Developing a social media strategy

3 things to do before joining a social network

Social Media game planBefore you can do anything – whether it is to join a social network such as Facebook, learn how to use Instagram to capture and share photos with your friends, or even learn to get better at tracking your tweets on Twitter, you must have a goal in mind. Without a goal, it’s pretty difficult to develop a plan of attack to help get you from point A to point B.

For those of you that have made up your mind that you’re going to learn to incorporate social media into your business, here are 3 things you need to do before joining a social network.

  1. Create a marketing plan – Ask yourself these three questions. What is your goal? How do you expect to get there? When do you expect to get there? By having a plan, you’re well on your way to being able to join any social network and to make it successful – all because you know what you want to accomplish and the things you hope to get out of being on a social network.
  2. Research – If you are interested in joining a social network, before joining, do some research. Just because everyone is on a given social network does not mean that it is right for you – find out if it fits your business. A great way to do this is to look at your competitors. Identify a list of 3-5 competitors and search for them – whether on the social network or on Google. They may not even be on the network you’re on – because they’ve already found out that it did not work very well for them. If you do happen to find them, don’t hesitate to contact them and ask them questions – let them know you found them online and were looking to join a network (there’s no need to tell them you’re a competitor). Ask them if there were any challenges to being on a particular social network, their likes and dislikes, etc…
  3. Develop a strategy for each network – once you have your plan in place and you’ve done your homework on the networks, make a list of networks you want to join and what you want to get from each.  Remember, every social network offers a different set of features and benefits. Some of them, such as LinkedIn are great for helping you network with other business professionals but may not be the best place to try and sell someone your products. Others like Facebook are great for networking with friends and family, but not necessarily good places to carry-on a professional conversation with a potential business associate. Either way, the key thing to focus on is what will help me reach my goals – the ones you outlined in your marketing plan.

Set the goals, outline your plan, do the research, and create a strategy for each network and how you plan to use it for your business (if at all).

For those of  you who have already signed up for numerous social networks, don’t worry. You can also apply these tips to your current social networks along with any others you decide to join down the road. This does not mean that you need to start over. Just be sure to set aside some time and re-focus your energies. You may find that you’re on the right path. You may also find that you need to stop using a social network because you’re putting too much time into it and seeing very little ROI or engagement from fans. There’s nothing wrong with doing this. It’s your business and it operates differently from the millions of businesses out there.

One last thing, when looking at a social network and how it fits within your marketing plan, be honest with yourself. With more of our time being spent online, it is important to maximize it whenever possible. By spending the time now to develop the right plan and learning which social networks work for you, you can run a lean operation – that won’t have you chained to your desk just posting updates.

So the next time you get ready to hit “join” on that newfangled social network, pause for a moment, do the research, and figure out where it fits (if at all).

Since we’re talking social networks, how many networks are you currently on? Post the social networks you are on and the links to them in the comments below.