How do you create a social media strategy, is a question I am often asked. The biggest danger that you face in developing a strategy for what is a new area for so many businesses and nonprofit or charity organisations is doing it in isolation.

A social media strategy must be linked to a digital strategy (your website, any online advertising etc) and then a communications strategy for the entire business or nonprofit or charity organisation. In turn that strategy must be linked and embedded in the overall strategic plan of the organisation. For all that to happen you must know who you are and who your audience is.

Sound simple – well it’s not. In recent months I have dealt with a number of businesses and nonprofits who struggle with some of these basics. In truth you can get so close that is hard to revisit these basics or even appreciate that they need an overhaul. Of course that is the reason I have come across a number of these businesses, charities and nonprofits, because they recognise there is an issue and want to improve, they call CommTogether for assistance.

Social media strategy must be viewed as part of an overall strategy, not viewed in isolation. You must set reasonable expectations of what you are trying to achieve based on a thorough understanding of what might be possible for your target audience. The best social media campaigns are not ones that ask for much if anything. Think about the name – it is ‘social’ ‘media’. When you are being social with a group of people you are not asking them to do something, you are asking them to participate in a conversation.

Social media strategy in most cases should be centred around awareness and maintaining a dialogue with those interested in your product / service / charity.

A discussion on the return on investment for your social media strategy is perhaps for another blog except to say that if you are looking for an obvious direct immediate financial return, you are most likely going to be disappointed. There will at times be opportunities for financial gain, but that should be an aside and not the focus of a strategy.

Social media strategy is one part of a jigsaw where you can engage with your audience. Talk, listen, respond and add value – don’t just preach.

It’s funny how there is such a reluctance from particularly charities and indeed the broader NGO or nonprofit sector to dive in with social media. There is tendency to try and make more of it than what it is – a conversation with people interested in your cause. For this sector, charities being the most obvious here, it is about remaining on the social consciousness. If people have bothered to follow you it is because they are interested in you. There is no other media where you can reach interested people at a time and place and manner of their choosing. It’s powerful and an opportunity that all should jump on board with.

Dive in and try, then take a step back and embed that strategy.

When you start thinking about the social media strategy and talking to your CEO or Board look at it this way…

Think of it this way, you would not send a CEO into a meeting with investors and expect them to invent a new line of products in the meeting because someone asks. The CEO would know the business and the direction of the business or charity or nonprofit before and carry those core messages into the meeting. So it is with social media – carry the overall strategy in to the conversations. Like the CEO meeting, you may have some particular outcomes you are looking for – but they must always be part of the big picture.

One last piece of advice on social media strategy / digital strategy / communications strategy. Don’t think you can do it on your own any more so than you think you can go to court and represent yourself. It’s possible, but the consequences could be severe. Professional assistance can make all the difference in ensuring you are focussed in building a stronger future for your business or nonprofit.

If it sounds a little like a sales pitch, forgive me, but it is an area where I believe CommTogether is well positioned to add value to your business / nonprofit / NGO / charity.

I would love to hear from you about the good social media campaigns.

If you are a charity / NGO / nonprofit on Twitter in Australia and New Zealand then please click on my twitter link and let me know so I can add you to the growing list I am following. I am hoping to continue to get a snapshot of the sector on social media to build information that will benefit everyone.