Lots of people have been asking me recently how they can get started with their social media strategies. In particular, people want a template or off the shelf action plan. There aren’t any quick fixes here and as with any good strategy it takes hard work, but it is worth the investment. I’m going to recommend  a few points well worth considering before you write your social media strategy and plans, which will get them off to a flying start.

  • Consider how social can help your organisational goals. I can’t stress this enough. Take another look at your organisational strategy. I guarantee that social can contribute towards many of its aims. Are you delivering services?  Perhaps social media can be used for some of the outreach. Are you aiming to raise more funds? Social media can obviously help here too, for example by fundraising through Facebook or researching high net worth individuals on LinkedIn. In fact I’d suggest running a session with your CEO and board to show them how social can support different elements of your organisation’s strategy. That will help them understand social’s potential as a tool and get buy-in for what you’re trying to do.
  • Understand that a social media strategy is …just a strategy. There is a tendency for people to think that a social media strategy is something distinct and different from other strategies, because it involves social. Sure, you need to have a good understanding of the platforms, how your audience uses them and how success should be measured. That aside, I don’t think it should look very different from a normal marketing strategy. (So if you want a template you might find the guide I wrote for Charity Comms about marketing strategies useful). Your social strategy must be underpinned by thorough research about what’s going on in the environment your organisation operates in, and has to have some well thought out goals. It needs to support your organisational strategy and marketing strategy.
  • Analyse your audience’s social habits. Which platforms are they using? How are they using them? What’s the best way to engage with them on there?
  • Monitor how other organisations are using social. Whether it’s your competitors, other charities or corporates, keep an eye on what other people are doing well (and not so well) and think about how you can learn from it. Mashable is a great source of social media news. I would also recommend that you start following competitors and organisations who use social effectively on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms.
  • Be realistic about your resources. We all know that social media isn’t free and requires a lot of time to do it properly. As tempting as it might be to jump on every platform, don’t feel that you have to. Be honest about what you can invest in social.
  • Integrate, integrate, integrate. At the core of your marketing and comms strategy you should have some strong, punchy key messages. These should be integrated across your organisation’s use of social media.
  • Think about the role your stakeholders can play. Time was when the marketing and comms department owned their strategies and could control most aspects of them. Social has changed the game here, and  your supporters all have a stake in your brand and your communications strategies, including social. For instance, you might want to consider how you can unlock the potential for your staff to be brand ambassadors through being a social organisation (see this excellent blog by Comms2point0). Equally, if your external stakeholders are big on social they may even want to create their own social media campaigns to help your organisation. For example, the Sherlock fansite Sherlockology (an independent site which isn’t funded or managed by the BBC) recently ran their own social media campaign to launch the promotional trailer for Season 3. The #SherlockR3VEALED campaign reached  over 12 million unique viewers worldwide on Twitter alone. If you have some great supporters who love social, why not talk to them about how they can help with your social media strategy?

Once you’ve put together your social strategy, the next step is to plan how you’re going to implement it. Live Free Range has published an excellent guide to social media campaigns.

A social media strategy must never operate in a vacuum; the clue’s in the name. Ultimately it should help you to have valuable conversations with supporters. Done right, it is a catalyst that will drive your organisation forward.

If you want to ask me any questions about social media strategies, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.