As I get more involved in social media for business -- I'm doing a lot of that lately -- I can see more each day that the new business landscape social media creates is a significant change, a good thing for a lot of businesses, but still something that depends on fundamentals. Whether it's for marketing, sales, customer service, fulfillment, or some other business purpose, when social media is part of what a business is doing, it should be managed by planning and follow-up.
With that in mind, here's my suggestion for the elements of a social-media action plan:
What's the problem? What are you trying to achieve? Start by stating that out loud, defining it, and writing it down. It may seem like too obvious but real business happens over time, with actions, not just in meetings. Setting the context correctly matters.
For example, social media for your business might be a matter of generating and publishing content to attract visitors to your website, where they buy services. It might also be about publishing information, like the whereabouts of the taco truck. Or it might be to deal with complaints, like bad reviews. Maybe it's like sales collateral, helping to close sales by positioning the business and its expertise. Start your plan by stating the goal.
Having defined the goals, how are you going to achieve them? What specifically do you want to do? An action plan must have specific concrete steps that need to be taken. For social media, that would be actions like setting up accounts, developing graphics for the different pages, defining what kinds of updates should be done, on which platform, and others. How many tweets are required? How many are too many? Do you post the same thing exactly on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn? What kind of content gets liked or retweeted? What's supposed to happen?
As the plan gets going, and business gets going, how will you know if your plan is even working? How will you judge performance? How will you compare your plan to your actual results in order to review and revise your plan?
All of that takes establishing the measurement -- the numbers -- as you develop your plan. Don't worry about guessing the future correctly, because nobody does. Just make the assumptions logical and the guesses numerical, so you can test them when you're underway, and revise them as results come. Standard numbers for measuring social media could be traffic generated, tweets, updates, likes, retweets, increase in sales, orders for special deals, or even the interesting social-media measurements like Klout or peer index that combine numbers into theoretical measurement of influence or impact.
4. Committing the people
Committees, groups, and meetings don't actually do anything for a real business. It takes people. So an action plan includes very clearly defined tasks and responsibilities. Who does what? Make that explicit. Beware of the dangers of having multiple people involved in a solution, without any one person committed to doing something.
Develop commitment, not just involvement. Compare the role of the pig to the role of the chicken in the classic bacon-and-egg breakfast: The chicken is involved, the pig is committed.
The social-media action plan should define who's doing what. Is it one person on Twitter and another on Facebook? Is one gathering and curating content and another watching complaints? Who does the messaging? Who develops blog posts? Spell it out.
5. Tracking and following up
Like everything in planning for business, the social-media action plan is only as good as the actions it causes. Goals, actions, tracking, and people lead to a review-and-revise session scheduled in advance on a regular basis, like once a month. Look at the plan, compare it to actual results, discuss the reasons for the difference between plan and actual, and revise the plan. This also includes reviewing performance of the individuals and specific tasks against their numeric measurement. At this point, it's called management.