Stop! Before you hire a Social Media Guru – Read this.

Social media is the latest fad in marketing.  Every business owner and manager I know is asking about social media. Unfortunately, they are asking the wrong questions.

I am hearing questions such as; should I be on Facebook? Or should I use Twitter and LinkedIn? Or the more generic – should I hire a social media person?

What they should be asking are questions like; what are the communications objectives? Will social media help me to meet those objectives? How will social media enable me to increase not only sales, but overall profitability of my business?

Here are four main questions you should examine before starting to hire a social media specialist.

Does your business have a marketing plan?

Now I do not mean that 47-page document that go produced three years ago – and now sits collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.

What I mean is a working marketing plan that guides how you create and implement marketing strategies.

At the very least, it should define your target market and your key message. Your marketing paln should contain a summary of ongoing marketing activities.

You can then look at social media as an add-on strategy and see how it can fit with other strategies to communicate your key message to your target market (as that is the reason for any marketing to exist).

teamDo I have the people in place to make Social Media sustainable?

Social media is not a quick fix to a sales problem.  Social media is a long-term strategy that produces results only after sustained work to build your online community. You need people to be out in the virtual world spreading your message. You need someone to manage that process. Even more important – you need the top-level management to understand the strategy and commit to it for the long term.

Do I have the building blocks to create a company-wide social media policy?

Would you think it wise to start playing a game of chess without knowing the rules? To implement a social media strategy without have a social media policy in place is similar. A Rook can move two spaces in one direction and one space over – defined – exact – clear. Can your assistant make a post on Twitter saying she just save 42% on Priceline booking you a trip to Japan to meet with the ABC company president?  Unless you have a policy in place – this may happen.

The building blocks of a social media policy include a company privacy officer and privacy document.  It also includes your website privacy information and terms of use. It includes an understanding of the implications of social media at a senior management level (the last thing you want to hear is the CEO saying ‘Why did you not tell me this could happen’ six months from now). Another block is an updated HR policy manual and an understanding of social media by your human resources team.

Why am I considering Social Media?

Social media is not as simple as running an advertisement campaign or putting on an event.  Effective use of social media involves sharing the culture of your organization with the world – and building a community that embraces that culture.

Are you ready to expose your organization in that way? Can you be authentic?

If you are simply adding social media because you think you need to follow the trend – then don’t.

Realize that social media – despite all the proclamations that says it is – is not free.  Social media is an investment in the long-term marketing of your company – as well as the building of your company into a community.

Social Media is harder than you think!success

I am not suggesting that an organization should not become involved in Social Media.  In fact, I would suggest that every organization should be involved in some way with social media – but it needs to be the right way for that organization.

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