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There is no need to establish a cause for your business to be involved with Social Media. The question is, how do I get started?

Here are several steps you need to take when developing your company’s social media/marketing strategy.

Step One – Planning and Listening

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Initially you will want to look at your existing marketing efforts and honestly assess their success and effectiveness. The definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing and expecting different results. If conventional marketing is not working, then it maybe time to adjust your strategy and reallocate your time and money towards social media.
It is also a good idea to review at your current business plan and model. Where do you want to be in a year, five years, ten? Write down your goals so you can keep them in front of you when developing your strategy.

Review your existing website and current social media presence. Is your website dynamic? Does it work on mobile devices? Can you update it, or do you have to call a programmer – or your “web” guy? Chances are, it is time for you to be the “web” guy. A website should be a tool you use, not a brochure you create and then leave on the shelf, planning one day to update it. It is the living, breathing face of your business on the internet – the one place people are making decisions on whether or not to use you. Your site should be attractive, fresh, easy-to-use for you and your customers AND it should provide content that your customers want. It should also be your base of operations for your social media – containing your blog, links to social networks and dynamic data. See where your website is lacking and make a list of the changes that need to be made.
Listen to what people are saying about you. Use free tools like Google Analytics, Twitter, Facebook and Google Searches to determine what has gone on in the conversation before you got involved. If required, you may need to buy a listening platform, like Radian6 to pull all of the conversations into one easy-to-use interface. If social media is a dinner party, then you have arrived late and everyone is talking about you. You need to find out what they are saying and plan out how you want to respond. Remember, social media is about having conversations, not releasing statements.

Step Two – Your Secret Identity

Make sure that your existing social media presence – Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter is acceptable to be promoted for your business. Get rid of the old high school drinking buddy photos and make sure that you are representing your company well. If you need to create a separate identity for your personal and your business profiles.

Step Three – Be Consistent

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Make sure that your photo, colors, graphics, logos and MESSAGE are consistent across all of the platforms. You may need to employ a designer to ensure that you have all of the elements required for a successful media push. Your website should match your Twitter background, which should look like your business card, which should match your billboard. Consider employing the use of branding guidelines so that your employees and vendors will know what is expected of your brand and identity.

Step Four – Conversational Campaigns

Decide how best to start a conversation and then get involved. Make sure that you coordinate your Facebook Fanpage posts with your Twitter feed – and that both are on your website. Leverage your existing clients and customers. Chances are they are ready to become a fans or followers and will welcome your expertise and conversations. Talking to experts in your field is now possible – great experiences with Twitter. Make sure that your dialog is two-ways – no one wants to have a one-sided conversation. The Golden Rule applies here: Talk to your customers the way you want to be talked to. Stop thinking of marketing as a campaign, but as a conversation.

Step Five – The Boyscout Motto

Be prepared. If you need help, call a professional. From ad agencies, to web developers to social media specialists – there are people waiting to take your money — I mean help you accomplish your goals through a mutually beneficial relationship. Determine your strengths. You may update the blog and Twitter feed, but need help with Google Analytics, YouTube and SMS/Text Messaging. Staff accordingly, and if you need to, hire an intern – they are young, they work cheap, and know more about this than you do!
Get your tools together by choosing applications that you can learn quickly and function in your current work-flow.

Step Six – Falling

Make the effort. Step out, and if you make a mistake and fall – at least you fell forward.

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