Stop! Don’t go near social media without a strategy

Develop a social media strategy first, and you’ll save time and money on implementation.

I would no more send a client out to “do” social media without a comprehensive plan and strategy than I would send a child out in a snowstorm without a warm coat, or put my car on the freeway without gas.

Every time I see a seminar on social media “tips and tricks” for small businesses, small-to-midsize nonprofits, or any other organization without a full-time marketing communications person on staff, I cringe.

Those of you who tell me how you wasted time Twittering and wasted money buying Google ads? Your experience does not reflect badly on either of those tools. It means that you were using tools that didn’t match the problem you wanted to address. It’s like racing into the bathroom brandishing a hammer instead of a plunger when the toilet is overflowing. Even messier.

Yes, I know your budget and your time are limited. But instead of paying $100 for a two-hour tips and tricks seminar, read a good book about crafting a social media strategy*. Then budget $300 or more to have a good social media consultant (here’s how you know if you’ve found a good one) come in to your organization and talk with your team about what you’re doing, what your audience, your peers, and your competition are doing, and what your marketing communications budget might allow you to do in the future. If possible, find a social media consultant who’s familiar with your field.

Facebook? Twitter? Blogging? No hurry. Once you’ve got a strategy in place, you’ll be able to figure out what social media tools you want to carry around in your toolbox and which ones are better left in the basement.

* Recommended books on social media strategy:

The Social Media Bible

Social Media Marketing: An Hour A Day

The Zen of Social Media Marketing