Social media is all the rage these days. At every cafe, every turn of the corner, in college, on the bus, practically anywhere, you can find someone on social media, tapping away on their smartphone or a tablet.

For companies large and small, most would have dabbled in social media first as an experiment, and then progressively integrate the experiment into their overall marketing program.

However, beyond the occasional and ad hoc experiment with social media, companies have to analyze social media and see how the tool can become not just a tactical part of the marketing program, but have a strategic and creative direction as well.

Ask yourself a few questions.

First, what kind of social media tools will you use? Do you have a content-driven web property that can integrate well with the social media tools you choose? Have you made provisions for emerging and future social media tools that may perform the same way, only better; or tools that will revolutionize the functionality of social media in new ways?

Second, who on your team can be designated to take control of the social media marketing tools? If there is no one, what kind of individuals should you look for? If you have identified potential candidates within the company, do they already have the prerequisite skills and knowledge? If not, how do you plan to help them get up to speed and get productive?

Third, have you analyzed how social media as a marketing tool complement your traditional marketing tools and tactics? How would you integrate these social media tools with print, broadcast and other online platforms? What kind of measurements are you looking at?

Fourth, have you identified a strategic program consisting of workflow, content frameworks, creative delivery, audience engagement, timeline, etc? If so, document it well in a collaborative platform so that your team stakeholders can all collaborate in a networked environment to keep track of execution, deadlines, programs, stakeholders, measurements, etc.

It is ultimately fun to test the waters of social media. It is also fun to test various tools of social media for a while. But at the end of the day, social media will be merely a tool to complement our holistic marketing program and we have to stop treating it like an orphaned experiment.

Copyright(c) 2011 Seamus Phan. All rights reserved.