Define Your Needs
We’ve all heard about Social Media’s much-trumpeted power to create relationships with consumers and build brand awareness. Indeed, social media has opened up a wealth of marketing opportunities. But before you plunge into the social pool, you need to decide how relevant these objectives are to your business. What if your needs are more modest? Maybe you just want to increase foot traffic to your store. Perhaps your biggest challenge has nothing to do with your customers, but rather your company’s communication is vexed by the geographical gulf between offices. The point is Social Media is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and clarifying your needs if the first step to tailoring it to your business.
Decide How You Will Use It
While all social media shares the common goal of connecting you with others, different types of social media have different functions, so it makes sense to decide how you’re going to use it before you choose a platform. Do you want to foster camaraderie and facilitate collaboration between remote workers? Are you trying to elicit feedback from your customers about your services? Do you want to bolster your recruiting efforts? Buttoning down how you plan to employ social media in your business operations will narrow the field of viable platforms considerably.
Identify Your Audience
It seems obvious, but you have to know whom you’re going to be talking to. A company trying to engage with as many consumers as possible is going is likely not going to use the same tool — or at least use it in the same way — as an SMB owner who wants to connect with his contractors. Likewise a salesperson who wants a better way to manage client relationships will use social differently than a marketer tracking customer interactions. In addition to different features, each social platform has its own culture, tone and types of users, so its critical to be clear about with whom you want to connect so you can choose the appropriate channel to best leverage your social efforts.
Choose the Right Tool
With these questions answered, you’re better armed to evaluate the myriad social media offerings and strategically select the appropriate platform (or platforms) to meet your business requirements.
If you’re a merchant that relies on local patronage, you’ll be better served by a location-based service like Foursquare or Gowalla, whose ability to reward check-ins with discounts and other rewards generates walk-in traffic in a way that blasting your marketing message to millions of Facebook users can’t.