“Sustainable solutions only happen by design. Good design is strategic, intentional and — as companies like Apple demonstrate — profitable.”David Armano

In the last few weeks, we’ve gone over the basic questions to ask when deciding whether your organization can benefit from incorporating public and/or private social media. Now I’d like to spend some time diving into how to design a social media strategy, starting with a bigger picture overview of why this process is so important.

There are many ways to develop your business online. In addition to having a standard website, most organizations try to employ at least several of the main social media outlets: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – and there are numerous others: Blogs, Google+, Flickr, Pinterest, Slideshare, … you get the idea.

All of these tools can be useful. However, most organizations and small businesses don’t have a lot of extra resources to spare. With so many options and limited resources, it makes sense to take a step back and spend some time designing a strategy that will work for your particular business using the resources that you have available.

To highlight the differences in social media usage, I chose three business with three different areas of focus (note: I wasn’t involved in designing the social media strategy for any of these organizations – these are simply my own personal observations and opinions):

  1. Red Hook Lobster DC (focus: Twitter)
  2. Discount Tire Store (focus: Website)
  3. National Council on Aging (focus: Private community)

Red Hook Lobster DC is a mobile lobster truck that serves lunch in different locations around Washington DC. They use Twitter to broadcast their daily locations – and when I was in Washington DC last year, the line I saw had at least 100 people in it. While Red Hook Lobster also has a website, Facebook and Google+ accounts, my guess is that given limited resources, Twitter would remain the primary focus for where to spend efforts.

I chose the Discount Tire Store because it’s a good example of a company where the website is part of its core functionality.  On their website, they not only give the standard information one needs to buy tires, but they also offer a tool that helps an individual choose the right kind of tires given their type of car and location. While the Discount Tire Store also has a Twitter and Facebook account, I’m guessing that the content they offer on their web page is most valuable to the common user.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization for older Americans. They use a private social network (powered by GoLightly) so that aging professionals can come together to share information and have discussions in a private environment. While NCOA also use their website, Facebook and Twitter accounts to broadcast information, their private community is part of the core offering to the members of their organization.

These are, of course, pretty clear-cut examples (which is why I chose them). But I think they do a good job of highlighting how different social media strategies are needed to maximize value for different business types.

How do you design a plan that works for your organization?

Stay tuned!