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Too often, businesses think they can leverage social media by simply thinking about it as a bolt-on to existing marketing efforts or by outsourcing it entirely as a single activity. This is part of the reason why a grey area still exists as to whether social media can produce an ROI for business.

Simply put, businesses still don’t understand how to leverage social media. Having this initial lack of understanding opens the doors to developing a whole series of management practices that just don’t get it.

If you get the foundations right, you’re already half way there.

It’s critical that a clear understanding of how to leverage social media is realised before any real investment is consumed. Would you start a business without knowing if it could work? Have you hired someone without understanding how their skill-set will benefit your business?

What’s The Purpose?

Why are you choosing to explore social media as a marketing channel for your business? Are there other marketing channels that are better suited to your business objectives?

If you’re not crystal clear on why you’ve decided to invest in social marketing, then go back to the drawing board and think it through carefully.

Many business simply jump on the social media bandwagon and end up doing more damage than good. Social media can give your business a presence to the global community – if you’re not ready or committed to look and behave in the right manner, then don’t push your business in front of the public eye.

Is Social Media Viable?

One of the most common mistakes I see from business owners and entrepreneurs is when they think investing in social media is a viable channel because it’s a lot cheaper than alternatives.

Of course, the potential for exposure and virality is huge, but this doesn’t mean it comes quick, or cheap.

Think about whether your business has the resources to successfully leverage social media. Does your business possess the skills or people to execute social marketing? Do you have the time and money available? Do you have the capacity to manage a new business discipline? Can your staff be trained appropriately to understand the new culture shift?

There’s a lot to think about before you decide to leverage social media than simply paying an external consultant a small weekly fee. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Do Your Research

To fully understand your purpose and in order to decide whether social media is viable for your business, an amount of quality research will be needed to base good decisions upon.

This can be also be accomplished using social media!

Do your homework and analyse your customers, your target audience, your industry and your competitors.

Understand how your customers are already using social media and how your target audiences reacts to social marketing. Discover the fast movers, influencers and anchors in your industry and how the recent patterns and trends have affected things. Find out what your competition is doing well and what opportunities there are to do things better.

There is a lot of data available in social media. Gathering enough to gain a reliable understanding is essential.

Use this new found knowledge to better understand how your business can leverage social media successfully.

Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly

A framework of crawl, walk, run, fly can be used to understand how you can leverage social media for business. Think about it as 4 steps, or phases, to social implementation and progress in your business.

Understanding How To Leverage Social Media For Business

Image source: Edelman Digital

Don’t assume you can jump straight to being able to make your business social media efforts fly. You should be continuously learning, measuring and testing, while gaining a better understanding of everything involved with social marketing.

3 Do’s When Leveraging Social Media For Business

  1. Do your homework: you can never be over prepared or stop learning. Keep developing your people and your business will follow suit.
  2. Be goal orientated: social media is a marketing investment, so make sure you set smart goals and routinely measure, test and evaluate your efforts.
  3. Be sociable: if you’re not being sociable, then you’ve failed to grasp the point of social media.

3 Dont’s When Leveraging Social Media For Business

  1. Take shortcuts: cutting corners, such as buying likes or video views, does nothing to affect what really matters to your business.
  2. Be a robot: people don’t want to interact with robots and will never act positively to their messages. Showcase your business personality, character and values.
  3. Set unrealistic expectations: social media is not an overnight solution to your marketing goals. It won’t solve all your problems and very likely won’t turn around a failing business.

Is Your Business Ready To Leverage Social Media?

If you’ve thought clearly about why social media is an attractive marketing channel for your business, then you will see an opportunity that is viable. Do your research and make sure your decisions are based on a solid understanding.

Make sure you have a well-formulated social media strategy and that your planning practices are sound. Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes.

Be patient. Winning in social media takes times, effort and dedication.

And do as much learning as possible and give your business the best chance to leverage social media effectively. Take every opportunity to invest in yourself or your business capabilities – you’re business is only as good as the people behind it.

Is your business crawling, walking, running or flying in social media?