When business execs and subject matter experts ask me for help with a social media program, my first question to them is: Why? What is it you want to use social media to do?

Some people can answer right away. Some have to think about it. And others confess they don’t really know what social media can do for them. The last group is in the majority. Most business leaders just feel they need to be there. That’s not a great reason.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” – Lewis Carroll

If you’re old enough to remember the days before websites, you’ve seen this pattern before. An untold number of business leaders paid enormous sums of money to have websites built without knowing exactly why. Website designers made out like bandits, but it took business a while to figure out exactly how to use this new tool.

Today, no sane business person would launch a website just because “I have to have one”. Yet many people hire someone to implement a social media program without really knowing why.

Don’t be that person.

Social media is just like any other business program or communication channel. To be successful it needs objectives, target audiences, a strategy to meet those objectives and a way of knowing whether or not your efforts are paying off.

How can I use social media?

The things you can do with social media are broad and cover many aspects of an organization including recruiting, retention, marketing, business development and client satisfaction.

From a sales-marketing-business-development perspective, the ultimate goal is usually to increase revenue — to secure new customers or clients. But no complex, expensive, high-risk product or service is ever actually sold on social media. Instead, social media is used ahead of the sale to generate interest, promote expertise and build a sense of trust.

For planning and evaluating a social media program it’s important to understand exactly how you want social media to contribute to this goal. Alternatively, it’s perfectly acceptable if your objective is to run a test to learn what social media can do for you.

Common social media objectives and their benefits

Over the years I’ve found that social media objectives generally come down to one or, more commonly, a combination of the following:

  1. Lead generation – driving unidentified potential new customers/clients to a website or landing page where they are offered free information in exchange for their contact info. Those that follow through are then put into a conventional prospect development program.
  2. Prospecting – identifying potential new customers or clients; learning about them; and making initial connections
  3. Nurturing – providing on-going communication with prospects to help move them along in the buying decision
  4. Brand awareness – expanding visibility of your company and/or personal brand
  5. Thought leadership – using methods made possible by various social networks to further position yourself as an expert

All of these objectives help in the effort to get new business.

What you can do

If you’re interested in giving social media a try – or even if you’re already trying it and you want to tighten your program up – spend some time thinking about your objectives. Only if you know what you want to accomplish can you possibly know if you did it.

Remember, The Conversion Company is here to help.