With social media, you can reach a mass media-type audience directly. Right now. With no filter from the news media.
Will you reach as big of an audience? No. That is a disadvantage.
The advantage, though, is everything you write, film or tape will get out there, and often, the mass media may decide to cover something after spotting it in the wild.
Here's how to craft a social media plan.
1) Lack of speed killsEven more than with earned media, bureaucracy and bottlenecks can kill you with social media.
Your plan has to be about speed and quality.
Social media demands a stream of short, unique content. Whatever plan you craft, it has to work like a machine. It has to be smooth and lightning fast.
2) Self-serving posts don't get readA common mistake is to treat social media as a monologue, and to make it self-centered.
This is why you see a lot of Facebook pages that are "me" focused and Twitter feeds that are just links to press releases and whatnot.
Social media isn't about you. It's a dialogue. Why would an average person read what you're saying? What would they get out of it?
Nobody wants to read that you're in a meeting, or just walked into Starbucks to get a grande soy latte with a shot of vanilla.
The best use of social media is to give your audience something. Inform them. Entertain them. Give them news they can use. Ask questions. Break news by announcing things on Twitter or Facebook first. Put videos on Youtube they can't get anywhere else.
Give your audience the best value you can, just like newspapers, radio and TV give their audience something for their time and attention.
3) Make it easyI've seen websites where it took three different applications and six steps to publish a single post on the web. Then you'd have to do a separate process to post the same thing on Facebook and Twitter.
It was a nightmare. And this is all too common.
Make it simple. Link things so whatever you post on the blog automatically gets on Facebook and your Twitter feed -- or Tumblr, or whatever you use.
Don't rely entirely on one person to create all the content. That's too much to ask of anyone. Make it easy for other people to write and post content on social media without jumping through a bunch of hoops.
Will you make mistakes? Sure. But even with every possible safeguard in place, you'd probably make the same mistakes. You'd just make them slower, and more painfully, and nobody would be reading your stuff anyway, because you only post once a week.
4) Test your system now, not when you need itMake it easy to post two to five times a day, and test the system by putting up every type of content.
Shoot a short video on your iPhone, Droid or camera, put it on Youtube and see how hard -- or easy -- it is to embed that video on your blog or put it on your orgnaization's Facebook page.
Tape a podcast and do the same experiment. Do it early. Don't wait until you have video and audio you want to get up right away. Design your plan and your system from the start so it's simple, whether you're dealing with words, photos, film or audio.
The ideal system lets somebody write a product involving not just words but possibly photos, video and audio, and post it with the fewest steps possible, with your posting system automatically linked to your other social media. For example: I know most new blogging platforms like Wordpress will automatically sync up with other social media like Facebook and Twitter, so if you want, every post you put up on the blog gets put on your Facebook page and tweeted.
Do something like that. Because social media requires frequent content, you want to make it as easy and fool-proof as possible. Nobody will want to post five times a day if it's a 15-step process.
Social media isn't a replacement for earned media, but it is a growing force and it's becoming standard these days for any public figure. If you're in the public relations business and you aren't using social media, people kind of look at you funny, as if you don't believe in telephones or email or the internet. It's a useful tool, and you should plan for it specifically.