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7 Steps to Building a Successful Social Media Strategy

Social media has been termed as the fastest growing marketing tool of the decade, as it gives companies the power to access millions of customers at the touch of a button. With over 91% of Internet users using at least one social networking tool, it has become imperative for every business to build an effective strategy. Here are 7 key steps towards developing a successful social media strategy for your business.

1. Establish your goals

The launch of a strategy is similar to any other marketing strategy. Determine what exactly your goals are before opening accounts in major social networks. An important point to be kept in mind is that social media is a long-term strategy aimed at building and strengthening relationships and brand identity as opposed to a quick selling marketing gimmick.

2. Create a plan

Your marketing plan should include the number of social networks to get started with, specifying the number of times each account will be updated and deciding on whether the updates will be announcements or conversations. You will also have to decide on how to integrate your social media strategy with your company's overall communication's strategy.

3. Appoint a social media manager

If you have adequate resources it is prefer to appoint a social network manager, with previous experience, to handle the regular updating of the different social networks. If not, you can delegate the updating task to a few of your employees who are familiar and comfortable with the domain.

4. Determine your niche

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Reddit, Yelp; the list keeps growing day by day. Each network comes with its own strengths and weaknesses and opportunities and threats. You have to research and determine as to which network will work best with your target audience. Remember that your niche will vary depending upon whether your business is local, regional, national or global.

5. Engage with your contacts

This can be termed as the most important aspect of a social media strategy. Your contacts are the main influence you have in building and sustaining a positive corporate identity. Engage with your contacts through both online and offline events. For example, social microblogging site Twitter offers opportunities for online engagement through TweetChat and offline events through Tweetup.

6. Evaluate and analyze your progress

Keep track of important statistics like the number of updates, new number of followers / fans that have been added, number of comments / feedback and other significant actions that were taken. Objective measure and analyze these vital metrics against your social media goals on a weekly or monthly basis.

7. Adapt and improve when necessary

In conclusion, it is important to remember that there is no precise science where social media strategy is concerned. Strategies vary in accordance with business type and industry. It is only as you keep using the media, that you will be able to forgive what particular strategies work well for your company and what do not. For example, you may have learned that while holding contests on Facebook may get you more 'likes', it may not need to help you connect with your preferred target audience. The secret is to not give up but to keep adapting and making improvements to your social media strategy whenever needed.