Remember when your mother said you couldn't go to a classmate's party and you tried to build your case by saying that all your friends would be there? Then she asked whether you'd follow them if they jumped off the roof.

Well, guess what? If your organization has been struggling to set up social-networking pages because everyone else is doing it, maybe you should heed your mother's old advice.

It's true that social media has become the most popular marketing channel since the advent of the Internet, but marketers (and those who are responsible for marketing) need to develop a solid strategy first, as with all other tactics, before testing the new waters.

Whether yours is a small or midsize company, nonprofit, or public institution, if it's not yet in the social-media space you should know up front that entering and playing in that space is going to take an investment of time and effort.

And even those organizations that have been tweeting and networking for a while should stop chasing social media without the following three essentials in place.

1. A Professional Website

Although some marketing experts claim that blogs are quickly replacing websites, most people will visit company websites to learn more about your products, services, or mission. Your website's landing pages are also the destination point from external links in online news releases, published articles, videos, or any social-media entries and blogs in which you've posted a URL or other hyperlink. If your site isn't ready for prime time, you can lose those visitors in seconds—and reduce the odds that they'll come back.

Equate this situation to staying with friends out of town. You've planned a visit with them for months in advance; you're excited to see them and anticipate a positive experience. But, when you get there, you find their home is disorganized, difficult to move around in, and (frankly) unattractive. You feel so uncomfortable that you decide next time you'll stay in a hotel and not return to their home. See what I mean?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Elaine Fogel

Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel