By David Macnamara, Onlinefire

‘Social media strategy’- It’s a phrase so ubiquitous, it’s become a parody. As much as we make fun of it, nowadays, if you don't have a clear plan of what you’re doing online, you'll be left in the dust.

When starting to write a strategy, it is important to manage your own expectations. Every SME (Small to medium sized enterprise) is different, so a lot of it is trial and error. But by being prepared and being aware of the misconceptions, you can maximise efficiency and produce a strategy that works.

Here are some of the things you need to be aware of to help you manage your own expectations:

1. A social media campaign is just a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

Facebook and Twitter are the two most popular ways of using social media to build a brand, but they do not represent the whole story. Social media is about how you can communicate with people in the right circles. Where is your customer base online? If you offer b2b a service, Facebook may not necessarily be the right choice.

2. Being on social media sites will mean lots of people will want to talk about my company

It’s easy to think that the Internet, in all its vastness, is a place where there are a million untapped communities ready to talk about you. In reality, most people don't spend a great deal of time talking about one subject. Instead, conversations touch on the things that shape their lives, and occasionally that may be of interest to you as a business. The key is not necessarily to change behaviour, but to add to the conversation.

3. Implementing a good social media strategy takes time I don’t have.

Alright, this one isn’t necessarily a misconception. A strategy does take time, but it’s worth the investment. While the initial setting up can take some time, if you consistently follow those procedures, it doesn’t have to be hours and hours of work a week. It will also help not to think about social media as separate — instead focus on how it can be rolled into your existing activity. It will become part of the everyday process and soon you won’t even distinguish it as ‘extra work’.

4. A social media strategy does little to build sales.

While we would argue that social media presence is largely about awareness and talkability, there’s absolutely no reason why this cannot contribute to sales. One only needs to look at the likes of Dell or Domino’s to see how social media can equal revenue. Don’t be afraid to offer deals and discounts. Recent research shows that 40% of people ‘Like’ a brand on Facebook because of an incentive. It’s your job, however, to keep them there (and turn them into repeat customers) with your brand personality.

5. Online engagement means losing control of my message

The main difference between customer reaction to brand messaging now and 10 years ago is that we have the distinct advantage of being able to track, and in some cases, turn negative sentiment into positive. Just because we couldn’t see negative chatter before, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t out there. You must accept that people will be talking about your brand whether or not you’re sending out pro-active messages, and realise you have the opportunity to add value to the conversation.

At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules to social media. While there are outlets, etiquettes and audiences, how you choose to use each comes down to what suits your company’s needs. It’s essential to get involved with the conversation, but only after you’ve thought long and hard about what you’re actually going to do.

David Macnamara, Onlinefire - www.onlinefire.co.uk
Twitter: @Onlinefire

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