Social media is a transformational phenomenon that is changing the way businesses are creating and sharing corporate and marketing messages and collecting feedback, internally and externally, with their prospects and customers.

As social media gets inducted into businesses as a strategic communication and marketing channel, it requires a radical redesign of business processes and a fundamental rethinking of the way businesses function.

In this article, we look at the four phases of implementing a social-media management system in your business: assessment, planning, execution, and analysis—all with a feedback mechanism that continuously monitors and optimizes for the best performance.

1. Assessment

The initial assessment is the first step in getting started with social media. It is an organized way to recognize the internal and external conditions as they apply to your business, and it lays the foundation for the success of the next three phases.


Details and Steps in the Process


Mapping the Social-Media Audience

Understand the social-media profile of your current customers by studying their response and willingness to participate in social communication.

Find out the adoption rate of your current customers on social-media channels, and group them by their activities, usage, and age (of account creation) on these channels. 

Map the profile of your typical customer by creating social-media activity and participation segments.

By the end of this phase, the following should be clear:

·         The profile of current customers on social-media channels

·         User segments as they pertain to your industry, grouped together by various attributes

Identifying the Channel Opportunity

Understanding your audience will give you a very good idea of where they hang out the most. Don't build your brand across all the channels; apply the 80-20 rule, and focus on the channel that you understand the best and in which you are most likely to find your audience.

You will have a clear list of your proposed active business channels:

·         Top 4-5 active social-media channels for your business and 2-3 as back-up options

·         Identification of purpose

Resources and In-house Champions

The social-media function requires a team, and not all would be external facing. Define and create appropriate roles, coordination processes, and accountability for those roles. Identify the resources from current staff or source new.

You will have a centralized social-media structure with roles, responsibilities, and coordination processes defined.

The Communication Protocol

Define initiation and response strategy. Design and develop the communication protocol for the social-media team to practice.

With this process, workflow and approach will be defined:

·         Which messages are shared?

·         Tone of the messages

·         Proactive, response based or strategic nature of messages—promotional versus informational

·         Response monitoring and alert mechanism

Setting the Performance Criterion

Replace all ad hoc processes with strategic, measurable activities.

Define the purpose, objectives, goals, milestones, and performance-evaluation factors.

An accountable social-media process with...

·         Metrics and success factors

·         Evaluation milestones

2. Planning

What does your social-media road map look like? Do you have one? You need one, because what was once an ad hoc, one-member group is now a strategic function of an organization. Planning for the execution of your social-media strategy is critical to its success.

For example, the one-member team is now a 20-member team; the group that interacted with public relations now coordinates with Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Product, HR, etc.; and one channel is now several channels—with a great need to "socialize" all current assets and content for the new media.

So, it is crucial to have a well-rounded social-media plan. The most important consideration is to have it strategically aligned with the organization's overall business goals.

If social media is considered in isolation or planned outside the bigger scheme of your organization, it loses its vitality and transformational characteristics. The planning phase is all about ensuring strategic alignment.


Details and Steps in the Process


Building the Social-Media Environment

Within the organization and outside, have a plan to set up and continuously maintain the channels that the organization is actively engaged with.

A road map for a "social-enabled organization."

Setting Up an Events Calendar

Map your traditional and social-media events in one central calendar.

Clearly define the duration of each initiative and overlaps, if any.

A holistic view of all communications—grouped by the nature and business functions

Events Details—the Campaign Approach

Whether you call it campaigns or projects or programs—create a well-defined plan for every event. 

Group your events by types (marketing, business communications, engagement, brand building, etc.) for better management and accountability.

Each campaign will have its own sets of processes, goals, and definitions. 

Define Content Strategy

Based on the user profile, as identified in the assessment phase, plan the content strategy. Your content should encompass all elements encouraging user interaction.

A content creation, sourcing, and delivery plan.

A plan to re-purpose content for social media.

Set Up Standards, Code of Conduct, and Operational Procedures

It is important to set up a code of conduct or a simple rulebook or policies. Social media is an uncontrolled environment, and it is important to identify potential risks and ways to mitigate them—before they happen.

A central rules and policies site or document for social-media communication

A well-crafted plan will eliminate the ad hoc nature of social-media communications; gain employee confidence; and keep users engaged with various, timely, relevant content that's modified based on social data received as feedback.

3. Execution

The key to social-media execution is the nature of media itself: flow with the trend—while maintaining a plan of action.

What matters most in social-media execution is "relevance"—more than in any other channel. Amid all the din, for a user to become a patron of a brand or service on a social channel, the content and message has to be really relevant. A structure that allows you to continually get feedback on the relevance of your messages and helps you execute accordingly will give your campaigns a big boost.

Watch for trends and for patterns before execution, and keep optimizing by adjusting the plans.


Details and Steps in the Process


Using the Right Tools and Technology

Build your execution strategy around a centralized solution that enables collaboration and a well-integrated set of tools—with a built-in feedback mechanism.

A set of technology solutions and tools for automation, efficiency and accountability

Campaign Execution

Releasing a well-synchronized and coordinated campaign across channels. Depending on the nature of the channel, set the frequency and tone of your campaigns.

Campaigns executed on time, at the right channels.

Monitoring the Campaign for Signals

Have a strategic approach to monitoring your campaigns, and follow the procedure set earlier to respond to and take action.

An actionable watch-and-react task force. 

Engage During and After the Campaign

Social media is a great medium for real-time interaction. However, to make it a scalable process, the execution strategy should involve building a community outside the organization. The best way to encourage user interaction is to have a customer respond to another customer's query.

A scalable system that encourages conversation.

Easy access to information about the campaign and an engaged and informed community.

Back-Up Plans, Alternative Execution Strategies and a Quick Follow-Up Action Plan

When you are running a campaign on social media, be prepared to react to the signals. For example, if the campaign goes viral, be prepared to keep the fulfillment process in place—or it will be a lost opportunity.

An integrated CRM system—one that takes a prospect through the process of awareness building, interest creation, and qualitative assessment—leading to conversion. At each trigger, have a backup action plan.

Social media can be used for different use purposes. On the one hadnd, it is like a wild focus group, where several product and business strategies can be tested; on the other, it is an invitation to a party taking place on your website, e-commerce portal, or retail outlet. With well-crafted and well-executed invitations, social media can be very effective in driving qualified and interested users to your sites of interest.

4. Analysis

How do you define the success of your social-media campaigns? How do you attribute the results to the initiatives conducted on social channels? And what was the contribution of your investment and involvement in social media to meet the overall business goals?

The key to accountability is having metrics that allow you to measure contextual and granular success, along with the ability to roll it up at higher, strategic levels.


Details and Steps in the Process


Performance Mapped to the Goals and Objectives

For each campaign and content strategy, measure against a specialized metric for performance and compare it with the goals.

Performance of a campaign


Identify the trend and compare multiple campaigns to evaluate benchmarks and best-practices for your campaigns.

Optimized benchmark numbers for different types of campaigns and content strategies.

Know the Performers

Behind every successful campaign is a set of factors. Identify what triggered the viral behavior of a campaign or what got the peak attentions.

Users, influencers, and the inherent characteristic of the content that can be used to ensure repeat performance. 

Aggregate and Attribute

Pick up all the individual pieces and aggregate them together at the organizational level, with the ability to provide a complete visibility and attribution of the returns for different social-media and traditional campaigns.

A holistic view of the performance of all channels of an organization—encompassing social media, email, direct, and other channels.

Feedback to the Assessment Process

Create a scoring system that can be used to logically assess channels, content, and workflow for future initiatives.

A scorecard and a ranking system. Depending on the organization, it can be from a simple Excel spreadsheet-based system to a more-centralized performance scorecard.

It's clear: What is measured is valued. And though measurement is the last phase of a campaign, it is not an afterthought. Measurement principles should be defined at the time of assessment and must be augmented with the planning and execution phases.

The above 20 steps are all that it takes to run a successful social-media function—from start to end.

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Amita Paul is the founder and CEO of ObjectiveMarketer (, a provider of social-media-marketing management solutions. Reach her via