Despite all the chatter about social media, we find that many traditional companies are still reluctant to use these new tools to engage their customers and employees. This reluctance is a result of three things: the inability to help management fully understand the potential, concern over being burned, and the difficulty in deciding where to start.

Failing to address these challenges could have a high cost in today’s tough economy in the form of missed opportunities, either from failing to connect to a new generation of customers or missing opportunities to forge stronger ties with employees. It’s critical to use every marketing and communication tool at your disposal, and social media tools shouldn’t be overlooked.

We define social media as the interactive tools hosted on your own website or on numerous online communities such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. They give you the opportunity to tell your story, show your personality and engage in conversations with key audiences in their preferred channel of communication as they make employment and buying decisions.

A quick look at demographics reveals the need to get started soon. In the next 10 years, 75 million millennials, currently 15 to 28 years old, will have an increasing impact on how businesses communicate. They are important both as consumers and as employees, and businesses will need to learn how to connect with them through a channel of their choosing – more than likely using social media.

Fortunately your company doesn’t have to become completely social media savvy overnight. We’ve found that adherence to three rules greatly increases the chances for success in launching your social media program:

  • Involve Your Leadership Team From the Start – You need to bring the entire management team along on the journey so they undersoduction and question and answer session is a great way to start.
  •  Be Focused – The best way to understand the power of social media tools is to use them. While there are many options, only a few might fit your culture and business right now. It’s often better to use tools that generate feedback and engagement on your website before creating a Facebook presence or posting on YouTube before you are ready. Many of the companies we work with admit that their initial ideas were way too ambitious.
  • Start With a Strategy and Plan – Setting realistic priorities, addressing the time and resource commitment, goals and potential challenges makes the task much more enjoyable.

Your customers and employees are already using social media to make buying and employment decisions. By involving your leadership team, remaining focused and creating a plan, you can take full advantage of these new tools to engage critical audiences and build their loyalty.

VHPR has helped clients in a variety of industries, including healthcare, government, accounting, graphic design and financial services, plan and launch social media programs. Contact them at Boyd@VHPR.com