The following post was contributed by Shannon Oborne, online marketing expert on DOZ.

    Discover 7 steps to build the perfect social media strategy and create an essential framework for the online conversations and communities that will supercharge your business.

    Step 1: Define Your Goals.

    This one sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many companies jump into social media without having a specific set of objectives in mind. The ease and familiarity of many basic tasks – from creating a Twitter handle to setting up a LinkedIn profile – often tempt marketers into creating a plan that yields little in the end. Choosing your social media tools requires careful thought about the goals you hope to achieve. Blogs and podcasts are great for driving traffic to your website, but if product feedback is a priority you’re better off cultivating conversations on Facebook.

    Step 2: Engage With Customers.

    When you meet your customers on social media, you’re on their turf. Smart companies bring customers into the strategy process, to understand specifically how they want or need to interact online. Whether you have a core set of long-term relationships or a high volume of general traffic, the insights you’ll gain from a simple customer survey can be priceless.

    Step 3: Empower Your People.

    The power of social media is all about the network, with large and vibrant communities as the ultimate sign of success. Your employees, business partners and other trusted associates are likely to use social media in their personal lives – with a little bit of coaching they can easily help build your company’s social network and, when necessary, speak up on your behalf. Concerned about the occasional employee rant or unintended remark? Work with your colleagues in HR to define a social media policy that gives employees the guidance that they need.

    Step 4: Get Lively.

    Unlike brochure websites or mass media ads, social media is an inherently interactive sphere. For many companies that means a shift to a more conversational tone. Going casual can be a challenge for marketers who represent a conservative industry or brand – be sure to work closely with internal stakeholders to strike the right balance if this applies to you.

    Step 5: Invest In Talent.

    Social media is big business, and the people behind the platforms are constantly tinkering with the technologies inside. Companies investing in social media should start by ensuring that the right team is in place, with current skills and a record of success. Even if you pride yourself on the talents of your amazing staff, you may want to consider engaging with an agency that specializes in social media.

    Step 6: Plan To Integrate.

    Social media is a specialty, but it should definitely not operate in a silo. When creating your social media strategy, be sure to identify areas for integration with your existing marketing plan. Reinforce your print advertising with a shareable video, or circulate a mini-poll that drives attendance to your events. Once you start thinking about seamless integration, you’ll find endless opportunity to leverage social media in this way.

    Step 7: Break The Rules.

    Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. Those immortal words from musician Frank Zappa are especially apt here. Social media is a place for experimentation, imagination and creative risk. Companies that embrace this approach are best equipped to engage with their communities in a truly meaningful way.
    If you’ve already started your social media efforts, we’d love to know – how well has social media worked for you?



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