checklist for Business Featured Image

Wading into social media for your business? Don’t forget your water wings

While hopping onto social networks isn’t rocket science, there’s still a whole lot you need to think about before you devote time and energy into logging on and greeting the world.

This comprehensive checklist will help make your transition onto social media totally seamless, so you won’t miss a beat or wind up in one of those “social media fail” roundup posts. It’s everything you need to consider, from getting stakeholders on board to making sure the social handles you want are actually available.

Give it a bookmark, have a read, and get ready to rock the social world like the awesome business you are.

Understand Your “Why”

Check Your Expectations

Reality check: We tend to think fans will flock to us, that social is “free” marketing, and that social will send the sales pouring in.

But social isn’t meant to be measured in sales alone; it’s a conversation platform with impacts that range from branding to goodwill.

It takes time and budget to do well and isn’t something you shove off to some dark corner or let just anyone handle. And social media involvement can’t be a “campaign” or an “experiment.”

It’s an ongoing conversation, and a presence is a promise to respond.

You’re in this for the long haul (but the benefits can be amazing)!

Get Everyone on Board

Involvement on social media is going to touch several different parts of your business:

  • Management is going to be interested in the ROI of your social media efforts. They’ll be really interested in goal setting and measurement and will definitely want to know how they’ll be reported to on successes, failures, and issues that require their attention.
  • Marketing will need to know how to incorporate their new campaigns and will want to be involved in defining the voice and tone of the brand online.
  • Customer Service will need to be in the loop to help respond to customer inquiries and concerns that come through social platforms.
  • Legal might need to be consulted on what can and cannot be said regarding things like marketing claims or NDAs.

Define your key stakeholders and engage all of them in a conversation in which they can be brought up to speed and collaborate on a plan.

You might choose to delay this conversation until after you’ve researched your audience and chosen your platforms so you can show that there’s a plan before consulting busy teammates.

Set Goals and Define How You’ll Measure Them

What outcomes are you expecting from social media, and how do you plan to measure them? It’s important to know why you’re getting involved in the first place, whether it’s:

  • Greater brand awareness
  • Community building
  • Improved customer service/retention
  • Improved brand reputation
  • More leads
  • Increased sales
  • Market research and listening

You shouldn’t have just one goal or be oblivious to the other things happening surrounding your brand and the conversation online, so plan to measure at least a few of the above to get a real sense of ROI from your involvement.

Determine:

  • Metrics by which you will judge performance
  • Existing benchmarks (if data already exist)
  • Realistic growth targets
  • Measurement tools you will use to collect the data
  • The length of evaluation periods

From a metrics standpoint, there are many to choose from, including but not limited to:

  • Likes/tweets/shares/+1s
  • Referring traffic
  • Views
  • Leads and sales
  • Sign-ups and submissions
  • Comments and conversations
  • Response time (for customer inquiries)
  • Consumer sentiment

The important thing is to choose metrics that are easily measurable, comparable across time, and directly correlated with meaningful outcomes.

Get to Know Your Audience

For social to be effective, you need to know who you’re reaching. The core of your strategy will lie in understanding the audience you’re aiming for.

Create Customer Personas

If your business hasn’t already, now would be a good time to conduct some customer research, pushing to discover:

  • Demographic information (age, gender, location, income)
  • Values and ideals
  • Likes, wants, and goals
  • Pain points, frustrations, and informational needs
  • The time of day your customers are most active online (what does their day/week/month look like?)

This information will inform the way you communicate with customers and will reveal opportunities for more meaningful interaction you may not have anticipated.

Mike King has written an excellent piece on building personas over at Moz (it’s a bit long, but you’ll learn everything you need to know).

Identify Popular Platforms

Just because someone tells you “You ought to be on Facebook/Twitter” doesn’t mean it’s true. You need to determine where your audience convenes and where they go to look for information.

There are many ways to go about this:

  • Ask existing customers with a quick survey or online poll.
  • Use the search functionality of the varying platforms, looking for conversations, groups, and individuals associated with your product or services.
  • Use a tool like BuzzSumo to monitor existing conversations and see who is taking part. (This is also a great way to find influencers in your space.)
  • Demandforce and Rapleaf can take your existing customer email list and determine how many of your customers are on the different platforms.

You can also use Topsy to discover existing conversations and get an idea for who the key players are and how your competition has conducted their social media. Learn from their successes — and avoid their mistakes.

Choose Your Platforms

With the research complete, it’s time to choose where you’ll be active.

  • Go where your customers are. If you’ve done the research, you know where your audience is most active.
  • Be mindful of your resources. You can’t be everywhere at once. Assess the time and budget you can devote to social media, and choose to be on platforms you know you can be present on 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Get to know the numbers. Different social media networks have different rules of engagement.

See if Your Handles Are Available

You’re going to need profiles and handles your customers recognize. KnowEm is an incredibly helpful tool for this. It scours hundreds of social sites and shows you if your desired name is available.

Outline Management Guidelines

Set Your Policies

Anything can happen in social, so it pays to be prepared. You need a set of written, referable guidelines that document the code of conduct for social media usage while still leaving room for creativity and genuine, human interaction.

Social Media Examiner offers a detailed guide, but here a few general points:

  • Use your corporate values and stated vision/mission statements as the foundation of your document and the principal guide to interaction.
  • Define the boundaries of appropriate content, including images, language, and topics discussed.
  • Consider legal implications (what cannot be said, etc.).
  • Clearly articulate guidelines for dealing with trolls, flame wars, and those who are abusive online.
  • Make it obvious what power your social media team has when dealing with customer complaints or issues, and lay out proper courses of action for dealing with challenging situations.
  • Succinctly define the consequences of misuse/failure to comply.

Assign Responsibility

Someone needs to be in charge of the social channel and own responsibility for updating your accounts and keeping the conversation going. That may be one person, or many may share the load if it’s large enough.

Make sure it’s abundantly clear whose job it is to keep social humming, but don’t stop there.

  • Lay out internal communications. Who is on the team? How often will they meet? Who will update who within your company? How will reporting be done, and who will be responsible for digesting the information? Assign “kingpins” within the different departments who will be responsible for managing any social-related issues that apply.
  • Decide on approval and review processes (and keep them really short). What needs to be documented? What needs to be voted on for approval? The answer, hopefully, will be “not much” or “nothing” — though retroactive review is critical to gauge what’s working. Don’t handcuff those directly managing the accounts. With your policies in place, trust the system and keep red tape to a minimum.
  • Lock out anyone who doesn’t belong. Keep social media passwords private and limit access — but don’t leave the keys with just one person. Have a system in place for getting login information to critical people if a crisis should emerge.
  • Consider developing a training program. Don’t leave all the knowledge in the hands of one person. Hash out a way to get your whole company trained and ready to onboard new hires so that they know exactly what is expected.

Define Your Communication Strategy

Know What Not to Do

Want to avoid some major bungles? My last post covered a whole lot of things you should never, ever do with social media. Take note and avoid those mistakes at all costs.

Create Style Guides

With your audience defined, it’s time you put together some style guides that outline the voice and tone of your content — including social media content. Some quick tips:

  • The way you speak should reflect the way your audience talks and the way your people talk internally to one another. Avoid corporate speak or robotic responses; these immediately destroy authenticity and bring conversation to a screeching halt.
  • Think of “voice” as the personality of your brand, the way in which it expresses itself. Examples of different voices are: formal, humorous, familiar or conversational, educational, and passionate. Voice must always be consistent, but tone can change based on the situation. Think of “tone” as the manner in which your voice talks about different subjects.
  • Use “X but not Y” statements, e.g. “funny but not crass,” to help define the voice of your brand and keep it consistent across all marketing channels.

Create a Crisis Plan

Social is a bit of a wild west. Accidents and missteps can happen — social media managers post personal messages to the wrong accounts, trolls start kicking at your brand, or the person in charge has a slip in judgment and says something he or she shouldn’t.

There’s no reason to live in fear that things will inevitably go wrong — but have a plan for if they do.

  • Document login information. If your social media manager goes rogue or falls ill, someone else will need to step in.
  • Listen in. Keep your ear to the ground, monitoring branded keywords and watching for any indication that a situation is mounting.
  • Assemble a crisis team. Make sure the necessary marketing, management, and PR people can be notified at the drop of a hat so they can form a plan to respond quickly and consistently across all channels.
  • Practice with hypothetical situations. As Simply Measured notes, it may help to create hypothetical situations, outlining the what (what happened that needs a response), the how (how you’ll react), and the why (why you’re reacting this way).
  • Create a bio for your various accounts. You’ll need short, medium, and long versions for different platforms.
  • Get a consistent brand photo. A logo is the most common, but no matter what you choose, keep your customer-facing image consistent.

Get Bios and Photos Ready

  • Create a bio for your various accounts. You’ll need short, medium, and long versions for different platforms.
  • Get a consistent brand photo. A logo is the most common, but no matter what you choose, keep your customer-facing image consistent.

Plan Your Content

Before you hop online, it may make sense to have content ready for sharing so you can make a splash once online. Don’t relentlessly promote, but do come ready to have something to say instead of sitting and waiting for a conversation to find you.

  • Balance promotion with genuine conversation. Think of social as a telephone, not a megaphone to shout at people with.
  • Draw on customer research for relevant, engaging topics you can write about on your site and promote to your networks.
  • Chime in on existing conversations about your brand and respond to any mentions, complaints, or inquiries.
  • Share the relevant, interesting content of others and start conversations of your own.

A big part of social is responding to conversations as they come, so a rigid content calendar definitely isn’t the way to go about this. Still, it may help to plan out a few key content items you can share, especially if those items are tied to other soft conversions like sign-ups, submissions, or other lead intake initiatives.

Integrate Social Elsewhere

Don’t leave social media in a silo — break it out into your other marketing efforts.

  • Optimize landing pages for social platforms. Social will be driving people to your site, and you want it to look its best.
  • Add social sharing buttons to your onsite content to encourage sharing.
  • Review other marketing channels (print, email, etc.), and add your social handles to let customers know you’re there and ready to engage.

For some ideas on how you can bake social media into your other business activities, check out this great post from the Social Media Examiner.

You’re Ready to Socialize

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? But when you’ve carefully and thoughtfully considered the way you’re going to interact on social media, outlined responsibility, set guidelines, and gotten creative with content ideas, you’ll be prepared to turn social media into the effective conversational channel it can be instead of a blunder waiting to happen.

Need Help With Your Social Media Strategy?

Digital Current understands the online habits and emotional buying triggers of your brand’s target audience. Let us show you how to develop and promote great content that amplifies your social media marketing strategy.

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