By Courtney Seiter, Raven Internet Marketing Tools Community Manager

Social media is all about instant gratification – the quick hit of a perfectly crafted tweet, the rush of “likes” from a great Facebook post. So it’s not always welcome advice to hear about the groundwork a brand needs to do before starting a social media campaign.

But the steps a brand takes in preparation for its social media presence can be the difference between viral success and floundering failure. There are resources and schedules to consider, reputation management aspects to beware of, and best practices to master, among other crucial elements. Here are 10 important things to do before you tweet, update, pin, or post. (And even if you’re already on social media, it’s not too late to go back and cover the basics.)

1. Lock it down
You may not know which social channels are going to be your go-to spots at the beginning of the process, but it’s never too early to safeguard your brand for the future. A service like KnowEm will help you lock down your brand or product name instantly on hundreds of social media sites. Not only is this great security, it’ll also help you keep your brand’s identity consistent across the board.

2. Go digging
It’s tempting to give into the “Let’s get on Facebook right NOW” pressure, but first make sure you know where your audience is active so you’re not wasting your time. Start with brand and keyword searches through Social Mention or Google Alerts to see where people are talking about you or the topics important to your industry.

3. Just listen
There’s no need to jump right in once you’ve pinpointed the social networks you want to target. In fact, taking a few days or weeks to simply monitor can be a big help. Informal listening (like searching on Twitter for your brand name or an industry term) can help ensure you speak your audience’s language and know their interests and concerns when you do jump in. It’ll also give you time to get a baseline for future benchmarking: How many mentions does your brand get in a week? How many are positive and how many are negative? What’s your share of voice compared to your competitors? These are the kinds of metrics you’ll want to watch over time for signs that your campaign is working.

4. Master the headline
You can be the life of a party and a master communicator, but you’ll get nowhere in social media without mastering the art of the headline. Shortening attention spans mean a headline might be all you have to capture your audience’s attention. Absorb a series like Copyblogger’s 11-part “How to Write a Magnetic Headline” and check out tools like the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer for a leg up.

5. Be human first
Before you throw your brand into the fray of a new social media channel, try it from the human perspective first. Sign yourself up for any network you’re planning to get your brand active in, and learn its ins and outs. What do you like to see? What behavior annoys you in other users? Model a human-scale social media strategy from your observations.

6. Study your neighbor
Checking out competitors and others in your niche or industry to see what they’re doing in the social space is a must. It’s not a shortcut or a cheat – it’s due diligence. What social media channels are they active in? What strategies and tactics are they using? What’s working? What isn’t?

7. Budget your resources
One of the biggest questions you’re going to want to know before you get started with social media is: Just how much of your day should you devote to this? Much of social media may be “free,” but it definitely takes time and resources. Not to mention the fact that an abandoned social media presence looks worse than never having started one in the first place. Plan for longevity by determining exactly how many channels you can effectively keep up with in terms of monitoring, engaging, and providing quality content. Will monitoring take place during business hours, or 24/7? Do you need help creating resources? An advertising budget to help develop an audience? Now’s the time to determine it.

8. Communicate with stakeholders
Depending on your brand and its needs, your social media campaign could focus on any number of goals: reputation management, customer service, sales, content marketing,etc. It’s important that everyone on your team is on the same page as far as your brand’s goals and expectations for social media. Communicating with stakeholders beforehand makes sure you can launch with a unified strategy your whole team can get behind – and a clear definition of how you’ll know whether the strategy is succeeding once you get going.

9. Create a great-content pipeline
It’s likely that a good percentage of what you post in social media channels will be content from your blog or site, but what about the rest? Brands look more well-rounded and personable when they post content from all over the web. Before you launch a presence in multiple social media channels, make sure you create a pipeline of fun, useful, relevant content so you won’t have to scrounge to find great stuff to talk about. Subscribe to industry blogs and news sites via email or RSS, look for informative Twitter lists you can add to your feed, create Google Alerts for industry keywords, and sign up for newsletters.

10. Get organized
Social media moves fast – it’s a good idea to have a system in place to keep organized as far as what you’re posting where and when. This solution can be as low-tech as a simple spreadsheet or as advanced as enlisting the help of scheduling and post management tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or Raven’s social tools. Whatever you decide on, make sure it works for your needs – whether for an individual or a team.

It’s worth it to get your social media strategy right before you start. Work through these 10 steps, and you’ll be primed for social media success right out of the gate. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Courtney Seiter

– Courtney Seiter is the Community Manager at Raven Internet Marketing Tools. Follow her on Twitter @RavenCourts and sign up for Raven’s email newsletter for more social media and Internet marketing advice.

1 Comment

  1. Raven Internet Marketing Tools July 31st, 2012

    Thanks for the opportunity to share this post, y'all!

Leave a Comment