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Social Media

What can social media do for my Organization?

Now that you've got a domain name and have decided to have a presence on the Internet, you might want to consider using social media.

Regardless of the size of your business or organization, social media could help you reach your goals. The use of sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube by Canadians is increasing rapidly.

The fact is, many of your customers or stakeholders are already using social media. If you aren't, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity.

Social Media: How do I get Started?

1. Define your goal. Answer these questions:

What do you want to get out of social media? How will social media benefit your customers?

Are you going to use social media for customer service? Marketing? To raise awareness of your organization or product?

If you are a not-for-profit, are you going to use it to increase membership? Fundraising? To establish yourself as a thought leader?

By knowing what you want to accomplish using social media, it will make it a lot easier to decide what tools you want to use and how much time and money you will have to invest to achieve that goal.

2. Decide who is responsible for social media in your organization. Is social media the responsibility of the communications or marketing department? Is it a function for management?

Do not mistake social media users with social media managers. Just because someone uses Twitter or Facebook, that does not mean you want this person representing your organization. It is important to consider the person who runs your social media as a spokesperson - they will become the voice of your organization.

If your organization does have employees using social media, as organizational spokespersons or for personal use, you might want to consider developing guidelines for participating in social media.

3. Listen, then listen some more.

By spending some time upfront listening and observing what is being talked about and how it is being talked about, you can accomplish a couple of things:

  • Identify which social media tools your customers are using, and therefore where to concentrate your efforts.
  • Identify the key influencers who talk about your brand or industry. This may be helpful if you decide to engage influencers to help you spread your message.
  • Learn the language and protocols of the various tools.

There are plenty of tools, free or for a fee, that can help you listen. They are listed below.

4. Develop a plan and make sure your objectives for social media link with your overall organizational/communications/marketing goals.

There's no point to using any tool if you don't have a reason to use it. Each tool has its particular function and appeals to a different user. By developing a plan, you will define how, why, when, and what tools will be used, and who will use them. You will know what you want to accomplish with social media, and also when you've accomplished it.

There are many agencies that will help you develop a strategy, and there are templates that you can find online.

A few important points:

Just because a tool exists does not mean you have to use it. By spending some time in the beginning listening, you can find out where your customers are. More importantly, not every tool is right for every person or every business; find what you are comfortable using.

Social media isn't an end, it is a means. Content still means something. You have to have something to talk about, or people won't listen to you.

Most importantly, social media is a commitment. Once you decide to start using it, you need to make sure you have the resources to do so for the long term.

Social Media Tools

These are the social media tools CIRA uses:

WordPress: An easy to use blog tool and publishing platform. CIRA's blog Public Domain is a Wordpress-based blog.

Twitter: A microblogging platform. Messages are limited to 140 characters. Twitter is useful for disseminating headlines, engagement with customers and supporters, gaining competitor insight, personalizing your organization, and customer service. There are a few Twitter accounts associated with CIRA, including @CIRA001, @CIRANews and @mebuell.

Facebook: A very popular social networking tool. Facebook groups are useful for sharing information, engagement with customers and supporters, personalizing your organization, and customer service. CIRA's Facebook page.

LinkedIn: A social networking tool primarily used by professionals. It can be very useful for  sharing information, engagement with customers and supporters and recruiting. CIRA's LinkedIn group is available here.

SlideShare: A social networking site that allows users to share slide-based presentations. SlideShare is useful for organizations who wish to be established as thought leaders by sharing presentations/decks on key issues. CIRA's SlideShare account is available here.

Scribd: Described as a social publishing site, Scribd allows users to upload and share documents. Scribd is useful for organizations who wish to be established as thought leaders by sharing reports and research papers on key issues. CIRA's Scribd account is available here.

YouTube: A social networking service that allows users to upload and share videos. YouTube is a great tool for sharing information, customer service and video blogging. CIRA has a YouTube account.

Social Media Listening Tools

There are many tools to help you 'listen' to conversations on social media, some free and some not. CIRA also uses the following listening tools:

Google Alerts: A free service offered by Google, Google Alerts tracks news sites, websites, blogs, microblogs, image sharing sites, and video sharing sites.

Twitter Search: A free and easy to use service from Twitter that allows you to search tweets on a particular topic.

Radian6: A powerful social media listening tool available for a monthly fee.