Most businesses are currently establishing their own brandin the social media world. No matter how well they are implementing their socialmedia plans, all companies should take the time to ensure their social mediainteractions are truly mapping back to their overarching business plans and notdetracting employee energy away from the larger picture. 

Altimeter Groupanalysts Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang have been developing some bestpractices for helping businesses implement social media plans that trulyfunction as part of the business.

The main idea to keep in mind is that social media is not astrategy; the strategy is using social media to deepen relationships withtarget audiences, whether that is clients, customers or business partners, andusing those relationships to achieve business goals.

When developing these plans that utilize social media,companies should keep these seven ideas in mind:

  1. Focus on the customer relationships, not on the technologythat enables those relationships. The technology is merely a vehicle forestablishing a bond with your target audience.
  2. Social media is not a strategy; the strategy is deepeningrelationships with your target audience and social media is the vehicle throughwhich those relationships are established. Loyal relationships will last nomatter what happens to the social network. Friendster anyone?
  3. Learn about your target audience and determine how thataudience can help you realize your business goals. Choose one annual goal tostart and determine how social media can have an impact on the success of thatobjective.
  4. Once you’ve learned about your target audience, decide ifyou want to have a dialog with them, want to support them – i.e. customerservice – or if you want them to help you innovate – i.e. requestproduct/design ideas, establish a page for reviews. Shape your social mediaprogram around this overarching theme.
  5. When determining success, don’t use the actual number of Facebookfans or Twitter followers as a metric.  Establish the value of thosefollowers and then calculate success by judging how good the insight,conversation or ideas provided by the follow are, or measure if they referothers to the company Web site.
  6. Social media can be established in an organization in threeways: organic, centralized or coordinated. Determine which way best suits yourcompany culture and then utilize that method of interaction.
  7. Have a contingency plan if the social media plan does notperform as expected. No relationship is perfect, so a business’s first forayinto social media might not turn out as expected. However, the only way tosucceed is to plan for that possibility and address social media from adifferent angle the next time.

Focusing on the relationships you build with your targetaudience and then structuring your social media plans around that goal willenable your company to successfully integrate social media into the overarchingbusiness plans.

— Caitlin Cassady