Five social media New Year’s resolutions for your business

I thought I’d take a crack at compiling a list of five social media New Year’s resolutions that apply to all businesses, large and small. If you’re wondering why these resolutions are important, find out why my company does what it does or subscribe to our blog.

1. Learn by doing. Reading blog posts from the great and good of social media is a good way to stay abreast of the latest trends and techniques, but you’ll only really start to understand the potential and significance of social media by using it yourself. And while there may be political and budgetary barriers to overcome before getting your company engaging in social media, there’s no excuse not to take part yourself on an individual level. So, get going! – Join the conversation on Twitter, poke some long lost school friends on Facebook, upload your holiday snaps to Flickr, have a play at being a DJ on Blip.fm, brush-up your profile on LinkedIn, find a community of people or a blogger who shares your interests and even consider setting up your own blog.

2. Start listening. People are talking about brands at all hours of every day, in countless forms of social media, and you can guarantee that somewhere they’re talking about your business and that it’s having an impact on your bottom line. While I’d advise companies that it pays to get expert help with this, especially to understand the actions you need to take as a result of these conversations, a good first step is to start listening with some of the freely available tools out there – set-up some Google and Twitter alerts, try out the Social Media Firehose, find the communities who discuss your business on a regular basis and most importantly, click through and read the conversations and hear what people are saying.

3. Put a strategy in place. The impact of social media crosses existing organisational structures which makes it hard for one person or department to take ownership. Ideally a comprehensive strategy would involve Marketing, Corporate Communications, Customer Service, Product Development, Market Research, Legal and Human Resources. It’s not going to be easy, which is why you might consider working with a specialist consultancy to achieve this.

4. Start blogging. We advise all of our clients to do this, regardless of what business they’re in. A blog is a good way of reaching a really important constituency of your customer base – the ones that care enough about you to read your blog, as well as the press, shareholders and other key stakeholders. However, the real reason we make this recommendation is the transformative effect it has on businesses – it forces you to be conversational, and quickly allows you to work through a microcosm of the changes that social media will inevitably force on your business anyway. Some good example blogs to show your colleagues are Avis’ We Try Harder, Waitrose’s The Grocer’s Blog, Glasses Direct, innocent drinks, the Majestic Wine blog, Orange’s The Feed, Littlewood’s Love Label and SpinVox’s blog.

5. Start engaging. You can do this in many ways, whether it’s someone from your customer service department responding in real time to people complaining about issues on forums, inviting some relevant influential bloggers to your next press event, or incorporating a conversational element to your next marketing campaign. Bring in some external expertise, test a few different approaches out and learn from the experience – and above all else, be interesting, relevant and honest.

That’s it – if you stick even to two or three of these resolutions you’ll be better placed than most of your competitors to navigate your way through the combined challenges of the recession and the changes social media are bringing to the business landscape.

Robin Grant is the Founder and Managing Director of We Are Social, a specialist consultancy that helps brands to listen, understand and engage in conversations in social media. As part of you following the first resolution, feel free to say hi to him on Twitter

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