First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? and How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

“Social Media Performance Group’s motto is: No Tools Before Rules.

We believe that before you use any powerful tool, you should not only find out its capabilities and dangers, but also create a plan for its use.
Beginning to use social media without a strategy would be like
tossing the keys of your SUV to your 10-year-old.”

Social Media Performance Group

The Social Media Performance Group strategy process begins with an enterprise social media readiness assessment. You need to understand how ready your staff, leadership, board, and other stakeholders are to make the changes that will be necessary to embrace social computing.

Although you may not realize it at the planning stage, success­fully implementing social media to support your strategies will require organizational changes, some large, some small, and some that may be upsetting or controversial. For example, if you’re a business that has a strict command and control hierarchy where every external communication is approved at a high level, you’ll need to change to be able to fully leverage social
media. The legal department of one enterprise we know recently approved 40 tweets. Yeah, that’ll work.

If the idea Be a Person scares you, you’ll need to do some organizational transformation before social media is right for you.

Of course, not all businesses are ready for social computing. In fact there are some who have ingrained styles and tendencies that will make
adopting social media impossible, if not actually detrimental. How can you tell if your business is one of them?

Top Ten Signs You Should Avoid Social Media

Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, put together a somewhat humorous collection [1] of indicators of organizational dysfunction that would make adopting social computing a risky business. We’ve adapted and expanded them in the following list.

You have no social skills (and don’t want to fake them)

If your organization has problems relating with staff, customers, or other stakeholders, those problems are likely to be magnified by using social computing. Be honest with yourself when assessing your organiz­ation’s readiness to openly relate with a large group of your stakeholders.

You have no sense of humor/can’t handle criticism

A sense of humor often doesn’t make it onto the list of things to consider about social computing, but it should. If your organization gets stirred up by the least little bit of criticism, or has a habit of mis­interpreting humorous comments, think twice before adopting social media. Using social media means you are opening yourself up to unvarnished dialog with both your supporters and your detractors. If you don’t think you can handle it, social computing is not for you.

You’re going to forget about it in the morning

Social computing takes a commitment. It can’t be a start and stop kind of thing. Once you engage with your community, you aren’t going to be able to go back to ignoring them. So be sure you have a long-term, sustainable commitment to social computing before venturing forth.

Openness is a problem for you

This one is pretty much self-explanatory. If your org­an­iz­­ational style emphasizes secrecy, security, and a lack of sharing, you’re not going to succeed with social computing. Ask yourself what you’re hiding, and why, and whether you can open up before getting involved with social media.

You’re only there to sell

If you think social computing is just about selling, or marketing, or pushing messages into just another media channel, better to forget it. Remember that social media involves relationships and two-way conversation, and that you must respect your comm­unity’s point of view to be successful. You should also be wary if your leadership plans on having others masquerade as them online. Social media is about trans­parency, not facades.

You view social media as a numbers game

This is a common attitude toward social media. You see it on LinkedIn among the LIONs (There’s more on that in the What is a LinkedIn LION ™? section) The number of followers on social media is generally not what your business should concentrate on. The quality of your interactions with your community is vastly more important than the quantity.

You sometimes resort to name calling

We decided to edit this one. Barone’s original number 7 was: You’re inclined to call people’s wives “douchettes.” Apparently, a CEO actually did call some­one’s wife a douchette, [2] although not online. Nevertheless, if your business has folks in it who might be inclined to disparage others, think twice about bringing this sort of thing to social computing.

You think Twitter is a social media strategy

We hope you know by now that we think you shouldn’t get into social computing without first understanding how it can support your organization’s strategy, and without creating a social media strategy to guide your usage. There are lots of consultants out there that think putting together a Twitter campaign, or a Facebook page, or a few YouTube videos is a great way to get started with social media. Tell that to Motrin.

You don’t have a “social” culture

There are lots of signs of an anti-social-computing culture. The tendency to run everything by the lawyers. Endless rounds of revisions with final approval by top executives. A prohibition of social media site usage while at work. Blocking YouTube. Some of these tendencies can be overcome, and some might be enough to indicate problems with social computing acceptance. If your general organizational culture emphasizes tightly controlling the message, you’re not likely to succeed with social media.

You don’t have permission

In Barone’s list, this item refers to staff who attempt to speak for the business without authorization, but we turn this around a little bit to mean, “Can you give your stakeholders permission to represent your business?” When you think about it, your staff, customers, and other stakeholders DO represent your business, every day, and can work on your behalf. But it’s sometimes a hard step for an organization to let go enough to enable them to do the same on social media. Be sure you can let go before engaging with social media.

Do a Quick Survey of Your Stakeholders

To help determine if you’re ready for social media, a social computing assessment can identify those who will embrace social computing, and who will resist. It also helps identify those who are willing but need training on how to use social computing.

The assessment can be done online using the Social Media Performance Group’s free Social Media Readiness Survey[3] or via pen and paper using the version reproduced on page 55.

Do a Quick Survey of Your Customers

It is important to know what customers and prospects already know about social media so you can target your efforts to their ability to respond online. If your target audience is largely offline, you will want to use social media inside your company rather than externally.

It’s important to realize that, due to socio-economic diff­erences, many groups may not have regular access to social computing, which obviously can significantly alter your strategy in engaging them online. In your survey, you may want to segment prospects and customers by socio-economic status, which may affect how easily you can reach them via social media.

If your audience doesn’t have computer-based online access, you may be able to reach them online via their mobile phones. In this case, you should consider using the Social Media Performance Group’s free Mobile Social Media Use Survey. [4] The survey can also be found in the second part of the Social Media Performance Group Social Media Readiness Survey™, reproduced in the next section, and live at:

After your survey is done, take a look at the results and divide the respondents into at least two groups: those who are likely to respond to social media, and those who probably won’t. You’ll need to base your social media plans on the com­position of these groups. If, for example, the non-social-media group represents the majority of your stakeholders, you may want to consider educational approaches to help them learn about the benefits of social media. On the other hand, if the social-media-using group is large, you may want to consider more-sophisticated approaches to identify and enable your supporters via social media.

Assess Related Businesses

Identify closely-related businesses and partners you deal with on a regular basis, especially those with similar or com­plementary missions, particularly in your region. Find out what they are doing with social media. Not only might this give you ideas for your own approach, you may be able to team up with them to help further your social media reach.

Up next: Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing

Want to read the whole book? Order at and save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

Outspoken Media provides online marketing services. Barone’s list is at:

Hear the audio at:

SMPG’s Social Media Readiness Survey:

Social Media Performance Group’s Mobile Social Media Use Survey: