7 Tips for Creating a Social Media Plan for Your Business

social media how toDo you have social media plan?

Are you looking for an easy to follow guide to formulate a plan for your business?

Keep reading for seven tips to help your business develop a social plan…

Why Businesses Fail With Social Media

Businesses often fail in their social media efforts for the same reason New Year’s resolutions fail: It’s a good idea, but there’s no structure or commitment.

Then, when there are no immediate results, or the goal ends up being more difficult to attain than previously thought, it goes by the wayside.

Has this happened to your business’s social media presence? You aren’t alone. Very few people can simply choose to be active in social media and stick with it.

For the rest of us, we need something to keep us honest. That’s why I advocate you create a social media plan—a checklist, if you will—complete with daily maintenance, recurring tasks and milestone projects.

These seven tips will help you design a social media plan that will keep you on track, active and moving forward.

#1: Make a Commitment

Before you even start creating your plan, you have to make a promise. Establishing a healthy social media presence can be a very slow process. You can’t expect your list of fans, followers or subscribers to grow overnight.

You don’t want to start your business’s presence out by posting and updating consistently, only to get bored, lose interest and forget to log in when there’s no immediate gratification.

To prevent that kind of slide, make a commitment. Even if it’s just to yourself—even if you have to frame it and hang it above your computer.

No matter how silly an exercise it may seem, acknowledging and agreeing with yourself that building this presence could take upwards of a year (and then some), and then promising to invest time, energy and resources into it no matter what, will keep you committed and prepare you to be active and engaged even when you feel like your presence is stagnating.

#2: Find Your Best Fit

If you’re just getting your business’s social media efforts up and running, part of creating your plan revolves around seeing if you already have a fanbase out there.

yelp review

Search for your business on sites like Yelp. Thank customers for their good reviews, and apologize to customers who gave bad reviews. You could turn that bad experience into a loyal customer and a better review.

So do some searching. Are there lots of people posting videos to YouTube of themselves using your product? Does your company have a bunch of mentions on Twitter? Do you have reviews on Yelp?

Although it’s important to establish a presence on a giant like Facebook, make sure you also set up shop where you’re already visible.

#3: Schedule Engagement

Now that you’ve identified the social media platforms you’re going to focus on, it’s time to turn your attention to the ways and frequency with which you’ll engage with your users.

Infrequent interaction is one of the main reasons businesses experience social media failure.

Those who are most successful in social media know that you have to engage steadily.

taco bell twitter feed

Funny, engaging and prolific, Taco Bell's Twitter feed provides fans with frequent news, entertainment and engagement—a model for other companies.

Think of creating and responding to comments, tweets, posts, etc., as simple daily maintenance. It must be done. You need to start the conversation with your users, and anytime they reach out to you, you need to be prepared to respond.

Remember that the timetable for creating and responding to content is platform-specific. Twitter moves so fast that tweets can become irrelevant within the hour, whereas Facebook status updates and posts have a few hours of staying power, and videos are great because of their longevity.

#4: Create Expert Content

Your fans and followers don’t want commercials, they want conversation. They don’t want to hear how great your company is, they already like or follow you. They don’t want sales numbers, they want industry news and thought leadership.

A good rule of thumb is to talk about your customers and your industry 80% to 90% of the time, and then discuss your own business. That means you need to start a blog, write white papers, explore trends, release case studies and create infographics.

Post frequently and do it consistently. Your ideal goal should be some kind of content every couple of days or so. Avoid going longer than a week without posting.

Thorough, in-depth articles and papers will position your business as an industry expert and thought leader, and keep your fans and followers (and even competitors) looking to you.

mail chimp guides

MailChimp's more than 30 Guides cover a range of topics—from email marketing best practices to papers on how to use MailChimp most effectively—positioning them as a leader in email marketing.

#5: Run Contests and Promotions

Contests and promotions keep fans and followers excited, interested and coming back. Most importantly, they’re a covert way to get your business or brand in front of more people. That doesn’t mean you need to run one all the time.

If you’ve always got some kind of giveaway going, they’ll soon become more social background noise. This is especially true if you’re giving away not-so-great prizes.

Run a contest or promotion every couple of months, and make sure the prize is something to get excited about.

falken tire contest giveaway

Falken Tire's Porsche Giveaway is gated to fans only. And when the prize is as great as a Porsche, their fanbase is sure to be active and their fan count is sure to go up.

#6: Broaden Your Horizons

Every social media plan needs to start out the same way, with a commitment to the long haul and a focus on the basics like interaction and content. But once your presence is established and your users are engaged, you’re free to open things up to experimentation.

If you’ve built a solid fan following on Facebook, create and install some custom apps on your page, start posting videos on YouTube or interact more frequently by hopping on Twitter. Try things out for a few months, and then go back and see how they’ve performed for you.

Not every platform will be a fit, so if your business isn’t performing well on one for an extended period of time, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and explore different options.

rosetta stone apps

Rosetta Stone's numerous custom apps help them better engage their fanbase of over 1.1 million.

#7: Delegate Tasks

If you’re at the point where you’re looking at expanding to new platforms, congratulations! You’ve likely got a healthy presence. But don’t let all of this growth overwhelm you. The larger you grow, the more in danger you are of failing to engage (point #3), because—let’s face it—social media is a lot of work.

So look into adding some more team members. Graphic artists for your infographics, writers for your blogs and white papers and even some interns to manage the day-to-day social media conversations and information-gathering. A talented team can give you a richer, more robust presence than you could ever achieve on your own.

facebook admins

More admins frees you up to expand your social media pursuits and makes day-to-day engagement easier to cover, especially for pages with large fan bases.

What do you think? What’s your business’s story? Do you already have a social media plan? How’s it working out? Or are you about to implement one? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Jim Belosic

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service software that allows businesses to create engaging campaigns for social, web and mobile. Other posts by »




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  • $44796859

    Hi Jim, great post! I completely agree with your point about businesses starting a social media presence without a plan of action, or jumping in with gusto, before losing enthusiasm and giving out when they don’t see results overnight. Lots of top tips to take away. Thanks for sharing! Andrew.

  • Social Media Kandi

    Great post, Jim. This is a lot of key ingredients that so many companies forget. It’s sad because a lot of business owners create a Facebook Page or Twitter account and use it to shoot out tons of advertising. That’s not the purpose of social media – the purpose is to interact. Great read, thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_SummersSP Chris Summers

    Good article, I think the only thing I would add is to make sure you have a data mining process around your followers to drive your traditional marketing efforts to help your ROI. 
    http://servicesandpeople.com/?cat=4

  • http://twitter.com/octadyne Octadyne Systems

    Thanks for the post! My favorite tip is #3. Social media can be overwhelming, and it’s often hard to get the conversations going. I have been working on building our social community and I am still trying to get our followers to engage with our content. Starting the conversations rather than waiting for followers to engage has been helpful. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.boone1 April Boone

    I tried to download the free plan and got 404 errors. 

  • Mel

    Really liked this article!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HSUFSPJGYP7C45H4IPJM4FUJ2Y Jason

    Great article and fantastic tips for anyone looking to start or who is currently running their own business. I think sometimes all the details to make your business successful can be overlooked. Not long ago I thought about starting my own business and I read a great book that I think would go very well with this article. It’s called “The Barefoot Executive” by Carrie Wilkerson. You can get it right off of the author’s website, barefootexecutivebook.com. I highly recommend this read for anyone working from home, starting their own business, or who may not even know where to start. Again, great tips!

  • SJ Silverman

    This was great- I love this blog!

  • http://twitter.com/sem_zen SEM Zen

    Great ideas! We’ve been using social media more within the past month and received many more followers on Twitter. It is very true when you say it’s the same reason why peoples New Years Resolutions don’t stick.. great way to put it. We’re hoping social media will get our name out there more. Thanks for the tips!

  • Papa Baffour

    Great post! I’ve had first hand experience with enthusiasm fizzing out within a few months after the start of a social media campaign. I also found that one of the things that kept us going was setting goals for increasing our following ever 2 months. I guess businesses could choose to set other goals, but the point is that goal setting also helps you stay focused.

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Thanks Andrew!

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    You’re welcome, thanks for reading and for your comment!

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Thanks for reading! Social media takes patience and time and a lot of education. Sounds like you’re on the right track and seeing results

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Hi April, not sure why you are running into an error. You can send us a support ticket at http://www.shortstacksupport.com and we’ll help you get setup with a free account! Thanks!

  • StudentGolfScot

    Nice post! Good to hear all the points I made to the company director on my Uni placement were mentioned within! Is there an argument in saying #6 could lead to problems. The ‘social media guy’ may post the wrong message or tone to client/potential client!?

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Thanks, it’s true the more effort you put in the better results you’ll see!

  • StudentGolfScot

    Correction… #7

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    You make a great point, goals are not lost among social media. Thanks for reading and for your comment

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  • A.J. Flick

    I wanted to download the sample SM plan and got errors, too! :-(

  • Sally Erickson

    Thanks so much, Jim!
    I am just in the process of setting up a solid social media plan. I’ve tried before, but I didn’t have enough data to do it right. With the points you’ve made and the info I’ve collected, I’m now in the driver’s seat. Thanks for the timely tips!
    –Sally

  • Pat Rhoads

    I completely agree, though I’d add that #4 is nearly as important. Engagement is great, and in fact necessary IMO. But I think that for most types of organizations, good content need to be providing a solid backbone to your social media efforts, or the engagement will fizzle out.

  • http://www.graphicblueprint.com/blog Brandon Halliburton

    I see that I have to rediscover my niche. The niche that I want to be in is currently extremely saturated with individuals who have been in for years. I see that I have alot of work to do!

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  • Lucyluforever25

     this was very important because it is so easy to give up when you don’t have a plan and don’t know what direction to go in.

  • 1cuppajoe2go

    Hi Jim, Great newsletter but several complaints today.
    1. Subject: “[SocialMediaExaminer] Jul. 24, 2012,  7 Tips for Creating a Social Media Plan for Your Business” had 3 links to download the “Create Your Social Media
    Plan ” all of which were broken and led to a 404 page on your site. The page’s suggestion to do a search  (which i did using text from the email) yielded nothing.
    2. You should rethink the use of Disqus on your community/comment pages. It doesn’t allow me to log in with Chrome. I had to log in with IE (which i use rarely, only when forced to by a site that’s not optimized for multiple browsers). A rookie mistake. In addition it defaults to an autofill of an email address that is not the correct one for my disqus account. When I scrolled to the bottom in Chrome (later) I found an error message telling me I must accept 3rd party cookies (I have never done this since 1995 and never will. )
    3. It was about 5 minutes (after I figured out I needed IE to log in) that I figured out that your comment box was at the bottom of the page and had to scroll down. (It was after that that I went back to Chrome and discovered the 3rd party cookie requirement. This is apparently not required in IE.
    4. I still don’t know where to download the template.

  • Diane

    Jim and Social Media Kandi,
    I couldn’t agree with you more on this point. It’s such a turn off.  I’ve been very careful not to do lots of shout outs on my blog as that could easily become just another website trying to sell my products. One thing I have found useful is to add product reviews, so people can become more informed.  Thanks for this post. Jim.

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Hi!

    I actually wrote an article a while back on training those people that will be posting on your social media sites on behalf of your company. It’s important that you allow your employees to post seeing as social media is bigger than a one man job. Following the steps outlined in this article http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/8-tips-for-training-social-media-marketers/ can help assure your employees are staying within the right tone and message as your company. Thanks!

  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Mandy Kilinskis

    Delegate, delegate, delegate!

    You’re right, if your social presence is growing, you’re going to have to bring on more team members. It’s hard to give up control of something you’ve fostered into a thriving community, but as long as your team members know the brand image you want, you’ll be okay. Just make sure that every team member is clear about the voice you want your networks, blog, and white papers to have, and you’ll just continue to dominate.

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  • A.J. Flick

    I just tried the download again and it’s working! Yay!

  • MrVanDigital

    I’m a writer for a university social media strategy & marketing course & as a quick start guide you have most of the bases covered. We used the 6 step framework: listen, identify goals & objectives, develop your plan, develop your content, execute, measure but we also looked at Forrester’s POST and the Ignite methods briefly. I found it interesting you didn’t mention measuring in your 7 key steps… but I did like your emphasis on resources and creativity that is sometimes brushed over too quickly :-) Great job!

  • http://brandyousocial.com/local-online-marketing/ Megan

    Thanks for this post! So many companies fail to “stick it out” long enough to see results.  Real interaction and long lasting relationships and loyalty definitely does not happen overnight!

  • http://www.facebook.com/qadir5000 Abdul Qadir Memon

    Great Article Jim! 7 tips for Creating a Social Media Plan are spot on!
    Being a Social Media Strategist myself I have seen my share of people starting on Social media without a Plan of Action, No Plan of Action is surely a Plan of Failure!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pranshuanand Pranshu Anand

    Thanks Jim !! I did not realize that I never wrote a plan of action for social media. This post has helped me in many ways.

  • http://twitter.com/TheToolShedGV The Tool Shed

    I thought this article was very encouraging and I appreciate that. I am just beginning to establish a presence for my business in social media and it can be discouraging not getting instant results. Following your plan I will continue to post creative content about my industry.
    Thanks!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    April – I think you are referring to something in our newsletter.  We fixed it.

  • Carra

    Great points Jim! I think the point about creating expert content is key. Besides engaging with fans, it’s important that brands provide some sort of value. While you do want to be fun and engaging, you still want to use social media as a platform to provide value to your audience. Another thing I’d mention when it comes to social media plans in general is that trial and error is the best way to see what works best with your fans. – Carra at Marketo

  • Garry Clinton

      If you need expert advice, it is always prudent to get the right information  from the expert in their relative field of expertise. I am embarking on a new Business venture, and  so  the Social Media Examiner will play a pivotal role in keeping me on the right path

  • http://twitter.com/ContentAxis Content Axis

    I believe Social Media is going to be the next generation marketing tool and it will definitely revolutionize the way the way brand promotion is done. However to gain maximum benefits out of your Social Media Campaigns it is necessary to maintain the consistency. I see this article as one of the most important collections that lists Social media do’s comprehensively.

  • http://www.wildwestseo.com/long-tail-keywords-what-does-it-all-mean/ Rita Dawson

    That’s a very good post Jim. Thanks for sharing. I happened to learn a lot.

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  • http://webpall.com/ geoio

    I’m trying to use social media to promote my online business, but never thought to make a plan. Thank you for your advices. I likes especially points 1 and 4. Making a commitment will guarantee my social media presence in a long term.

  • Drew Frey

    Thanks for the post Jim!

    Really great advice in here. 

    So many companies get into social media because they THINK it’s a) Free b) will take little to no time c) it’s the shiny new object in the room. 

    Social media is not only becoming increasingly important (if not crucial) for businesses to perform well in but also many companies doing social media well have an incredibly large budget. 

    Not creating goals before you set off on a new social media program is the worst mistake you can make as a company. 

    Thanks Jim.

  • Bre

    Great post! It really is so easy for social media to get put on the back burner and forgotten about. It’s such an important aspect of creating customer engagement and loyalty though. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Derek

    Great post!

  • Brandan

    Great Post!!!
     

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  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Joe, there was a bad link inside the email newsletter. It’s fixed now.

  • Tiffany Salzman

    Great article.  I think some small businesses are afraid of trying social media because they realize that it will take work, but as you’ve laid out here, a simple plan can make it both engaging and effective.

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  • http://www.promarketingtips.in/ Mariawilliams672

    great post.. you have got back those important things that the organizations have forgotten about with the face book and twitter thing. thanks for sharing

  • Maria Riley

    Commitment is Key! Great tips, Jim!

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  • http://tnisocialmedia4u.org/ TNI Social Media 4U

    I found this article to be helpful!!! 

  • http://twitter.com/penguinblogging Fiza Malik

    Awesome guide Jim! Thanks for sharing the
    useful tips . 

  • http://www.facebook.com/wanna.be.with.you.forever Devesh Verma

    Run a contest or promotion every couple of months is one of the effective way to attract new Customers….Great Post….Keep It UP!

  • http://www.socialmediarevolution.ca/become-a-subscriber/ Josaphat DJ Perez

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for a great article. It is very important to follow the above recommendations all the time. You can’t have something solid for only 6 months and then let it go down the toilet. I see this happen a lot of time for small companies that don’t want to spend the money (or they don’t have it) and are expecting to see something in a very short time.

    Just like you said, it takes time and effort.. if you as a company are not willing to put the time in order to develop credibility and conversation, you will see nothing.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/niveen.khalifa.73 Niveen Khalifa

    Hi Jim, I think one of the best ways to start a social medial plan is to stick to one tool for a while month until you master using it and build some good contacts there. You can then move into trying another tool. Being new at this, It’s overwhelming! So I can see why people may quit. Trying one tool at a time will probably be a good route to go. Thanks for the tips!

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  • http://www.hotspotpromotion.com/ HotSpot Promotion

    Some excellent ideas here, and some great links I didn’t know about.  Thanks for this concise, practical post, Jim!

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  • http://twitter.com/WillToInspire Will To Inspire

    Hello, i find this post interesting, but it applies to someone who already has a steady fan base. I already started a contest on my page, but due to the fact that i do not have a really steady fan base yet, the result will be moderate. My question is, HO DO YOU GET YOUR TARGETED AUDIENCE IN PRIVATE PROJECTS, like mine. At the moment, for me this is a challenge i will have to overcome. Could you briefly advice? Thank you!

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  • http://www.KeithJCaldwell.com/ Keith Caldwell

    As usual, great article on SME. I am just getting ready to roll out a Social Media campaign and plan to use what I learned from my this podcast to guide me along.







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