The biggest reason businesses fail in social media is lack of strategy. Businesses have to remember to stop looking for "shiny new tools" just because everyone is using them and thinks they are the "holy grail" of the online world. It is paramount to take the time to learn the correct way to use social media, and implement the strategy that is suitable for your business. And, the truth is it should always come last in any planning you do for your business. It is also important to understand that it is not the end-all solution to your business problems, and it should never be used as a replacement strategy or as a stand-alone.
If you want to succeed with this, there are some strategy steps you must take before you dive into the online world. So, let's strip away all the hype and go through the right steps that must be taken to help you determine if social media is appropriate for your business. If you go through the following 10 steps in the order I list them, you will gain clarity, save time and reduce it overwhelm.
1. Be open-minded and change the traditional way you communicate with customers, employees, investors, partners, the media, etc. As an entrepreneur, it is important to create a social mind-set for relationship marketing, networking, engaging and collaborating.
2. Educate yourself and become familiar with all the categories and how they can be integrated together as well as the entire marketing mix in order to leverage and maximize your efforts.
3. Pinpoint existing resources that may be needed for (employees, time, budget, tools, etc.).
4. Determine if you have weaknesses in your business that may potentially hurt you online (ie, poorly designed website or no website, bad customer service, weak content, negative comments from customers, etc.)
5. Determine if you have strengths in your business that you can leverage online (ie, available content like videos, e-Books, or brand lovers who are already talking about you, etc.)
6. See what your competitors are doing. Just observes and takes notes; do not be a copy-cat.
7. Identify your target audience, and determine when and where they hang out online.
8. Set clear goals and objectives. Goals are general statements (ie, "We want to leverage social media to improve customer service"). Objectives are more specific and measurable (ie, "By December 2010, we want to triple traffic to our website and increase sales by 20 percent").
9. Decide what you want to use for (ie, prospecting, recruiting, customer service, etc.) and how you want to engage your online audience. Do you want to use it for communication, collaboration, education, entertainment or all of them?
10. Based on what you came up with in the last nine steps, select the social media categories and tools you want to use (social networking, video, podcasting, photo-sharing, blogging, etc.).
There are many more factors to consider before putting together a strategy; however, if done properly, these steps will give you a clear picture of the landscape and help you determine whether social media is right for your business or not.