Whether you are new to the game or trying to play catch up, a comprehensive strategy is a must when looking to insert social media into your marketing and customer engagement.

According to a recent SmartBlog poll on social media, 77% of respondents indicated that their companies don’t have any sort of formal social media training process, while fewer than 20 percent said they did. Charging employees with contributing content on social media platforms without addressing a few important considerations could waste a lot of time.

1. Become familiar with the basics

Though this sounds obvious, it’s the most important. This goes beyond simply heading to various social media sites and getting a brief overview of each or simply setting up profiles on these sites. Instead, you should understand the social media site’s functions, in general, specific to the platforms you’re using and more to how the site fits into the overall marketing strategy.

2. Set a consistent tone

Consistency is crucial when it comes to the messages you transmit to the public. If you have multiple people posting to social media sites, your followers and fans shouldn’t be able to tell. Decide on a tone for your content and make sure each person with access to your social media accounts knows how to cultivate that standard voice. Also make sure to set parameters for what can be shared if you want to keep it serious, be serious about banning funny links. If you’d like to keep it fun and light, make sure your employees know how to write with flair.

3. Know how to maximize your impact

Social media is more than logging into your account and posting. There are ways to expand your reach and widen your audience, giving you a chance to boost business using free online tools, and who can complain about that? There are analytics programs you can integrate to your efforts, but for now, let’s stay simple. Use hashtags – the words and phrases you see on Twitter with a pound sign ahead of them. Your tweets will appear in feeds alongside the other tweets with that hashtag. It’s a great way to reach people who follow news in your industry, for example #marketing or #smallbusiness. Also, don’t be shy about interacting with other users. If there are businesses you’d like to partner or share strategies with, find them and engage. The same doubly goes for consumers and clients. The bottom line: Make your presence known.

4. Discuss social media disasters

Remember that social media packs a punch; misusing it can erode the public’s confidence in your company and their perception of who you are. Even though you might think it could never happen to you, it’s important that everyone understands the power they wield with social media, and why it’s vital to stay appropriate online. Also make sure you know how to respond in case of a PR disaster or other snafu, when your customers will be counting on social media for updates.

5. Develop protocol

Know who’s in charge of posting what, and when. It’s the surest way to prevent double-posts and maintain streamlined professionalism in the Twittersphere and on Facebook. Maybe you divide posting duties by day or topics, but whatever the method, make sure everyone is clued in and understands.