Somebody told you that your company should start tweeting, that your brand needed a presence on Facebook, or that customers would appreciate videos on YouTube. Before you decide to take the plunge and dive head first, isn’t it best to understand where you’re headed? Consider the following tips as a primer for establishing a solid base to build your social media strategy off from.
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Audience – back to basics

It’s important to take a step back and make sure you really understand your customer. If you’re working with a social media expert, ensuring that they understand who your target customer is can be as equally important. Much like a traditional advertisement, not all channels are created equal.

Research – ask questions and observe
Performing research up front can assist you in the long run. Ask yourself, Is my customer in this space? To determine which social network is right for your company or organization, referencing a notable source like Pew Research, you can easily discover demographic information for each social network.

If your customer is there, what type of conversation are they having and do you see an opportunity to engage in that conversation? Don’t forget about your competitors. Using or you can dig through top-level information to see who is playing in that space and the type of conversation they are having.

Direction and Voice – the what
Understanding where you’re going to have a conversation and what you’re going to say are two completely separate things. Establish a direction or purpose for your company’s social media presence. Ask yourself, ‘what do we expect to accomplish on Twitter, or Facebook?’ In addition, it’s good to have an understanding of how your brand is to be portrayed in the social space and what value you bring to the table. Is this a form of entertainment and information, or customer service and crisis management? Determine the direction that fits best within your brand and head that way, but keep in mind, this could evolve and change over time.

ROI – it’s not always about dollars and cents
Social media is about old-fashioned communication and relationships, a trait lost by many in the business world today. For many companies and organizations, social media is a tough sell already and many are late to the game because they are too focused on the bottom line. If it helps, think of it as awareness first, communication second and relationship building third.

Metrics – you can’t measure what you can’t define
They say the truth is in the numbers, but how can you measure what you can’t define? Going back to the above statement on ROI, it’s important to step back and dig into what your company and its brand would like to achieve with social media. Is it brand-awareness? Increased brand-loyalty? Perhaps you simply just want more people to read your blog posts? Determine what it is you want to gauge and let the numbers be your guide.

Time to Talk – Tell everybody, everywhere.
What people can’t see they don’t know. One of the most frequently asked questions is ‘how do I get more followers?’ The first place to start is to look within your company. How about your website? Placing icons and links from your website to social media outlets is an easy way to start engaging with potential fans and followers. Maybe you have a growing email list. Perhaps a solid salesforce out in the field handing business cards out on a daily basis. By placing your ‘social contacts’ in any of these communications, you have a potential opportunity to connect with others on any of the growing number of social networks.

Social media appears to be a very daunting task at first. Without a solid strategy, it can be. Using these tips should help you draft up an outline that helps your company understand the big picture before moving forward in this space. What are some of the challenges you have in developing a social media strategy?