A colleague of mine, Carol McAvoy, has a consulting practice for professional services firms.  On her blog, she wanted to address an issue that many companies face, the pressure to jump into social media, even without a strategy.  She asked what advice I would give companies feeling the pressure.  Here are my top three suggestions for success and sanity when engaging with social media.

1. Define your goals.  Ask yourself, why are we, as a company, engaging with social media?  “Because everyone else is doing it” is not a sound social media strategy. Before you start, determine who you are trying to reach and why as well as the results you are hope to achieve.

Make sure to staff for the effort and assume it will be long term.  Unlike an ad campaign, social media is about building relationships incrementally via quick-response interactions.

2. Market where your audience is.  Focus your efforts on building a presence on social sites where your target audience will see and can interact with your messages (MySpace or LinkedIn?). Consider starting small by connecting with your existing customer base on a single theme to keep your initial social media marketing efforts from becoming overwhelming.  Don’t forget to tell your audience where to find you by making sure all of your communications list additional ways to connect, learn and interact with your company and its people.

3. Add value to conversations by sharing expertise and taking the conversation deeper.  Particularly in a B2B context, audiences are looking for information, advice and experts that will help them be successful in their work.  Make your company a trusted resource by providing information on relevant news and events.  What’s happening this week that may affect your customer’s business?  How can you help your audience be in the know?

With these tips in mind, your company can successfully showcase its people, thinking and capabilities while effectively connecting with customers and prospects.

What are your top tips for successfully engaging with social media?