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What the **** are we doing this for? Although this isn’t exactly one of the questions I had in mind, it probably is the one that gets asked the most when it comes to businesses and their use of social media. Because social media has so dramatically challenged the status quo regarding how customers express opinions and thereby influence company decisions, almost every business has felt the pressure to jump into the ocean and see how well they can swim. The problem is, too many businesses are sinking instead. As with any new business initiative, asking the right questions upfront is the most critical piece of your business’ social media strategy. Have you asked these questions of your social media efforts?

1. Where are our customers (and desired customers) swimming?

It’s possibly the most important question and the one that should be asked again and again. Just about everyone is on Facebook, but what about the other platforms? Which ones do your customers love? Make it your daily business to know where your customers hang out, and go hang out in there with them.

2. How are our customers rewarded for engaging with us via social media?

Have you given your customers compelling reasons to engage with your business on social media?  How exactly do you improve their lives on a daily basis? Do you answer their questions? Do you make them feel smart? Do you help them impress their friends with the engaging content they share? If you think these questions are beyond the scope of social media, think again. “Likes” and “Shares” are not given as freely as they once were, businesses today must earn every one.

3. How will we measure the success of our social media efforts?

Consider the specific outcomes your business hopes to achieve through social media. For example, are you seeking to increase sales from existing customers? New customers? Existing or new products?  Are you looking to improve your lead conversion rate compared to other campaigns? Is there an existing framework within which to capture and report your social media KPI’s? If your business doesn’t already utilise a robust method to measure ROI from its existing initiatives, it will be difficult to adopt new sophisticated metrics to evaluate the success of your social media campaign.

4. How must we adapt our business to this new world order?

The businesses that are sinking in the new world of social media aren’t likely to stay afloat in the old world much longer. The two worlds are merging. The powers now held by consumers and communities over entrenched business interests will forevermore have an outlet for expression and sharing. Is your business structured to incorporate and continuously adapt to meet the needs, opinions and desires of your customers and communities?

Social media may indeed be a giant pain in the proverbial for many businesses. But rather than curse it, we have reason to be grateful for it is giving us a preview of what the successful businesses of tomorrow will look like. Painful as it may be, we are all being forced to ask hard questions about how our businesses engage meaningfully with our customers and communities. It's sink or swim time.

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