For anyone that is looking to dive into the wonder world of social media, there are probably a few questions you should ask yourself before you get started.

Also, to express my love for The Office, I decided to use the show as my theme for this post.  By the way, Dwight and Moes are by far the best characters on the show!

What Are Your Goals?

If you are just engaging in social media because it is a buzz word, then odds are you should not be doing social media.  It should be crystal clear why you are engaging in the platforms you chose.  Is it to generate more traffic to the site? Build your brand?  Increase leads or download forms? Market an event?  Not only should you be able to answer those questions, but you should know how you are going about achieving those goals.  Is is blogging? whitepapers? guest blogging? webinars? podcasts? etc… Either way a good social media strategy is nothing without a content development strategy.  Set timelines, roles and responsibilities and understand who it is you are trying to reach and it will make your social media strategy that much more successful.

How Committed Are You?

Are you ready to start putting in a lot of time in social media, without getting anything in return?  Well that is what it is going to be like when you first start.  You will be following people, talking to people, sharing content, commenting, etc….and for a while, you won’t see anything happening.  It will be like nobody knows you are there.  But at some point, people will start to notice you.  You will start to make friends.  You will start to learn and understand the best ways to engage with each social community.  This is when you will start to really see the return.  All of a sudden people will start following you, sharing what you have to say, commenting on your posts, visiting your site, subscribing to your RSS feed.  So the big question is, are you committed to staying on top of this for longer than 2 weeks?  You need to be disciplined and persistent, but in the longer run it will pay off.

Can You Be Transparent?

Something that can get you burned in social media is trying to be someone you are not.  The users who are dedicated to a community will see right through you and call you out.  Don’t be someone you are not.  Be honest, truthful and open.  Use your real name, business name, position, URL, and experiences to help make yourself more real and authentic.  It will help you to earn the trust of your fellow users and make people want to hear what you have to say.

What is Your Current Position in the Industry?

Of course people who are already key influencer’s in the industry will have a much easier time getting people to listen what they have to say.  But for you and me, we don’t have that luxury, that is something that needs to be earned.  However there are ways to expedite that process.  If you are able to connect with those influencer’s and have them spread your content for you, you can get in front of more people faster.  So pay attention to who those big players are and find ways to approach them and become friends with them.

Do You Have a Strategy?

You may want to know what it is you are going to be doing, before you just start wondering aimlessly around social space.  Ok, so you decided to blog twice a week, write a whitepaper and guest speak on a webinar.  Ok….so what are you going to talk about?  How are you going to capture your audience?  What are you going to say that is unique that will make people want to tell their friends about it?  If you can do your research before you actually start engaging, it will make things a lot easier.  If you can truly understand your audience and what people like to share, your content can go from good to great!

Who is Your Supporting Cast?

If you are looking to start a social media marketing plan for your company, you better make sure you have the support of your management team.  The last thing you want to do is have your boss come by your computer and see nothing but Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin on your screen.

Do You Have a Budget?

I am not saying that you can’t engage in social media on a low budget, but remember the biggest cost you will be accruing is the fact that you are not working on projects that directly lead to revenue.  You are basically trading your time, which equals money, for building your social media presence.  Again, this is where the support of your management team will come into play.  Making sure they understand how social media is measured and are able to see the value is going to be huge in how much time they allow you to engage in social media and even provide a budget to your cause.

How Do You Measure Your Impact?

All of your hard work and effort means nothing unless you have the ability to measure what is working and what isn’t.  Using things like Baseline Reports/Metrics, Social Media Monitoring Tools, Google Analytics, social event timelines, and revenue numbers to help you determine if what you are doing is effective or not.