This article was originally posted at Branding Magazine

Social media is in. It’s the “it” thing. It gives everyone a voice, a pen, a paper, a trumpet to shout loudly for attention. It’s a great tool…but, if used poorly, it can chip away at your brand. It’s easy to see as you peruse the various social media channels that a lot of organizations don’t have a clue how to develop, manage and maintain their brands via social media. Whether its driving awareness, mitigating brand implosion, or simply using it as a part of the marketing mix, it’s clear most organizations (and marketing leaders) lack a clear strategy and process for brand management via social media.

Here are three quick ways to develop your brand via social media:

Strategy Development

It’s important that you define early on what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to drive brand awareness? Or, are you trying to drive engagement? Do you need to improve customer service or increase customer touch points? Are you trying to drive demand-gen and increase your customer conversion rate? Will this be a communications channel or will you try to engage the community? Understand what you want to accomplish for your brand via social media and set clear goals.

Process Management

Having the intern post a blog or a few tweets is not a process. Determine the accounts most effective for your industry. Look, you don’t have to have them all. Start off with a few accounts, but at a minimum you should have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. “If you break it you buy it,” so don’t create an account you’re not going to manage or maintain. Whether you have dedicated staff, a group of people, or just one person handling social media duties, create a calendar and set aside time each week to contribute and respond to your audience. Don’t make it a one-sided affair – be sure to contribute and engage in communities other than yours. And last, but not least, respond to customer complaints, questions and even commendations. Be engaged.

Success Criteria

Many tools exist today to measure your social media marketing success and many of them are free. Measuring you social media marketing efforts will give you a good gauge on how effective your social media strategy is. Did anyone click on the link in my tweet? Was it retweeted? Where did they come from? Did they consume any information from my website afterwards? Tools like Bitly, Topsy and Google Analytics can provide great insight including which social media channels are more engaged, how often your blog was tweeted and what the best time of the day to post is. Try to tie your social media marketing efforts to specific marketing programs codes via specific tracking URLs. For example, you should be able to: 1) track from a click on a tweet, 2) that goes to a blog, 3) that promotes a webinar, 4) that a customer registered for, 5) that they came via social media. This way, you can tie everything from clicks and new contacts to sales leads and even opportunities back to your efforts.

The best brands have a clear social media strategy. Don’t leave such a potent tool from the marketing mix up to a few random blogs, tweets or even interns. Define a clear strategy, process and success criteria to develop and maintain your brand via social media.