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Social Media: To Engage or Not To Engage

A Simple Checklist

Remember, you don’t control the message or the medium, and that could be a good thing...or a very bad thing.

In 2009 Social Media, or at least the buzz about social media really took off in the popular consciousness and popular media. In an effort to help you focus on the facts beyond the buzz we have written a series of articles. This month we want to provide a simple checklist for you to use when assessing your plans for Facebook, Twitter, et al.

The answer to the question if social media will be a boon for business, or just another web panacea that will fall by the wayside remains to be seen. However, boon or bane you can't engage in social media half-heartedly and expect to be successful.

What follows is a simple set of questions that if answered honestly, can help you decide whether or not to dive in.

1. Do You Have Something To Say?

Do you have information to convey? If so, do you have information to convey on a regular basis? If you answer "No" to this question then there is no need to go further. Social media might be a good tool for you to observe, you're likely to learn a lot, but without something to say, it is difficult to be a genuine player in the social media landscape.

2. Do People Want To Listen Or Talk To You?

Again, be your customers or clients WANT or NEED to talk to you in this way? If you answer "No" to this question, then even if you have something to say, the time to say it, and the desire to listen and engage in a conversation social media may not be for you. If no one is there to read your posts social media may not be a sound investment of your time. If you answered "Yes", then understanding who wants to listen or talk to you can help you pick the right social media tools and the right messages.

3. Do You Have The Time To Say It?

Even if you have something to say and an audience who wants to hear it, you have to have the time to say it. Granted, social media allows you to be a little more off the cuff, maybe a little less polished, so corporate communication can be faster, but it still takes time. If you are not going to take time to post, to create content, to start a conversation then again, maybe lurking is for you.

4. Do You Have Time To Listen?

Social media isn't just top down, it's social...that means you have to be willing and able to carry on a conversation. If you have enough time to post, but not enough time to listen or converse, then making social media a core component of your web strategy may not be a good fit.

5. Are You Ready To Engage In Frank And Honest, VERY Public Conversations?

There are many success stories about companies strategically using social media to provide customer service and gain mindshare. However, only you can know if your business is ready, willing and able to engage in transparent web exchanges via social media. Remember, you don't control the message or the medium, and that could be a good thing...or a very bad thing.

6. Is It Going To Build Your Brand?

If you've said yes, and you've made it this far, congratulations! Now for the biggest question of all, is it going to make your organization stronger, is it going to contribute to your bottom line? Each organization has different goals and different needs. In today's challenging economy, or any economy for that matter, wasting time on functions that don't support your business is not a sound strategy. Likewise, ignoring tools that can powerfully propel your business forward is equally foolish.

At the end of the day, although social media are technical tools, the biggest factors to consider aren't the technologies involved, but rather the human factors. The checklist above is intended to get you to think about the human factors of your particular business, of your particular staff, of your particular customers. These factors will determine if a tool is right for you. At the end of the day, social media sites are just tools. Your job is to determine if they are the right tool for the job you have to do.

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