Tim Berry | Entrepreneur

As I get more involved in social media for business — I’m doing a lot of that lately — I can see more each day that the new business landscape social media creates is a significant change, a good thing for a lot of businesses, but still something that depends on fundamentals. Whether it’s for marketing, sales, customer service, fulfillment, or some other business purpose, when social media is part of what a business is doing, it should be managed by planning and follow-up.

With that in mind, here’s my suggestion for the elements of a social-media action plan:

1. Goals
What’s the problem? What are you trying to achieve? Start by stating that out loud, defining it, and writing it down. It may seem like too obvious but real business happens over time, with actions, not just in meetings. Setting the context correctly matters.

For example, social media for your business might be a matter of generating and publishing content to attract visitors to your website, where they buy services. It might also be about publishing information, like the whereabouts of the taco truck. Or it might be to deal with complaints, like bad reviews. Maybe it’s like sales collateral, helping to close sales by positioning the business and its expertise. Start your plan by stating the goal.

2. Actions
Having defined the goals, how are you going to achieve them? What specifically do you want to do? An action plan must have specific concrete steps that need to be taken. For social media, that would be actions like setting up accounts, developing graphics for the different pages, defining what kinds of updates should be done, on which platform, and others. How many tweets are required? How many are too many? Do you post the same thing exactly on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn? What kind of content gets liked or retweeted? What’s supposed to happen?

3. Measurement
As the plan gets going, and business gets going, how will you know if your plan is even working? How will you judge performance? How will you compare your plan to your actual results in order to review and revise your plan?

All of that takes establishing the measurement — the numbers — as you develop your plan. Don’t worry about guessing the future correctly, because nobody does. Just make the assumptions logical and the guesses numerical, so you can test them when you’re underway, and revise them as results come. Standard numbers for measuring social media could be traffic generated, tweets, updates, likes, retweets, increase in sales, orders for special deals, or even the interesting social-media measurements like Klout or peer index that combine numbers into theoretical measurement of influence or impact.

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