Social media is a great tool, but unless you have a plan, it can be a huge waste of time and money. (Even when tools are free, using them costs your time.)

As you begin planning your strategy for integrating social media into your organization, it is important to begin with these three concepts:

1. Integrate social media across your communications efforts. Unless your social media fits into your larger marketing strategy, it will never be effective.

2. Advocates tell your message better than you do. If you have a product, concept or service that you believe in, begin connecting with potential end users. “In real life” connections easily beat email and Facebook interactions.

3. Always monitor the results of your efforts. That’s the only way you can tell what is working and what isn’t. Questions to ask:

Monitoring your efforts also involves listening to what people are saying about you. Set up Google Alerts emails to let you know when others are talking about you on the web.

Google Analytics is a powerful (and free) tool that lets you see how people are getting to your website, which content is being read the most and which parts of your site are clicked on.

There are a lot of things you can do with these ideas. Start with your strategy and then prioritize what you need to do from there. Dive in and have fun!