Developing an Organizational Social Media Plan

As organizations continue to search for new ways to engage consumers in more interactive ways, many, if not all have begun to examine the opportunities presented by the growing popularity of social media.

As Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) point out, the popularity of social media tools such as Facebook have resulted in user registration counts exceeding the populations of entire countries in South America and Europe. Nail (2009) cites a 33% increase between 2007 and 2008 in the use of social media by consumers and suggests that organizations turn their focus to discovering which tools consumers are using the most and to create social media plans that focus on building strong mutual relationships.

Nail (2009) reveals that more and more organizations are creating social media marketing departments and positions such as “director of community” in an attempt to better understand the most effective methods in which to open lines of communication with their target audiences. Hardey (2009) cites an example in which one company’s approach to market research was to create a social networking site (or SNS) in the form of a Facebook Fan Page that allows any visitor to join a group of other individuals with an interest in the organization and its products. Hardey (2009) notes that the added advantage of using this “joining” method is that it requires users to provide personal details from which a basic profile of information such as age, gender and home address are collected. As Hardey (2009) points out, this freely-given information creates an opportunity for organizations to build a community around their product while collecting demographic, behavioral and attitudinal data directly from consumers.

In terms of a community experience, what do social media users want to see from an organization? Nail (2009) cites a strategy & communications agency study that confirmed that 85% of consumers expected organizations to use social media tools to interact with them but that 51% wanted this interaction kept to a minimum while allowing users to opt-out. Nail (2009) discovered that what consumers wanted most from organizations using social media was to have a forum where their problems could be solved and where they could submit ideas and feedback on the products and services the organization provided. Nail (2009) further suggests that organizations interested in creating a social media plan that respects the opinions of its customers will create a platform that encourages two-way communication while avoiding an overload of marketing content.

Nail (2009) suggests that a successful social media plan invites, listens to and responds to customers by creating community-focused tools on their websites that welcome users into a dialogue both with the organization and other community members. As Nail (2009) explains, it is important for an organization to also monitor other social media platforms where customers may be discussing their products and services to assure they are aware of issues and improvement opportunities. Most importantly, Nail (2009) stresses that organizations must communicate with their customers by openly responding to their concerns and suggestions by explaining how feedback translates into future product enhancements.

Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) describe categories of social media that can be included in any social media plan, depending on factors including the type of product offered and the target audience. One category mentioned by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010), social networking sites, allows users to create personalized profile pages that can include blogs, video, photos and audio while allowing them to connect with friends through instant messaging and email. As suggested by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010), organizations can take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook to create brand-focused profiles that allow them to embed content from another social media category, content communities. As explained by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010), content communities include a variety of media such as photos (Flickr), presentations (Slideshare) and videos (YouTube) and allow users and organizations to upload and share their own created content and to also link or embed it within social networking sites. Another category mentioned by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) is the blog, a shortened version of the term, weblog which evolved from the original term Open Diary (originally a community of online diary writers). As Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) explain, blogs are websites authored by one individual that can focus on any topic, personal or private, and allow readers of the blog to provide feedback through a commenting system. As with social networking sites, blogs can also embed items from content communities to make them more media rich. A “micro” blogging tool mentioned by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) that is growing in popularity, Twitter, allows users to send out short text posts limited to 140 characters. As Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) explain, Twitter has helped organizations like Dell and Burger King to increase revenues by using the tool to announce sales and promotions that its opt-in audience responded favorably to.

Nail (2009) warns that despite the growth in popularity of social media tools, that organizations should be careful to remember that the focus must remain on improving a collaborative relationship with the target audience. By doing so, Nail (2009) predicts that the audience will not only consume the organization’s products, but through shared participation in product development will become vocal brand advocates by engaging potential consumers who are visiting the organization’s social media site.


Hardey, M. (2009). The social context of online market research: an introduction to the sociability of social media. International Journal of Market Research, 51(4), 562.

Kaplan, A., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59-68.

Nail, J. (2009). Social media in 2009: A tale of two futures. Public Relations Tactics, 16(1), 13.