Want a Social Media Presence? Think Puppy.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you wanted a pet? You were focused on how fun it would be to have a new dog or cat, lizard or rodent. Your parents were focused on explaining that a pet requires care and feeding, that it’s an ongoing responsibility, and that you were ready to take on this new relationship. As, it turns out, pet ownership is good training for and a lot like having a social media presence. There is the fun of having a new thing to learn about and engage with but also the responsibility of an ongoing relationship.

Just as when getting a pet, some expectation setting and advance planning for social media account ownership will make the adventure less stressful and a lot more rewarding. Use the checklist below to make sure you are ready for a successful social media experience.

5-Point Readiness Checklist for Social Media

1 – Aligned to a business objective?

Are you clear about why you are participating in social media or how this particular social account is connected to a core business objective? “We need a social media presence” is not a business objective. A business objective is something like “expand awareness, engagement, and use of our widget among luxury brand marketers”. Without a clear connection to your business purpose, you may be building a presence on the wrong site(s), your social sharing will be less targeted and your messages will not resonate. Set your strategy first, then pick your social networks, your tone, and your content (see post on this topic).

2 – Prepared to measure, before launch?

Armed with a solid business objective, you can determine the metrics for successful social media engagement. Are you trying to enhance your brand, drive revenues, innovate products? Make sure you are measuring actions and results that are relevant to your goals (see post on this topic). This will help you know if you’re being successful, and if you’re not, what to try to improve.

3 – Prepared for the long haul?

Social media engagement is not a one-time or short-lived endeavor. Unlike a campaign or a burst of outreach activities, social media requires an ongoing and intensive effort to deliver results. When you create an account, you are making a promise to participate in a relationship with a community. A social presence is not something you can participate in for a month and then walk away from, at least not if you want to avoid damaging your brand and failing to achieve the business results you anticipated. Set your expectations, and those of your colleagues, that building a presence will be a process and an ongoing effort.

4 – Resourced adequately?

An active social media account requires proper staffing, content and resources to be successful. Content is the lifeblood of social media so a steady stream of new and relevant content will be needed. Like exercise and food for your pet, you will need a plan for creating, curating, posting and sharing a steady stream of compelling and fresh content (an editorial calendar is key) for each social media account. Content will need to be refreshed at least weekly, and possibly daily, depending on the type of business you’re in and your business goals. Further, those creating and posting content as well as those responding to comments, must be ready to engage. Missing or extending content deadlines, allowing comments to languish for weeks, or responding negatively will kill your chances for success. Make sure you have a person or team lined up for each account that is trained and available to engage in timely and positive online dialog.

5 – Ready for the unexpected?

Social engagement differs from the push marketing of the past. Social is not a broadcast medium. It is a two-way medium that inherently delivers surprises. When you get a puppy you are thinking about how fun it will be to play with that furry ball of energy, not how many hours you will spend cleaning up accidents and replacing shoes and furniture. Similarly, you may think your social media efforts will be days filled with posting daily specials and having people tell you how great they are. But in reality, when you open a social media account, you also open a door to anyone who wants to communicate with you on that social network.

Customers are now accustomed to accessing companies via social media and they aren’t concerned with your agenda there. They see you as a representative of the company and if they have a complaint or a question about your products or services, they will communicate it via social media and expect a quick response. Have a plan for what to do with customer inquiries and comments that are unrelated to your specific business objective. Also be mentally and professionally prepared to address negative comments. Have an action plan for who will draft and review responses on short notice. Being able to respond quickly and professionally will prevent a social media PR disaster.

What’s on your checklist for social media readiness?

Read More: Social Business Readiness: 5 Questions for Human Resources