I will not be a Johnny-Come-Lately. I chuckle when a company asks me to help it start a Facebook fanpage or build a Twitter following for a promotion it has starting in three weeks. By the time you realize the need for a social following, it’s too late. Start a genuine dialogue with your customers now to find out who your fans are. You will need them to make anything sticky in the future.
I will lay out a communication plan. With any marketing plan, nearly everything you do should trace back to your main goals. Social media is no different. Ask yourself what you want to achieve with Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIN, and tape the list to your computer monitor. Think big, but start small by coming up with a realistic goal. Before you start a contest, build an app, or update your status, double check to see if what you are doing advances the plan.
I will become a power user. Our friend Libby Issendorf has challenged us to choose one new social network each month and become a power user, if only for 30 days. Make friends, add content, and experiment with every feature and privacy setting. No making “I don’t have time” excuses: A few hours of setup, one hour-long session per week, and a five-minute daily check-in are all you need. You’ll learn more about Tumblr, Foursquare, or Farmville than you ever could from a blog post or presentation.
I will practice good netiquette. Remember, social media is not an advertising channel. College kids have moved from being excited about finding their brand favorites on Facebook to “expecting” you to be on Facebook. Your website is probably dead to them unless it really has utility. If that utility can be found on Facebook they will be relieved if they don’t have to click away. Remember, too, that a college kid may be a fan, but you aren’t his friend. Don’t be offended. It’s just the way it is. So, don’t be pushy or interrupt them too much.
I will hold up my end of the bargain. Getting someone to follow you, friend you, or share something about you to their friends is a huge deal. Don’t let that action go to waste. Make interacting with your company through social media worth it for your friends, fans, and followers. You can do this with personal thank you messages, free samples, or by rewarding your best followers with exclusive content before others hear about it.