7 steps to an effective social media plan

These steps are an easy guide to keep your social media campaign on strategy.

I get a lot of requests for a social media plan. But once I start to talk to the client it turns out what they really want is a magic black box from which they can pull a big red button.

When they push the button they will have instant social media success. Their business will be known everywhere with thousands of avid followers and word will spread like wildfire. Oh, and no employee resources will need to be taxed to make it all happen.

News flash: I’m a social media coach, not a magician.

Creating a social media plan has to be specific to the needs, resources and market of your business. It’s a unique, living breathing thing. It’s got needs. Sure, you may decide to use the same tools and some of the same strategies and techniques as someone else but still, your particular resources, markets and needs are different from everyone else’s.

So what to do?

If you’re reasonably savvy about social media you may want to do this work yourself, at least the research, and then consult with someone (yes, like me) to help pull it all together so you’re not spending all day buried in social media. The list below gives you a game plan to get started.

1. Evaluate your resources

How much time can you spend on this every day? What about your staff? Interns? Volunteers? Outsourced staff? What do you have at hand you can share? Videos, white papers, industry knowledge or expertise? Do you have messaging for your business down so you can rattle off the value proposition in 140 characters or less?

2. Evaluate your market

Do some searches on SocialMention.com, Search.Twitter.com and see where people are talking about what you’re selling, your brand, even your competition. This will give you an idea of what networks might be a good fit.

3. Define your goals

What do you expect social media to do for you? If you don’t have clearly defined goals, you’ll find yourself flailing around trying to establish them on the fly. Not a very efficient way to market your business.

4. Explore social networks

All of the networks have their own characteristics. You need to find the ones that are a good fit for your market as well as for you. Pick a few and spend time learning which ones are a good fit.

Are you comfortable with the user experience? Can you see how users engage with each other? Is the “voice” of the people on the network corporate, relaxed or somewhere in between? Is this a network you can be comfortable with? Listen and get to know who is talking about the subjects you want to discuss. Look for people you can learn from.

5. Make a plan

Now you’re in a position to make intelligent decisions. These will not be etched in stone—more like pencil. This is not a big deal because you will revise it as it goes.

Your plan should include which networks you’re going to start with; and who is going to do most of the work, how often and on what subjects. Initially you’ll want to craft the message people will hear when they find you on a social network. Fill out those bios and tell them why they should care. Then share something your network will find useful.

6. Give it a spin, see what happens, re-tool as often as necessary

There is no perfect answer for how social media works. It’s trial and error. Watch to see what works and emulate that to work for you. If something works really well, how can you do it again without repeating yourself?

7. Listen some more

You should spend at least 60 percent of your time on social media networks gathering information and strategies, and listening to what people are saying. You may find that your market has shifted to another platform or an opportunity to fill a gap you didn’t know existed. Take the time to listen and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

Janet Fouts is a social media coach and senior partner at Tatu Digital Media. She blogs at JanetFouts.com, where a version of this article originally ran.

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