Having recently spoken to few of my larger clients on a social media primer, I was surprised at the relative lack of awareness even among established brands (the Indian operations, in case of an MNC) about what social media can help them achieve. Here are 7 steps that can help you….begin!

01. Revelation
Blogs alone are not social media. If you are in a consumer products business, you need to extend your scope beyond blogs – into message boards, discussion forums, micro-blogging (read, Twitter) and social networking sites.

Go to, login and search with your brand name. Do you find any communities created by your brand’s fan(s)? If yes, you’re looking at a captive audience. Now do not – I repeat – do not just join and start posting in this group. Spend at least a week or two listening to the kind of conversations and the kind of people who post messages. A social media consultant could help you with a list of top themes/ topics relevant to your brand along with the profiles of the most important members that matter to you.

02. Listen
Start small. Start by listening. Any social media consultant worth anything would and should advise you to start listening. Listen to that advise.

Hands-on: Its very easy to start listening, since it does not involve you to rack your brains on how to join the conversation – at least not yet. Do a Google search for your brand name across Google’s Blog Search, News Search and Group Search. Subscribe to the RSS feeds of each search result and track the updates every morning via Google Reader. A good social media consultant should be able to build you and relevant spokespersons across your organization, customized social media tracking dashboards that give you/ your people a gist of relevant conversations each day.

03. Objectives
Once you start listening, you need to be very clear on your objectives – are you looking for social media PR or social media marketing? Both are indeed different (will cover this in a seperate post).

Hands-on: Speak to your marketing and PR/ communications department. Are they into any kind of social media engagement already? Is your vendor for marketing/ advertising/ PR already offering social media consultancy? Speak to them on what they think your brand needs and can do, via social media. Given the fact that they have already invested time in understanding your company/ brand, this is a good start to build your objectives.

04. Support
Gather internal support – social media engagement requires an attitude change, that requires a more open, honest and participative conversational skill. Bad PR is a very essential part of social media – it is important to identify the conversations that you will and need to address, as against going all over the place and spreading your brand thin.

Hands-on: If you need to convince a senior management team yourself, the internet is full of fabulous presentations/ case studies on how brands work with social media. Start with a search for ‘social media’ on If you are pressed for time, check with a/ your social media consultant – they usually sleep with a social media primer under their pillow! Insist on ROI-enabled case studies.

05. Budget
Social media is not rocket science but sure requires the time it takes to make a rocket. Its critically time and people-intensive. Have seperate budgets – away from traditional marketing or PR budgets to attempt social media engagement.

Hands-on: If you are in the consumer products business, you can identify potential pockets of budget if one department (say, marketing) is hesitant in jumping in – how about Services and Support division? Start small and build on the engagement/ budget as you see success. The budget needs to be two-pronged – one for ongoing listening and engagement and second, for specific campaigns. Think of it as seperate budgets for ongoing PR and a press conference.

06. Persevere
Building a brand online demands time. A lot of it. What a consultant can bring to the table is a focused approach, specific tactics and a tone that is unique to your brand. And what you need is to weigh in the engagement over a specific period of time. That time depends on the next point.

Hands-on: Insist on getting a calendar of activities/ tactics from your social media consultant. Is he trying to sell you a 3 month listening program. Ask for the week-wise break-up of what will be achieved each week/ fortnight/ month. Seek clarity on the execution of campaigns – its like asking for a press conference plan break-up. The tools, media and tactics are different, but that doesnt mean you’re not entitled to a detailed break-up of the task and its deliverables.

07. Regular engagement Vs Campaigns
Assuming you want to engage with people via social media for enhance your customer support, the first part is ongoing engagement. This would include an ongoing listening program tightly integrated with a focus on adding to ongoing conversations with your customers, supporting them when they complain or ask questions. The second part is running individual campaigns to win some brand-love (read, influence). How about a free service camp (depends on your product, of course) for the users of your twitter stream or the members of one of your brand’s Facebook group? Make it exclusive and see the online WoM swell.

Hands-on: Seek clarity on the activity calendar and freeze this BEFORE you sign off the budget for the entire program. Track progress based on this and insist on periodic reviews.

Remember…there is no ‘right way’ to engage with your target audience via social media – whatever seems to work is perhaps the right way. Learn as you work.

Picture courtesy: Matt Haam via Flickr



2 thoughts on “7-step guide to initiate a social media program

  1. Hi Karthik,

    Very cool insights. If you could make a small presentation (one idea on each slide) and share, it will get you more traction.

    Also, try to give “HandsOn” for a small business. It is likely that a large company would have a PR agency that handles online interactions.


  2. Good idea, Saurabh. I’m working on splitting the guide to large and small/ medium enterprises, who may have severe budgetary constraints. I’ll speak to some of my smaller clients and get some feedback for that post. But, perhaps more importantly, what is needed for small/ medium business is to clearly differentiate between social media PR and social media marketing. I believe they may prefer an increase in sales (direct ROI) as top priority than mere brand building since its more tangible results that help them with business. I may be wrong and there will be exceptions, however. Will work on both these posts.

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