Business is changing fast. But as technologies come and go, these principles withstand the proverbial test of time: Marketing is about connecting consumers with messages. Find your consumers where it’s convenient for them, and make your message heard.

If you’re still wondering what social media has to do with your business, think for a minute about where you’d start if you were looking for a new TV and needed to compare prices. Or wanted to see what an old college friend was up to. Or were hungry for some Thai food, and were looking for good restaurants nearby. Still wondering?

I didn’t think so.

Create your plan of action

Once you’re on board with social media, the most important thing is to decide—in advance—what exactly you want your social media efforts to do for you. Do you want to provide better customer service? Sell more products? Increase brand awareness? Decide what the goal is, and strategy will follow.

Make your presence known on the social media platforms best suited to your product. If you’re targeting career-minded professionals, be sure your LinkedIn profile is top-notch; if mommy bloggers are your market, try daily posts on a well-maintained Facebook page.

Above all, make sure branding is consistent across platforms, down to the font and images you use. Customers want to feel reassured they’re getting a high-quality, dependable product—no matter where they go looking for it.

Don’t forget to designate a person within your company to take charge of social media efforts—and make sure it’s someone who really gets social media, and who enjoys it (or risk tweets of “I hate my job” going out to your followers).

Track your progress

Once you’ve got a campaign going, take a step back to assess your work. In Web 3.0, success is measured in fans, followers, shares, and clicks, so make sure you’re keeping up.

Advanced analytics tools (I recommend Google Analytics) can tell you how many people viewed your Facebook profile, how many of those viewers followed a link to your home page, and how many of them went on to buy something from your site. A little Big Brother-ish? Maybe. But for companies trying to understand what makes their customers tick, it’s seriously cool.

Assess and adapt

So you’ve launched your campaign, upped your likes, and tallied some results—what’s next?

If you’re reaching your goals, well, by all means keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe reallocate some of your budget toward further social media awesomeness.

On the other hand, if you’re not getting the results you expected, it’s time to reevaluate. Figure out where your strategy is lacking, and adjust accordingly. Maybe your message isn’t consistent from platform to platform. Maybe you’re not reaching the audience you want. Maybe you need to try a different site altogether (are you on Pinterest yet?).

If you’re not sure where you’re going wrong, try A/B testing—test one campaign against another. See which one engages the audience better. Stick with what works, and ditch what doesn’t.

But whatever you do, don’t let fear stop you from breaking into the social media webosphere.

By not giving your customers an easy way to find you (and, in turn, doing some analytic sleuthing to learn about them), you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And if you’re not getting your message out there, you can bet your competitors are.

Ready to jump on the social media bandwagon? Contact Atomic for help launching a killer social media plan of action.

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