mtgCompanies planning a social media launch, upgrade, or even adjustment have a lot to live up to. Innovation has been impressive so far this year, and results have kept brands focused on making their own imprint.

Like most areas of internet marketing best practices are evident for social media, but rules are unwritten. As planning for the fourth quarter gets underway, many companies are starting their first social media initiative, or rethinking their entire strategy. Before you hit “send” on that meeting request or book the WebEx URL, five points to consider:

  1. Brand magnetism: One of the great things about the Skittles social media initiative is that it adds attraction to the brand. A brand may have its points of attraction offline, but consider the possibility that it will have different attractions for social media users. Example: customers are highly engaged with Ritz Carlton because it provides value. Its magnetism, however, is in the total customer experience. Its social media application should extend the magnetism of that customer experience. That’s exactly what its most recent project tried to do, showing younger Ritz guests raving it up.

  2. Data points: Customer information is an overlooked byproduct data of social media. A company wants an initiative that’s attractive enough to capture current customers and will entice prospective customers to start a relationship. This will differ across brands, products, and customers. CPG companies have done well by trading consistent information for its social media registrants. Beverage companies have done well with contests. How well do you know your customers? Data from social media can help you answer this question.

  3. The Home Run: What would an out-of-the-park success look like? Consider press coverage, search engine results, unique users, sales lift, BtoB relationships, and customer loyalty. Also: consider the downside. What are the possible abuses and can they be stopped?

  4. Control and the lack of it: Companies need to remember that social media is a “post-and-read” process. At its best users will do both. Too much control might cut down on user generated content; a total lack of control will increase the possible negative consequences.

  5. Think long-term and short-term: Making executives accessible via Facebook pages and Twitter handles is a solid long-term strategy, as is making brand content interactive. But some social media campaigns can resemble ad campaigns. They can have an expiration date, which is an effective compressed strategy. Jack in the Box restaurants, which showed “Jack” getting hit by a bus during its Super Bowl ad, generated 81,000 get well messages via its social campaign. Now it’s over. Next up: Jack is back.

Another point to consider is this: social media is bigger than email. Spend your planning time accordingly.