These days, everybody wants their brand to have a social media presence. But few companies know how to do it well.

Most set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, and/or LinkedIn page. Others write blogs or post videos to YouTube. The more daring will venture into Pinterest, Instagram, and newer social media networks.

Social media may look easy. But if your brand isn’t ready from a strategic, organizational or content management perspective, the conversations can quickly spin out of control. Which means you end up reacting to social media rather than leveraging it to build customer engagement and loyalty.

Use this checklist to determine whether your brand is ready for social media:

Brand Strategy

  • Have you clearly defined your target market?
  • Do you have a focused, highly differentiated brand positioning strategy?
  • Do you have a clearly defined brand personality? (i.e. conservative, edgy, funny, serious, educational)
  • Do you understand your competition’s social footprint?
  • How will your social media campaign differentiate you from competitors?
  • Do you have a clear idea of your customers’ wants, needs, likes, dislikes and pain points?
  • How will your social media content be relevant to those needs?

Social Media

  • Which social media sites do your customers use?
  • How will you prioritize your activity level across those different networks?
  • Do you produce enough quality content to sustain social media conversations?
  • Do you have a social media policy that clearly identifies who can speak for your company and/or respond in the social media world?
  • Is your website prepared for social media attention?
  • Are you ready to incorporate social media strategies throughout the buying process?
  • Do you have the time and resources to commit to social media?

A misdirected or poorly managed social media plan is worse than having none at all. So think twice before starting a corporate blog or Twitter account just because everyone else in your space has one. Social media requires real-time response and regular updating of your content. If you don’t have the resources to develop and implement an effective social media plan, your brand will be better off waiting until you do.

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