Implementing social media as part of your business plan can help you to build customer relationships, build your brand and extend your reach. Social media campaigns are important to businesses of all sizes, but if you’re like a lot of business owners or marketers, you’re not sure where to start. Although social media accounts are easy to set up, planning your social media campaign takes a little more effort.

Planning and maintenance are the keys to a successful campaign. Some businesses make the mistake of jumping right in without planning, only to watch their social media endeavor lose steam or falter down the road.

Start your campaign out on the right foot by following a few simple rules.

Set your Goals

Think about why you want to start a social media campaign. Is it to extend your brand? Do you want to educate your customers or start a conversation? Are you most interested in building awareness for a product or service? Goals don’t necessarily have to be measurable, but it might help to develop at least one trackable goal, especially if you’re concerned about the ROI or volume building aspects of social media.

Prepare at least three different goals for your social media campaign to help you focus your efforts. Not all social media is created the same and each may provide different benefits to your company. For instance, if your customers prefer Facebook, your time might be better spent creating and maintaining a Facebook presence rather than a Twitter presence.

Prepare for the Worst

No one wants to see a negative comment about their products or service on their Facebook wall, but it can and probably WILL happen. Brainstorm possible scenarios for negative comments, spam, angry customers and the like before launching into your campaign. Create some canned responses that can be tailored to specific situations and have them on-hand. Social media moves very quickly, so you need to be able to respond in a timely fashion.

If your organization does not require message editing nor approvals, this step can make your life as a social media manager much easier. Your ability to craft a response “on the fly” can save lots of headaches for you if an angry customer rears his or her head.

Content is Key

You probably wouldn’t build a website and then never update it, right? It’s the same way with social media. Make sure you have plenty of regular content and keep your content queue filled!

Facebook and Twitter users are faced with a substantial amount of noise, so your content has to stand out. Make sure you’re making use of audio, video and interactive content. Social media is two-way communication, so if you’re only pushing information, it might fall upon deaf ears.

Help your customers engage in your brand by interacting with them. Ask your users questions and solicit their feedback – and make sure you keep the conversation going!

Although there are a variety of programs you can use to schedule updates to your page, don’t rely on it solely. Again, we’re talking about two-way communication, and that can’t happen if you put your social media campaign on auto-pilot.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor!

I bet you don’t like when you send an email to a friend with a question and he or she doesn’t write back for days. Neither do your customers! If they are mentioning you, either by at-replying you on Twitter or leaving comments on your Facebook wall, they are probably expecting an answer! It can hurt your online reputation if you don’t respond quickly.

Social media is always evolving, but these tips can help you jump start your campaign. Go forth and engage!

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