Danger – Spontaneity Ahead! Why You Need a Communications Strategy for Social Media.

We live in a complex but highly networked world!

Never before have so many people had the ability to communicate cheaply with each other, and the rest of the world, at length!

  • You can broadcast and you can have conversations through networking sites like Facebook, Twitter etc and through messaging services!
  • You  can publish and broadcast if you choose through blogs, and through sites like YouTube.
  • You can produce your own radio programmes and even become a DJ through music sites like Blip.fm sitting at home and on the move!
  • Increasingly LinkedIn is a key tool in professional networking and recruitment.

A little while ago this digital world belonged to techies and school kids.  Now it can belong to all of us.

Increasingly, it will play a role in both career and business survival.  A little while ago all you needed to know was how to surf the net to find and download information. Now you need to know how to put it back up there so that you can control and develop your personal brand.

Messages flow fast!  Once you have sent them, they continue to exist on the web for a very long time.  So to be purely spontaneous is to take a risk. If you are in business or hoping to develop your career, you need a strategy for your communications.

Before you start here are a few tips.

1. Integrate online and offline.

Your communication’s strategy needs to cover both your offline and online activities!

If you meet up with contacts you have made on the web, will they know who you are? No, I’m not talking about having a photo that bears some relationship to how you look today.  (Although, it makes sense to choose a flattering photo that does you justice, have a care if you want to avoid embarrassment)

What I’m talking about is authenticity and integrity.  Don’t express views on line that you don’t really hold, or that you wouldn’t be prepared to express in public, to your boss, your work mates, your neighbours and, of course, your customers! You’d be surprised what people remember and what people find on the web!

2. Start with a plan!

Before you jump in, make sure you have a plan!  Think about who you are trying to influence.  Who has an interest in you, your business or your career and what you do?

List them and then decide how important they are and how much influence they have over your future!  What heading will you put them under?  For example;

  • government
  • your sector
  • customers and potential customers
  • shareholders
  • potential business partners
  • board/top management
  • suppliers  and potential new suppliers,
  • managers,
  • staff,
  • trade unions
  • wider sector interests,
  • personal contacts
  • family,
  • your community
  • interest groups

You can take it as far as you wish!

Who has the priority?  You can score them out of five under each heading!

Those with the highest score are the people to concentrate on.

For social media you are usually looking at communities – what communities are you going to engage in?

Now how will you engage and what will that  engagement  look like?

What is the message and where are you going to communicate it – blogs, social network sites, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc.?

How much time have you got and how many resources do you have available? Do you have resources available to take professional advice?

3. Engage in Conversations.

Remember although organisations use social media to broadcast, that isn’t how they are best used.

When you use social media, it’s important to engage in conversations and get to know people just like in the offline world.

Don’t just get in there and start pitching – it will just put people off!  And on social media sites people get put off pretty quickly. You’d be surprised how quickly they can switch you off!

Don’t be anxious to promote yourself or your business at first!  You have to give, to get.  Add value and expertise and win respect in your conversations.  You need to win the right to pitch!

The courtesies are just as important as they are in the off line world!  Say please and thank you and acknowledge when someone has bothered to spend time with you or done you a favour!

If you are polite and engage in real conversations, relationships will begin to form.  You will see opportunities open up to talk about you and what you want to offer!

4. Monitor your “Brand”

Use tools like Google Alerts, and Yahoo Alerts to monitor what’s being said about you, your organisation, others in your sector and the market you are targeting.

Knowing what is being said about you and/or your brand can make you aware of your impact. Knowing what’s being said about your sector, your competitors and your market can also make you more competitive.

I use Google Alerts as well to find out about the latest developments in my professional discipline.

But simply putting your name and the name of your organisation into a search engine regularly will tell you a lot about your web presence!

5. Focus and Ignore the Noise

There are so many conversations taking place and so much interesting content that it is easy to be distracted.

I have to work very hard each morning to switch off from Twitter to concentrate on my in-tray! This is where your plan comes in!  Remind yourself what you are trying to say and the communities you want to address.

Stick to the plan!

But review it at regular intervals as you get to understand more about social media.  You can streamline your plan to better target individuals and the communities that you need to be a part of, as you gain experience and knowledge.

Streamlining saves time – as I’ve hinted above, social media is so enjoyable that  it can be the greatest time waster in the world!

Above all remember: “If content is king, then conversation is queen.” – John Munsell, CEO of Bizzuka.

I would love to hear about your own experience of social media and if you need any help please get in touch!

A shorter version of this post was posted here in June 2009.  I’ve revised and expanded it based on my own experience of social media.

  • Why Use LinkedIn? (brighthub.com)
  • 5 tips to build your personal brand with social media (xpressartuk.wordpress.com)
Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439