Social media plans: why failing to prepare really is preparing to fail

by Kirsten Hodgson

Whatever people might say, social media is NOT a strategy. But it is a tactic (or series of tactics) you can use to achieve your overall business and marketing objectives. Before you start using social media (or before you go any further) then you need to be clear about what you want to achieve and who you want to engage with. Answer the questions:

  • How can I use social media to help me achieve my business and marketing objectives?
  • Which objectives could social media be an appropriate tactic for?

Putting together an action plan can feel like a chicken and egg situation because it’s hard to know how you can leverage social media without having used it first. The steps I recommend are:

  1. Identify those you want to engage with (or monitor!) For example existing clients, prospects, referrers, peers, competitors.
  2. Identify which social media platforms they use. Start by asking people you know with whom you wish to engage, and use the search functions within each social media network to see if those you wish to engage with are on the platform (such as the ‘Advanced search’ function within LinkedIn. You can find this in the top right hand corner of your menu bar. To enter the advanced screen simply click on the word ‘Advanced’ next to the magnifying glass icon. You can then search by name, company name, position etc).
  3. Write down which networks you will use to engage with your audience(s). If you are new to social media I would pick one network initially and use it well before moving onto others. This is to ensure you don’t spread yourself too thinly. While it can be tempting to use tools such as Hootsuite (which is a fab tool that I highly recommend) to post to multiple platforms simultaneously, you need to be careful that you get the tone right for each network and that what you are posting is relevant to that audience. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing every single tweet someone puts out in your LinkedIn or Facebook stream.
  4. Write down what topics/areas you would like to engage them on. What are the things that are important to your target audience that you can help with, or what would you like to find out more about from them? What discussion topics will you respond to? Identifying these areas really does help you focus and prevents you wasting time online, which is so easy to do.
  5. Write down how you will use each social media network, including which features you will use to engage with people and how often. I recommend creating a simple spreadsheet to set out this info. Using LinkedIn as an example you should consider how and how often you will use:
  • Status updates
  • Posting to groups
  • Responding to discussions within groups
  • Asking and answering questions
  • Polls
  • Events

Within Facebook, where do those you want to engage currently hang out? How can you get in front of them in these places? I think too many firms rely on others visiting their page rather than going to where those they wish to engage with are.

My advice would be: -

If you have an overall goal around client retention and growth then look at how you can use social media to better service your existing clients. For example, you may want to think about a quick response Twitter account, that your clients know they can use if they want someone to contact them immediately, or you might want to set up a private group on LinkedIn for particular clients where you and they can brainstorm issues of interest to them, meet others who they would benefit from meeting etc.

If one of your goals is to grow your business in a particular sector or area of specialism then first and foremost you will want to find out where the key industry players and others you want to engage with are. The best way to find out is to ask those you wish to engage with which social media networks they use. Alternatively, search for them on existing social media networks. Within LinkedIn, for example, you can use the Advanced Search Option: [INSERT VIDEO SHOWING PEOPLE HOW] Go where your ta is. From a business development and marketing perspective, I’ve identified 9 key ways professionals can use social media:

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant