(Note: This is taken almost entirely from the Industry Word blog on the SBA Community site where I first posted how to make a social media business plan. I like social media action plan better, though, because too many people mistake the phrase ‘business plan’ for a static document that is hard to do and gets forgotten. To me a business plan is about business planning. It stays flexible and becomes the format for regular review and revision. For the sake of not arguing about it, I’m calling this an action plan instead. Tim.)
Online buzz about social media for business owners seems to be moving from “Should I” to “How do I?” I’ve been working on this a lot lately as part of my work on planning, and I’ve developed this process for a specific social media plan for small business:
Start with strategy
Define how your social media serves your business. Usually that’s in the marketing area of the business related to branding and awareness at the top of the marketing funnel, but it can also be focused on other business functions. For example, airlines are using Twitter for customer service, food trucks are using it for delivery by tweeting locations, and consultants use follower and like counts to validate their expertise.
Strategy is focus, so you need to sort through the different social media options. Community management expert Megan Berry of LiftFive in New York says, “Facebook tends to be more personal, so if a product is fun and consumer oriented, then Facebook is really good. Twitter has the advantages of public searches, and business searches, so you can see how much a given topic matters. Google+ is mostly techies, photography, and people who work at Google.” I think of LinkedIn as more about careers than specific businesses, and Pinterest as great for photo collections. You can’t do it all and the fastest road to failure is trying to please everybody, or do anything.
For purposes of illustration, my examples in the rest of this post focus on Twitter and use the terminology of Twitter. That’s just to make the narrative easier to follow.
Add specific tactics
The strategy means nothing without specific tactics. In social media that means making some practical decisions. For sake of illustration, imagine a manufacturer of environmentally better construction materials selling to a local market looking at Twitter. Here are some tactics to work through:
- What accounts to follow: In our example, of course we’d follow people tweeting about homes, green construction, construction materials, architecture, and the building industry. Maybe also small business, small business management, and local business. Gardening, landscape architecture? We should also follow people representing the old-fashioned methods our green construction replaces, and yes, all of our competitors. And we’d definitely want to follow industry leaders, the best blogs, and media people for our industry.
- What content to tweet and retweet: In our example we’d tweet about green building, construction, architecture, and homes for sure, to build a content stream that would attract like-minded people. We’d probably also tweet about local events, local businesses, and local people to attract local connections. But we would never offer content promoting the old-fashioned ways or our competition. We would set up programmed searches for hashtags like #green and #greenbuilding, #homes, and #greenhomes. (Hashtags are a Twitter feature people use to aid searching for topics. People offering content include them in their tweets, so people searching can find them).
- What to watch out for: We should set up searches to catch any mention of us especially, of course. Also, mentions of our competitors, substitutes or competing products, and (as much as possible) local building issues.
- When to reach out: We’d want to watch for media people and issues that could create media opportunities for us, like interviews with the founder, or reviews in blogs or trade magazines. Reaching out in Twitter means either tweets mentioning specific handles or direct messages to specific people.
- How to reach out: We’d want to reach out correctly and respectfully, only for specific cases and specific people. Direct messages should ever look or feel or act like spam.
Add Specific Metrics, Milestones, and Tracking
Your strategy and tactics are of no use without concrete specific steps, measurements, and tracking.
In our Twitter-oriented green construction materials example, we’d want set objective and trackable numeric targets for how many:
- accounts to follow
- new follows to add each month
- tweets per day, week, and month
- retweets to send
- retweets we want to receive
- followers we expect to add per month
- leads we should get
- web visits tracking from our tweets, retweets, and Twitter profile
And for our review meetings, we’d want to start with actual numbers for each of these measurements. Then we’d review these results and discuss changes to the metrics, tactics, and strategy.
And that, all together, is a plan.