If you’re a business owner and you’re starting from scratch with social media, here’s a step-by-step timetable for launching your new social media presence
12 Weeks Before Launch: Choose Your Social Platforms
A few weeks before launch, choose which platforms you’ll use to launch your brand. It’s important to decide (or find out) how seriously you’re going to take social media in the next 1-2 years. It’s better not to launch on a platform at all than to launch it, post four times and then forget it.
This is also when the social media manager (or team) should be coordinating with the marketing team or other marketing agencies (depending on the size of the company) to make sure the social media plan is integrated into a big-picture marketing approach for the brand.
Determine your overall goals for converting social media followers into customers (and back again), and spend some time thinking about which platforms best support those goals.
Finally, plan 10-15 sample posts for each platform you’ll kick off on launch day. Pass the posts around to the marketing team and key decision-makers. Or, if you’re a solo-entrepreneur, try them out on socially savvy friends. This will give everyone (including you) a taste for your brand voice. If you report to higher-ups, everyone will be on the same page before planning has gone too far.
8 Weeks Before Launch: Write Social Media Guidelines
The next step is to create character sketches and a brand handbook outlining your dos and don’ts for social media posts. This step is vital if your brand is, or will be, managed by more than one person. Spend some time thinking of your brand as a character. You may even want to write up who he or she is. What are her extracurricular interests?
Here are a few more questions to get you started:
Does your brand refer to itself as “we” or “I”?
Does your brand have a political leaning? How comfortable is your company with offending followers of a different political leaning?
Will you respond to comments and how often? Even negative ones? What tone will you use to address negative comments? (There will be haters. It’s a public forum after all.)
If your social media account were a person, what would he or she do for fun? How would he or she talk? What TV shows or books would be of interest?
The answers to these questions may be different from the interests of the brand manager or the CEO, as they should be. Unless you’re creating a personal brand (in which case the answers to many of these questions will fall in line with you or the person you’re representing), your brand’s personality should be a reflection of the personas you want to attract.
Once your team has a good grasp of your brand’s “who,” create a handbook to document rules and behaviours for your brand on social media. As with all rules, some will be broken, but having these guidelines will help establish your brand during launch. Write the handbook as if you were explaining things to a new employee who doesn’t know anything about your brand. Who are you? What are you selling? How are you using social media to enhance user experience with the brand?
1-4 Weeks Before Launch: Create a Social Media Calendar
Next, create a first-month social media calendar, even if you don’t plan on sticking to it 100%. Rigid social media calendars can be constrictive, especially if you plan to comment on current events or use memes while they’re still cool. But it’s good to have goals for how often you’ll post and have some planned shares on hand, especially for busy days.
This is also a good time to start thinking a few months to a year ahead. Drafting a tweet six months in advance may be pushing it. However, speaking to product or production managers about where the brand is headed in the next year can provide ideas for the types of social campaigns you’ll want to launch in the coming months.
As with most tasks, launching a social media campaign typically takes more time and planning than it may seem from the outset. If you can start getting the details together a few months out, future mini-launches will go more smoothly.
Tip: If possible, ensure that at least two people (the content writer and a proofreader) sign off on every post before it goes on the calendar. Typos are inevitable, but they’re easy to prevent.
Launch Eve: Double-Check Details
On the day before launch, make a detailed to-do list and mark off every item before you leave the office.
Launch eves are often email-full days. Check in with this person, verify details with that person and put out a few fires. The best way to keep everything straight is to create a checklist and double-check every detail. Don’t make assumptions. Re-verify everything with the people you’re depending on for a successful launch day.
Here are a few details to double-check:
The social media bios and art are the final versions.
The posts are proofed and ready to go live with photos.
Photos have watermarks, hashtags or other necessary branding.
Key people know when and what to post on their personal accounts, and time zones are accounted for.
All links are correct.
The social team is ready with launch-day goals and key performance indicators, and it’s clear how these metrics will be measured.
Everything has been signed off.
Launch Day: Start Engaging
If you’ve planned well, launch day is about execution and observation. Watch your well-prepared copy go live, hit Refresh until you’re on the verge of carpal tunnel and enjoy watching the brand you created come to life. Today is also when you start engaging. Respond to your new fans’ questions and comments. This is a first chance to show off the brand’s personality.
Higher-ups may be expecting a brand launch post-mortem, so make sure you (or your social marketing team) measure engagement and take screenshots of successes throughout the day.
Post-launch: You’re a Social Manager Now
After the launch, stay active and passionate, interact with fans and develop your brand’s personality as the company grows and changes.
There are too many tasks to list for this phase because it may comprise the rest of a social manager’s job. Instead, here are some brand strategy points to consider adding to your handbook now that you’re interacting with the public:
If you received press coverage on launch day, select pieces to share and interact with the journalists, too.
Get to know your first few followers and frequent posters. Who are these folks? How do they compare to the people you anticipated interacting with your brand? How might these differences (if they exist) affect your strategy?
Don’t forget to experiment. Original plans for converting fans into buyers may not be as effective as expected. Plan to try (and measure the effects of) new tactics. That will keep the brand fresh and its social manager in constant idea mode.
What to Watch Out For
Now that you know the “dos” for launching a brand on social media, here are a few launch “don’ts” to avoid:
Don’t count on launching a viral piece of content that will make or break your brand’s social success. Even if you get lucky, you’ll need more than 15 seconds of fame to build a brand.
Don’t launch on a medium just for the sake of launching on that medium. Building a brand means generating unique and interesting content.
Don’t wait until 1-2 weeks before launch to begin social brainstorming. Make sure someone on the team is focused on social media content throughout development, whatever form “development” may take for your brand.
It can be a strange sensation, tweeting into a void: “Hello! We’re here! Come buy our widget!” But, if you follow the timeline above, you’re sure to start with your best social foot forward.