Essential Social Media Practices

Knowing the specific practices associated with social media communications helps an organisation understand the foundations of successfully implementing a social media strategy.

These are practices that every organisation trying to implement social media should be performing at some level, whether by a single individual or by many members throughout the organisation.

The tables on the tabbed box identify 24 essential social media communications practices. They are grouped into five categories.

1.   Understanding & Awareness
2.   Strategy
3.   Training and Capacity
4.   Implementation and Evaluation
5.   Support

These five categories form the basis of the framework used by The Social Larder as we work with you to help you amplify your message online. For more detail check out our What we do? page.

Quality standards or criteria for each practice describe in brief what the practices look like. These practices can be used as a checklist to help determine if an organisation is actually performing each social media practice, and if not where improvements can be made.

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Acknowledgements: This work is based on work by The National Coalition Institute’s Collaborative Social Media Team, in turn based on the work of Ash Shepherd and NPower Northwest who built on the original methodology and framework developed by Julia Coffman for the Communications Consortium Media Center.

Essential Social Media Practices. Navigate across the 5 tabs below.

Understanding & Awareness by The Social Larder1.   Understanding & Awareness

Includes the critical first steps of understanding. What’s possible? How systems can benefit from leveraging social media? Educating and gaining the support of leadership. Developing basic personal experience of social media through actual use. Exploring examples of best practice where social media efforts have been aligned with organisational strategy

Social Media Practices

Quality Criteria/Standards

Environmental scan

You have conducted research / sort education to understand the current landscape, what’s
possible and best practice application of social media

Profiles & Networks

You understand how profiles and networks can be built and leveraged to support strategic objectives

Support at the
leadership level

Management understands and supports social media as part of the overall communication strategy of the organisation

Experience with social

Key stakeholders within the organization are using social media at a basic level and familiarizing themselves with different tools. They have taken the first step by listening to what is happening on relevant social channels.

Digital Strategy by The Social Larder2.   Strategy

Includes the core tasks of understanding how the social media vision aligns with the organisation’s vision, mission, and identity in both online and offline communications. Understanding your purpose, your “Why?” for using social media and how it is aligned to the organisations strategy.

Social Media Practices

Quality Criteria/Standards

Clearly stated
communications vision

The organisation’s communication vision is aligned with the actual mission of the organisation

Clearly identified
goals and outcomes

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (S.M.A.R.T) communications goals and
outcomes have been developed.

Select priority

Specific audience groups are identified and may include key stake holders, partners, sectors and influencers

Guidelines & social
media policies

Guidelines and policies are in place to clarify process and define appropriate social media actions

Listening research

Research accomplished to learn what other organisations are doing and what/where the “conversation” are happening

Asset inventory

You know what you’ve got to work with. An inventory of assets (existing social media accounts, resources, members, volunteers, knowledge, etc.). You will use these to share the unique “gift” the organisation adds

Digital Training by The Social Larder3. Training & Capacity

Includes conducting an inventory of what you have to work with or need to acquire e.g., staff, knowledge, experience, tools, etc. to design, plan and carry out social media communications strategies. Critical to this step is the ability to design for participation and strategically selecting tools that fit the interaction desired.

Social Media Practices

Quality Criteria/Standards

Tools Selected

Tools are selected based on their ability to support your goals and accessibility to your priority population

Establish Network / Community, Growing & Engaged

Active steps taken to understand and enable development of your online network or community. Growing numbers and level of engagement

Training Provided for Staff &

Appropriate training given to people responsible for implementing the social media strategy and community management on behalf of the organisation

Valuable Partnerships are being Nurtured

Relationships are established with partners, sectors and stakeholders aligning with your goals

Implementing your digital strategy by The Social Larder4. Implementation & Evaluation

Includes implementing the plan by weaving your organisation’s online/offline presence and attending to identified metrics/measures monitoring and tracking social media actions and results.

Social Media Practices

Quality Criteria/Standards

Website Established & Optimised

Strategic linkages and integration between social media efforts and your organisation website

Blog Established & Optimised

Strategic linkages and integration between social media efforts and your blog

E-Mail marketing Established & Optimised

Strategic linkages and integration between social media efforts and your e-mail communications or

Core Social Media
Platforms Established & Optimised

Strategic linkages and integration between all social media platforms

Social Media Integrated with all Comm’s Materials

Strategic cross-promotion of social media efforts via printed materials e.g., products, letterhead, business cards, etc.

Offline Activities Optimised for Social Media

Strategic cross-promotion of offline activities via media AND social media

Continuous Monitoring & Evaluation in Place

Activities are continuously monitored and evaluated for the purposes of accountability and improvement

Understanding the Digital Possibilities by The Social Larder5.   Support

Includes non-communications practices within the organisation that helps to ensure the communications actions are successful.

Social Media Practices

Quality Criteria/Standards

Support at the
leadership level

Management understands and supports social media as part of the overall communication strategy of the organisation

Sufficient Resources Allocated

Financial and human resources are dedicated to supporting social media efforts

All interested members involved

Social Media is not seen as an isolated function; most if not all members have some knowledge and/or participation in social media communications efforts

A note on sustainability of a social media strategy

Organisations are continuously looking for ways to be more strategic in their communications efforts including social media. At their best, social media activities add up to more than a series of completed tasks and simply “doing”. Being strategic requires organisations to be deliberate, innovative, savvy, and less reactive in their communications practices.

Organisations are encouraged to regard social media communications as an integral component of, and not separate from, overall communications.  If the goal is to build sustainable, efficient and effective social media relationships, it is essential that social media be woven into the organisation’s processes and systems.

While a lot of focus, and rightly so, is on the development of strategies and initiatives these alone do not address the larger question of sustainability.

Ask yourselves:

  • Will our organisation actually follow through on social media strategies and what realistically is our capacity to do so?
  • What are the realities of competing needs and limited resources and how does this affect our capacity?
  • What are realistic expectations for what we can hope to accomplish given our current realities?
  • If we wish to make changes to our systems how do we know where to start and how can we track progress?

With better tools organisations can understand the roles of traditional media and social media communications, the performance and capacity of each, and gain an improved sense of what’s possible in terms of developing new efforts.