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Is Your Business Tweeting in the Dark?

By: Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D.
Last updated 8/5/2010

Ready to jump into the social media world? Great! But before you do, understand this: using social media and understanding its strategic applications for your PR, marketing, and communications initiatives, require two dramatically different skill sets.
 
If you want your business’s social media initiatives to be successful, avoid the following mistakes:
 
Mistake #1: Diving in without a strategic plan.
Don't start podcasting, blogging, tweeting, friending on Facebook, or posting YouTube videos until you know:
—What your messages are
—Who will manage them
—Who your audience is
—How they and you will benefit from the content and relationships
 
Mistake #2: Not having a social media policy.
Your social media policy should outline how employees behave in the online universe during and outside of work. It should educate employees about style preferences and confidentiality. All messaging coming from employees should be aligned with your company's values and brand.
 
Mistake #3: Failing to tailor the plan to your target audience.
Hone in on sites, tools, and applications used by your target audience. Is your target customer out walking in the park most afternoons, without so much as a cell phone? Or is your customer a technology lover who is never parted from his BlackBerry or iPhone? Until you find out, you won’t be able to reach out to him or her.
 
Mistake #4: Producing weak, unfocused, or unhelpful content.
The same messaging rules that apply to classic public relations and branding apply to social media. Create strong, smart, well-thought-out content that adds value to your customers' lives. Don't waste their time with self-serving promo. Give them something they can use—tips, incentives, product information, new ideas, fun, and inspiration—if you want them to pay attention to what you have to say.
 
Mistake #5: Allowing your social media efforts to stagnate.
Gone are the days when companies could put up a Website that sat on the screen like an electronic business card. Social media is about maintaining a dynamic conversation between you and your customers. Equip your content for the RSS-share-save-post-to revolution so it gets out there in multiple places. Answer blog, Flickr, and podcast posts; respond to tweets; engage with "friends." Remember: social media, done right, is not a one-off campaign by a handful of staff; it's a long-term corporate commitment.

About the Author(s)

Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D. Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D. is Director of Communications at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches Social Media and Communication Strategies. She also serves on the advisory board of EyeCatcher Digital, a tech strategy and marketing firm. With fellow social media strategist Paul Borgese, she is coauthor of The Social Media Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business Exponentially with Social Media (Second Edition), from which this article was adapted. For more information, visit http://www.SocialMediaSurvivalGuide.com