Recently I was talking with a friend whose baby girl has just started to crawl. While watching footage of this little gal get around – hesitantly and haltingly at first – it made me think of how important it is to progress strategically and methodically toward any destination or goal, including in social media.
While it’s important to begin with the end in sight, we also need to take joy in the journey to get to that end. If you want to be a social media pro, remember to value and savor the steps along the way as you engage with the various tools and methods to tell a story. Make sure you learn to walk before you run:
- Crawl – When entering the world of social media, it’s vital to remember that you’re still dealing with individuals interested in human stories. Don’t get distracted by the tools and platforms. Take the time to first understand what your (or your institution’s) inherent systems and processes, resources, and culture are. What are institutional barriers you may face in going social? Public companies face different issues than private companies, and different platforms make more sense for different audiences (e.g. a LinkedIn group vs. Facebook, depending on if you’re B2B or B2C). Thinking through what makes the most sense before starting will increase your chances for success – and decrease the chances your institution will write off social media as a fad or flop.
- Walk – After you’ve made a strategy, begin engaging with one tool at a time. It’s important to take a note from the Johnson & Johnson playbook and get a presence in one platform launched and running well before branching out into another. Also, don’t discount the importance of building on your own real estate first. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook may be buzzing upon everyone’s lips, but they could be supplanted by the next big thing – remember MySpace and Friendster, after all? If you start an in-house blog on your own website, you’ll have control over it regardless of external forces. Be flexible as you try new things, remembering that nothing is permanent, but also be committed to the overall purpose behind social media: connecting with your audience. See what works, changing and adjusting as you go.
- Run – Once you’ve mastered getting a social media presence launched, you’ll hit that prized end point of having a fully integrated social business, complete with measurable tracking and analytics that help you better understand the impact communicating with customers has on your business. Remember, the connection between social media and ROI may not be measurable in strict numbers, but social breeds customer loyalty, and that’s something that can’t be slapped with a price tag.
The process of implementing a winning social media strategy takes patience, but as you enjoy each milestone on the way to running with the best-practice examples, you’ll be able to savor the successes along the way with your lasting audience.