How many times have people at your company told you that they just don’t “get” social media, or understand why your company needs to follow Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter?

These aren’t just idle comments. Misconceptions about social media can hurt your brand and hamper your ability to compete in your marketplace by limiting your company’s participation in the social media dialogue. And if the people who hold those misconceptions also control the marketing budget, alarm bells should be ringing.

Here’s how to get your company onboard with social media marketing and help everyone understand why social media is a powerful element of a smart marketing strategy.

  1. Educate. Create training sessions to help others at your company understand how social media works and why your company should be part of the social media conversation. You may need to begin with the basics for those who are unfamiliar with social media. Profile social media use in your industry, especially by your competitors. Share examples of effective social media marketing campaigns by organizations like yours.
  2. Ask for ideas. Encourage everyone, from the CEO on down, to suggest ideas for social media content and customer engagement. Create an easy way for people to share ideas with the marketing team. If you have a company blog, ask for help with content.
  3. Partner with other departments. Reach out to customer service, tech support, product development and other units for help in preparing prompt, accurate responses to product-based comments and questions on your social media pages.
  4. Keep score. Create and distribute a regular social media “scorecard” to report the results of your social media marketing and track competitors’ social media efforts. Keep it simple, straightforward, fact-based and user-friendly.
  5. Equip your sales team. Everyone who has direct contact with customers and prospects should have easy-to-use tools, such as branded premiums or sales collateral, to share your company’s social media addresses.
  6. Keep social media visible. Ongoing high visibility for your company’s social media efforts will help others recognize how much emphasis you are placing on social media in your marketing plan. Put your social media links and information on all your marketing materials and company communications.
  7. Plan for negative comments. Develop a plan for rapid response to any negative comments that are posted on your social media pages. Share the plan widely to reassure those who worry that social media will expose your company to criticism.
  8. Establish a company policy on social media. Employees should know your company’s views on appropriate social media behavior and understand who can and cannot speak for your company via social media, especially in response to a complaint.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.