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Where Does Social Media Fit Into Your Business Plan?

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Where Does Social Media Fit Into Your Business Plan?

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: May 31, 2012

What started as college kids on Facebook has grown up. At first it was updates and gossip and who’s a couple and who’s not. Then came Twitter and now Google+ and the reminder that LinkedIn, which started years earlier, was there too. Somebody named it social media. And now almost every business in the world is either participating, thinking about participating, or explaining to itself why not. And it’s time to relate that back to your basic business planning.

So the question is actually three questions:

1. How does your social media strategy fit into business strategy?

Like all elements of strategy, your social media has to address needs and goals. Are you looking at it to affect marketing, sales, customer service, or something else? You need to think this through.

The most common use is as a part of your marketing. Businesses use social media to reach more people and to present the business as a persona, participating in public discourse. Does it replace other more traditional marketing programs for you?  Or is it an extension of other programs? Determine how it relates to the strategic marketing process of getting people to know, like, and trust you.  Set realistic goals for realistic business functions and benefits.  Social media doesn’t do advertising well. It’s about participation and discussion, not just selling. It broadens your voice, but that doesn’t mean you’re able to just shout ad slogans at people.

Social media can extend beyond marketing into other functional areas. My favorite example is the taco truck using Twitter to announce its location every day. And we can all see some larger companies using it to soften the tone of complaints. Make sure you include these elements in your social media strategy if they fit your business and your overall strategy.

What matters is that you position your social media with its business function in your business. It’s not just doing it because everybody says you should. Think of the business benefits.

2. More important, how will you execute that strategy?

Social media is littered with the remnants of business efforts that failed. That includes blogs with only a few posts, Facebook pages left unattended, Twitter accounts that are inactive, and so on. That’s because so many people think it happens automatically, when in fact you need to manage the work involved.

One of the biggest fallacies in business social media is the idea that it just happens in your spare time. The accounts are free, but the updates take time and effort.  Here’s where your business planning becomes very important: figure out where that time and effort is coming from. Who is going to do it and where will they find the time to do it? If you and your people are already working well, how then do you add this new set of duties into the mix? Is there spare time to dedicate to this? What will people not be doing so they have time to do this?

Good business planning involves not just high-level strategy but also day-to-day execution. Make sure your plan includes the details of what you expect to do with your various social media accounts, who is responsible, and how will you measure results.

3. And even more important, how will you track results?

This is always a good question for business planning: As time goes on, how will you know whether you’re executing or not? With social media, as with any other component of your business plan, you develop your metrics as part of the plan. By metrics I mean numbers such as Facebook likes, Twitter followers, mentions, retweets, pluses, and so forth. There are tools for social media measurement available on the web (just search social media measurement and you’ll see).

The main thing is having the discipline to not only track but also to follow up with reviews and revisions.  Your original plans will need changing. Unforeseen factors will require reviewing goals and metrics, changing responsibilities, and adjusting the strategy. Like everything else in your business, the planning, which includes regular review and course correction, is what ends up generating the management and steering the business. 

About the Author:

Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 44 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including The Plan As You Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press, 2008.

Comments:

now i think social media is very important for my business
It also helps to understand how and when to employ some basic forms of automation to help distribute your message to as many of your social accounts as possible. This saves some valuable time - albeit at a price of less personal connection with your customers. This sort of strategy is exactly what we covered in our social media marketing automation pdf (see Link Removed).
Nowadays social media plays a very important role if you want to start your business online. Social media does help spread news about your new website and get people to visit the site. But you better have the sharing plugin install on site so people can then share your web pages and get more customer.
Set realistic goals for realistic business functions and benefits. Social media doesn’t do advertising well. It’s about participation and discussion, not just selling. It broadens your voice, but that doesn’t mean you’re able to just shout ad slogans at people.
Social media is really essential to business especially on promotion. It looked more personal when businesses promote via social media networks.
Google loves social media for ranking of websites. I believe if one spends a little extra time on social media their web exposure will go up greatly.
If you aren't currently doing social media as a online or small business, you are falling behind because most of your competitors will take advantage if you don't. We are in a society that is based off of reviews and recommendations that are friends or people in our circle make.
This is a great article. I am using Facebook for my business and also adding additional social media sites to my "arsenal" of marketing. I am finding Facebook to be a great medium for me to link to from my website and email newsletters. I can post my photos there and some discussions to get interaction. I recommend all businesses especially those small business owners should embrace social media and figure out it can benefit their business. -Simone Baldwin Teachers Insurance Specialists   This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices (http://www.sba.gov/community) for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
Thanks for this useful advice..
Great post and thanks for taking the time to do it but the truth is I think social media is over hyped. Even FORD said they spent over 20 million dollars last year on facebook advertising and it was the most useless thing they've ever done and they will be stopping...

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