Feel like you played it safe with your social media strategy in 2012? A new year is upon us, and there’s never been a better time to step up your game and start getting serious about social. It’s definitely not a passing fad (Facebook is almost 9 years old). Social media is here to stay and it’s time to embrace it!

Many brands are keeping their social media strategies safe, but they’re certainly not turning any heads. If leveraged correctly, a consistently bold social media strategy can play a role in your marketing efforts and allow you to connect with customers simply and effectively. Here are a few ways to kick start your new plan, take some risks, and grab your customers’ attention.

Establish a Real Social Media Team

If you haven’t formed a team already, you’re likely in the very early stages of your strategy. You have some work ahead of you, but don’t let this discourage you from making social media a priority. If you’re not in a position to hire someone to solely manage your social media, utilize your existing human capital.

However, blindly handing off all social media responsibilities to the youngest person in the office is not the best solution. Delegating to the most relevant people in the marketing department (if you have one) is a good option in most cases. If there is someone in your organization that has social media experience, see if they’re interested in being involved.

Also reach out to all of your employees to see if you spark any interest; you might get more responses than you expect. The number of people on your social media team depends on a number of factors, but small to mid-size businesses can usually function sufficiently with only one or two people.

Break Down Employee Firewalls

Large corporations and businesses often utilize firewalls to block social media sites from employees. Some are in effect to guard against confidential information leaks, while some solely intend to prevent employees from wasting time. Hopefully, you’ve hired people mature enough to use social media responsibly during business hours, and putting more trust in them is key to breaking down the proverbial wall.

Giving your employees access to social media channels encourages better communication, collaboration, and transparency. Not only will it increase morale, it will encourage your employees to interact with your brand and spread the word through their own social media channels. If you’re still hesitant, implement a trial run and see what happens. In this extremely connected era, blocking social media from your workforce seems outdated and trivial, and could give you bad rap for stifling your employees.

Find Your True Voice

This is arguably the hardest part of a good social media strategy, but once you’ve developed a consistent brand voice, you’re on your way to a recognizable and effective social media presence. Appropriate voices are different for every industry, but an account that reads like an 140-character advertisement time and time again won’t attract any attention.

Now is the time to sit down and outline how you want your social media voice to personify your brand. Look at your potential and current customers and who they are. How would they like to be spoken to when they’re waiting for the train or browsing after work? Are they a serious group or do they have a casual sense humor?

Look at your competitors and assess how they speak to their audience. Is it working for them? Once you have worked with your team to establish a voice, put it in writing and implement a code of conduct to ensure your voice stays consistent through and through.

Spice It Up

Now that you’ve found your voice, what do you do with it? The sky is the limit. Asking your audience questions encourages engagement and gets people talking. Depending on your industry and established voice, questions can range from super relevant or off-the-wall. Questions are extremely valuable because they can help you crowd source information from your customers, and they will undoubtedly attract many more responses than a simple statement.

Sounding human is actually more difficult than it sounds when speaking as an organization and trying to remain professional. This will probably start to come naturally after you’ve established your brand voice, but circling back to evaluate past and present communications can help ensure you’re messaging is genuine and organic.

Last but not least, interact with your followers. If someone pays you a compliment, say thank you. It won’t go unnoticed and adds a valuable touch point to your customer relationships. Also take advantage of using social media for customer service and paying attention to what your customers are saying about your brand, allowing you to nip problems in the bud.

[Image credits: Bill Wilson, Mark Jensen, Mike Cattell, sparetomato, Meg Stewart]