In today’s evolving business landscape, social media can give your company a boost, but there’s a lot more to it than just posting content when it’s convenient. 

When social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter became a part of our everyday lives, they also opened a world of new business opportunities. Although some critics insist that these platforms are productivity killers, others contend that social media is a critical component of any 21st century brand strategy if used correctly.

“I’m not talking about endless surfing on Facebook,” says Randall Craig, a management consultant and author of “Online PR and Social Media for Experts.” “I’m talking about basic organizational capacity so that people are able to understand what’s happening with their customers, with their competitors, with regulators, with suppliers, so that they can be closer to these other stakeholders and therefore do a better job.” To him, losing productivity to social media abuse is not a social media problem. It’s a management problem.

However, Craig has also seen his fair share of companies that feel pressured to rush mindlessly into the world of social media and end up with a disjointed approach. Just as composite manufacturers and engineers do not begin a construction project without a plan, social media managers should not simply post content without thinking about why they’re doing it and what their goals are.

Getting Started

According to Craig, many businesses struggle with a “chicken or the egg” dilemma regarding the best way to use social media: Should we generate interest in our business by using social media to drive “real world” activities, such as attracting visitors to a trade show booth? Or should we use those real-world activities as opportunities to build a larger social following, which in turn, will lead to greater interest? Craig says there is no wrong choice, but that businesses should have a concrete reason for whatever method they choose.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘I’m going to get on social media because it’s there,’” says Craig. “What you do on social media must be integrated with your marketing and sales processes and strategy. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and your money.”

Another issue businesses frequently encounter is how to budget for their social media strategies. Craig says that while businesses do not need to possess an “all or nothing” mindset to social media, it can’t be an afterthought delegated to just one or two people. There needs to be a significant financial commitment to developing social media literacy at all levels of a company.