Once upon a time there was a business. It was a successful business. The business had a good product, a strong brand,  a healthy PR presence and a substantial advertising campaign. By all accounts, the business was doing well. Except in one area: social media.

Why?

Even when a business has it all together it can still conjure up a miserable social media campaign. Social media is a hybrid of many forms of marketing, but it stands alone in one area: conversation. Businesses aren’t used to having conversations, rather, businesses like to look at data. Conversations go both ways. Data goes one way. Conversations are about people. Data is about numbers.

While social media can provide some strong quantifiable data, its the qualitative data that really holds the key to long term brand or corporate success. But defining success in qualitative ways is difficult. Its this wall that so many businesses struggle. They want to utilize social media, but they also want to be able to measure the results.

Develop a strategy and determine metrics: What is it that you hope to gain from your social media campaign? Who will you be talking with? Current customers, potential customers? Maybe you’ll be recruiting new employees?  How does the messaging vary? Will you be using social media as a customer service tool, a branding strategy, an awareness strategy?  Your strategy should be long-term and include more than just fans or followers. Fans and followers are a metric, but not even the most important one. Sales and conversions are another popular metric, but it isn’t a strategy.  Determining your who will be your audience and what your strategy will be will assist in determining which tools are best for you.

Develop a content strategy: You’ll quickly realize that social media tools thrive on sharing. Despite the importance of listening, you’ll want to determine what type of content you’ll be sharing as well. What will be your source for this content and where will you get it? Will you simply share the content of others? Will you create your own content? What will be the metrics and goals of your content and how will you determine what is worth sharing and what isn’t?

Humanize the company: for many professional communicators this may be difficult, but you must find a way to create a human aspect to your communications in social media. Humans don’t issue press releases, they have conversations. Humans don’t post blogs, they write them. Humans don’t blast information, they share it. Humans use social media tools, not businesses. Beginning to see the difference? We’re entering a new era of social media and this requires businesses to have conversations, to monitor discussions and to invite potential and current customers into the conversation.

Empower rather than control: Regardless of the tools you choose, its likely that your employees are using at least a few of them. Empower your employees with clear guidelines and allow them to be brand advocates. Allow your customers to speak on your behalf, give them some ownership of your conversation.