When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind. It’s not often that I quote first century Roman philosophers on this blog, but I heard this quote by Seneca the Younger somewhere recently and it perfectly sums up why we need to plan what we’re doing with social media. Here are some tips and resources from around the web that might help you put your plan together.
1. Who are your audiences? Where are they?
In other words, who are you trying to reach by using social media? As a charity you’re likely to have many audiences – including service-users, supporters, funding bodies, staff, potential volunteers and so on and so on – and you will not only have to tailor your use of social media to match each one, but perhaps even choose your social network according to the likes and dislikes of any particular audience.
All Twitter has an excellent infographic which will help you work through the stages of developing a social media plan, and step one is shown as ‘know your audiences’. You may feel that you already know where your different audiences hang out, and so can start to use those particular networks. If you don’t, then why not start a piece of offline work with a survey or a straw poll at an event to find out whether people are using social media and if they’d like to hear from you there.
This type of investigation will also help you identify those individuals or groups which might benefit from some skills-raising work to help them use online tools more effectively.
2. Decide what you want to use social media to do.
There are many good reasons to use social media. Another excellent infographic from All Twitter suggests six ways that you can use social media to enhance your work, including establishing a brand, generating sales (or donations) and becoming known for leading on a particular topic. The infographic also indicates which of the major social networks are best placed to help you achieve these goals (scroll down to section 3 on the infographic).
Depending on the audiences you’ve identified, you may have multiple aims – if this is the case then a simple list of each audience and the reason you want to reach them will help you to clarify what you’re using and why. You can then identify which of your organisation’s forthcoming activities, campaigns or events will fit the bill, and start to think about the ways you can use these to generate conversations in social media.
The infographic on All Twitter suggests being clear about your key messages, and Frogloop recommends developing a calendar of your campaigns, and then breaking these down into a number of sub-sections which will help you see just what you can be talking about on social media.
Start talking and listening
Putting your plan into action will involve you taking the plunge and starting to have conversations on social media. This may be a bit easier if you’ve gone through the stages above to identify who you’re hoping to be addressing and what you’re going to be talking about, but it can still be daunting.
Frogloop has four tips for writing for social media, and emphasises the need to be truthful and approachable in your style. In a separate post, Frogloop also recommends incorporating calls to action into your posts or tweets and putting the time in to keep content fresh and maintain the relationships you create on social media.
There are more useful tips from The Wall Blog, including the suggestion that you should make sure your content matches the location of your audiences, as well as its interests. The Wall Blog also has a number of examples to help you discover the dos and don’ts of establishing your organisation’s ‘voice’ on social media.
Like Seneca said, knowing where you’re headed is the first stage in finding out whether you’ve got there. If you’ve gone to the trouble of mapping your audiences, goals and tools then you should also be keeping an eye on whether you’ve achieved them. If you have, then what’s the next stage you should be aiming for? If you haven’t, or haven’t completely, why not and what can you do differently?
There is lots of advice about the tools you can use to measure the impact of your social media (for example, check out this list of 20 tools from Smallbiztrends or follow the monitoring category on this blog) but what I mean here is just to make sure you are actually checking against your goals – even if that’s something you do quickly and cheaply by recording how many people are retweeting you, commenting on your FB posts or coming to your events saying they heard about your work on social media.
You may be hitting your goals and targets straight away, or you may not, but you’ll never know whether all that hard work is paying off unless you make the time to find out. We wouldn’t expect NASA to send the Mars rover off and not keep checking whether it was going in the right direction… social media may not be rocket science but we do need to keep an eye on it!
What are your tips for ensuring your social media campaigns are on message, speaking with the right audience and making a difference? Please tell us in the comments, below.