Guest post by Heather Whaling, co-moderater of #pr20chat.

“If you build it, they will come” may have worked for Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams,” but it’s not a wise approach to social media (or any communication for that matter). Yet, we’ve all heard stories about companies that simply created a Twitter account or Facebook page without a plan – only to be disappointed in the outcomes.

It’s now the fourth quarter of 2010, which means it’s time to begin planning for 2011. But, a solid social media plan isn’t enough. Instead, companies need to plan smart and implement smarter.

Plan Smart.

You need a plan. A smart plan to be exact. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish? (i.e., drive sales, increase awareness, generate leads, establish thought-leadership)
  • Who are you trying to reach? How do they prefer to receive and share information?
  • What’s your message? What do you want people to know about you?
  • What types of content can you create to deliver those messages?
  • What tools can get you from where you are now to where you want to go?
  • How can you integrate traditional PR and marketing with social media to achieve better results?
  • Where can you insert creativity to rise above the noise?
  • What does success look like?

Developing an effective, comprehensive plan won’t happen overnight. But, it’s a necessary first step on the path toward effective communication.

But, that’s just it: The plan is merely Step 1.

Implement Smarter.


Execution is just as important as the plan development. How often have we heard tales of companies that delegate social media management to an intern – only to later regret the decision? Interns are wonderful additions to the team, but they require guidance, oversight and strategic assistance. Taking a hands-off approach to social media implementation is akin to “if you build it, they will come.” It’s just not that simple. Smart implementation includes the following steps:

  • Setting expectations. Who is on the social media implementation team and what is each person responsible for? What are the approval processes? How much creative leeway is available? How will the team be held accountable?


  • Frequent measurement. Google Analytics and other web-metric services should be your best friend. Traditional PR people are straddling the online world, which means we must learn how these tools improve our effectiveness. For example, consider Google Analytics – so much insight to be gleaned from this one tool! Search terms provide a window into the kind of content people want. Referring sites and how visitors from each source move through the site can sculpt blogger relations. And that’s just scratching the surface. Smart implementation is dependent on digesting the data available – and adjusting accordingly.
  • Constant communication. The implementation team – the people “on the front lines” – need to maintain open communication with each other, as well as with the decision-makers and strategy setters. Manage expectations. Discuss what’s working … and what’s not. Offer anecdotes to illustrate the value of social media to the organization. Schedule “wrap up” meetings after key projects, campaigns, or milestones to discuss successes and opportunities for improvement.

Let’s think of these as initial “getting started” tips. How do you make sure the implementation is as smart as the initial plan? What advice would you offer to improve the planning and execution processes?

Heather Whaling helps nonprofits and small businesses integrate digital and traditional communication strategies. Named one of the top 30 PR experts to follow on Twitter, Heather co-moderates the popular #pr20chat, a weekly exploration of technology’s influence on PR. You can connect with her on her blog.