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Connecting Your Business to Social Media

Date: July, 2010

It is rapidly becoming apparent that engaging in social media can be critical to business success, at least in the foreseeable future. How do you get started? There is no exact blueprint, but the following steps should be helpful.

 1. Establish your brand. The first component of a social media plan is to create a brand and circulate it. Make sure you have control of your identity all over the Internet. Grab the best user name for your purposes at the first available opportunity. For convenience, you might use a site such as "knowem?" to search a large listing of social media sites.

 2. Determine what you hope to accomplish through social media. Do not enter into the process without a plan. For instance, you may be seeking to--

 *create better overall awareness of your business; 

 *build "buzz" about a particular product or service; 

 *drive more traffic to your Web site; 

*increase leads for the sales force; and

*receive input from the public about your brand. 

3. Develop a means to measure success. Identify a method to quantify the buzz you may be generating. It might relate to blog comments, links, Twitter talk or better brand recognition. Without a way to benchmark results, you are likely to fail. At the very least, you will not be able to implement changes unless you have a measuring stick. 

 4. Tell your story. In essence, try to have clients invest in your story and who you are. Don't construct a fantasy about yourself, but take the time to become aware of your identity. What are you known for, and what do you want to be known for? 

 5. Plan your social media activities to be as effective as they can be. Do not waste your time in communities where you will gain little traction. Try to "put a face" on your customers. Who are they, and what are they interested in? Are they on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other sites? Wherever they are, find them, along with other potential customers who gravitate to social media. Also, study the best communities for your interests.

 6. Create social media guidelines. For instance, you might document limits on company disclosures, avoid discussing any confidential information and refrain from disparaging the company or otherwise using impolite dialogue. You will also need rules, not for just what you will say, but who will be in charge of saying it. 

 7. Fine-tune the plan. Some other issues you will want to address include:

 *How will social media be integrated into your core strategy?

  *Who from the company will engage? Will there be one voice? Or will you have a team use a single branded account? What about personal accounts? 

 *How much time will be spent on social media? 

 *How long will the company run tests before evaluating the success? 

 These issues should be resolved before you actually engage in social media activities. When you finally enter the social space, listen carefully, and begin forming a platform for people to talk openly.
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