How to know you are ready for Social Media

All the buzz. All the hype. Companies many are ready to jump on the Social Media bandwagon. So, how do you know when you are ready? What are the checkpoints you should go through? 

When a person decides to “get on Facebook” it doesn’t take much thought or planning. When a business opens a new location in the mall is does. It is this kind of attention one needs to pay when embarking down the social media path. A many have said, social media is just another channel. Yes, like a new phone number one must have a plan in place which will prepare you for those customers coming through the door. Social media is that door.

It does not matter at this point which outlet you are going to enter. Each has its own special rules, coded language and expectations, but they all will attract attention. Now those who create marketing strategies know this, how to get attention. But where they leave off and where social media adds a new facet to deal with is this is interactive, this is multi-modal. Whether you are planning on interacting with your “visitors” or not, someone else will. A recent tweet from Nils Hafner (@NilsHafner) said, “Social Media is uncontrollable”. I do not think this is necessarily true. Sure, there are examples of viral tweets, or YouTube videos (United Breaks Guitars) which take on their own life, but if you apply some guidelines, rules and technologies it can be managed. It won’t remove the viral threat but it can throttle most.

So, what are these guidelines and what needs to be in place before one begins blazing into social media?

Do you have a social media strategy?

– At least what are your plans of engagement? Will you use the platform to just listen to the chatter? Will you expect to just, put your message outthere? Or are you planning to get engaged with your followers/commentors?

Are you clear who your customer is?

– Let’s assume you know this already? But it is really related to the next question.

Do you know where this customer is?

– This is new media. This is new territory for most. How many of my clients tell me they will never get on Twitter or Facebook and I say that is not the point. Many of your customers are already there, or maybe on another one. Researching where your clients are most likely to be are where they can be attracted to is where you may need help. There are no mistakes here. You may make a few missteps along the way just like placing an ad in the wrong periodical. Lesson learnt.

Do you have your stakeholders in line?

– Who owns the social media channel? This may sound simple but it is not. Often the endeavor begins in marketing and then outgrows their capacity. Then a move of the handling may make sense to the customer service sector. But are they ready for this? Do they want this? Recently, a client found that everything was in place except the fact of who would fund the additional headcount in the CC to handle this new channel. So, getting this cleared early is an imperative.

Do you have the necessary utilities in place?

– Beginning with simple web based tools to monitor may work, but when the fan numbers begin to grow or when a viral event strikes, do you have the processes and tools in place to handle this?

The list may seem daunting but it really does not take long to have these questions answered and be ready to open your social media doors. Even once these questions are answered you will need to revisit them often. The landscape is evolving, the customers are as well. What works today on one platform may not next month. New platforms will appear and older ones may depart. Be ready to adjust your plan by revisiting the basic questions.

Some careful planning, acquiring some expertise will make your new conversation “channel” successful.

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