By Lisa Peyton, originally published on socialfresh.com.
It has become essential for everyone from business owners to busy moms to at least CONSIDER how to engage with social media. The prospect can be so overwhelming for some, that they simply ignore and belittle this recent phenomenon as a ‘trend’. I’m here to tell you that social media can no longer be ignored, avoided or denied! It’s HERE to stay and you need to make decisions about how to deal with it.
The good news is that with some simple planning, self-reflection and research, you can harness the “beast” that has become social media. Whether you are totally new to technology and the online space or have been around since its inception, the following plan will help you build a solid foundation for social media success. This methodology can be applied to managing personal social media profiles and provide a basic foundation for a solid business social media strategy.
I have created a Social Media Planning Spreadsheet that outlines MY plan and can serve as the perfect template for yours. Whichever way you roll, personal or companywide, it’s time to make social media your BITCH in 2013!
Phase 1: Planning and Research
The first and most important step is asking yourself what you TRULY want to accomplish by creating and updating social media profiles. If after some thoughtful self-reflection you realize you AREN’T looking for a new job, a better career path, more clients, more contacts, more influence, maintaining connections with friends and family AND want to live entirely ‘off the grid’, then perhaps social media is NOT your “thang”. IF you DO want any of these outcomes then it’s time to determine which are the most important and WHY.
Goals and Objectives
Many of us have rushed into creating a social media profile before actually asking “why?” This may have left you fumbling to create constant updates with no real sense of purpose leading to a waste of time and feelings of resentment and even anger. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and take a look at your overall objective.
Your overall objective should be fairly broad and have a DIRECT impact on something VERY important to YOU. It can be an overall business objective, an overall personal objective or both. Your objective should also be measurable and time sensitive to ensure you have the means to measure your social media success and hold yourself accountable for meeting your goals.
Last year, I had one very simple objective for my social media activities. I wanted to provide consistent and valuable updates to my network of social media and digital marketing professionals, thereby organically growing my business network by a certain percentage over the twelve month time span. This year, I want to take my strategy to the next level and incorporate a plan for my personal contacts as well.
When diving into your overall objective, it’s essential you explore who you are trying to reach. If your approach is strictly business, then your overall objective is likely tied to revenue or compensation. This doesn’t mean that your social media strategy should be directly tied to revenue, but it does help to determine a target for your efforts. You’ll likely want to reach and engage with potential customers, employers or folks that INFLUENCE these groups.
A more personal approach may include audience segments such as friends from the gym, distant family members, co-workers, drinking buddies, etc. Each of these segments has very specific needs and expectations regarding your involvement on social media. So ask yourself, “will connecting with these groups will help you meet your overall objectives?”
(Caption: Tools like Vizify.com allow you to get a glimpse into the demographics of your current social media followers.)
Before finalizing your objectives and audience segments, go out and gather some data to help drive planning. If you are currently maintaining several social media profiles, take time to determine WHO is already a follower, fan or “liker”. Tools like Vizify.com’s Tweetsheet can show you stunning stats about your Twitter followers and help you learn about the demographics of your current online community.
For more qualitative data, I recommend surveying your current followers and fans. By conducting a brief survey of your current community, you can determine if they can be segmented, what information they find valuable and if engaging with them will help meet your overall objectives. If you are just getting started and don’t have an “online” community, start by surveying those you know in the real world.
Tools like SurveyMonkey.com make creating an online survey easy and cost-free. If you’re looking at conducting a more robust survey, I highly recommend reading Hubpspot’s guide to using surveys in your marketing. The insight you can gain from a survey of your colleagues, friends and family is invaluable at helping to determine your target audience segments and if you are currently meeting their needs. If you don’t have time to conduct a full-blown survey, simply start asking for direct feedback on your current social media efforts or lack thereof.
Self Discovery, Google-style
(Caption: Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool allows you to get organic search results without personalizing them based upon your browsing behavior.)
The ONE thing I ALWAYS do before meeting with potential clients is ‘Google’ their name, the name of their business and take a look at their online profiles. Take the time to Google variations of YOUR name and the name of your business or company. Scan the top several pages of results and determine IF you are visible and if so, do the results speak to how your want to be presented to your target audience. Due to Google’s ability to personalize your search results, I would recommend using a tool like the Google Ad Preview tool. This tool will display organic search results without personalizing them based upon your prior browsing behavior.
Whether you like it or not, there are likely social media profiles floating around the web that house information about YOU! Klout.com scrapes sites such as Twitter and will assign a ‘Klout score’ to users that haven’t even signed up for an account. How about that LinkedIn account you created years ago and haven’t looked at since, it’s only 15% complete? Or that Twitter account you created and abandoned in 2010? The point is that Google can and WILL find any assets that house your name and display them for all searchers to see.
Before embracing your new social media plan, it’s essential you audit the current state of your online visibility and build fixing any hiccups into your planning.
Phase II – Building your roadmap
(Caption: After completing your research and determining your objectives, it’s time to choose your channels.)
Now that you have taken the time to determine your objectives, target audience and current state of your online profiles, it’s time for the fun stuff!
There are thousands of social media networks and platforms and it’s impossible to participate in them all. Even building communities around a handful of networks can be a full-time job. Before selecting which social media channels you want to participate in, determine how much time you can commit to your social media activities and prioritize based upon your objectives and P.I.T’s or Passions, Interests and Talents.
If your objectives are more business focused, then considering platforms that are used by business professionals would be the way to go. LinkedIn has become the largest and most active network of business professionals online and should be part of ANY strategy to grow a professional network. LinkedIn users now have the ability to create updates and post via a newsfeed, just like Facebook. Creating consistent LinkedIn updates that meet the needs of your target audience can help you reach your overall business objectives.
For more personal objectives and reaching out to friends and family, Facebook will likely be your channel of choice. Today, it is the largest GLOBAL social network and almost EVERYONE has a profile. Apart from these obvious choices, there are several other platforms that are among the most popular and can provide access to your target segments. They include sites such as:
When determining your platform of choice, consider these key factors:
- Who – Examine WHO is using the platform. Studies, reports and infographics are floating around the web that outline social media user statistics. Make sure your chosen platform speaks to your target audience.
- What – Be sure to align the type of media on each platform with your passions, interests and talents or P.I.T’s. If you LOVE digital photography then choosing a community that promotes and supports that medium might prove to be a good choice. Instagram is one of the fastest growing communities that centers around digital photography. Even if you efforts are business focused, there may be a creative way to incorporate photography and rich media into your strategy. For inspiration, look no further than this recent Social Media Examiner article ’10 Creative ways to Use Instagram for Business’.
- Why – Does engaging on your selected network help to meet your overall objective? This might be a tough one to determine up front but read on to learn how to incorporate metrics and measure your success.
Determining specific channels is only half of the social media battle. You will also need to create a plan around the type of content you will be posting and sharing with your community. Be sure that each overall objective is supported by thoughtful content that speaks to your target audience segments.
After conducting my initial research, I discovered that my 2012 plan to only post business themed updates WASN’T serving a large portion of my community. A close friend shared with me that she didn’t understand my Facebook updates and she was left feeling confused. Social Media Plan = FAIL. This feedback helped to drive my decision to strategize BOTH my personal and professional posts and to explore segmenting my business posts from those that are more personal.
Phase III – Commitment and Accountability
Once you have determined your active social media channels, it’s time to commit to regular updates. Try to come up with a schedule that is realistic and consistent. If you have time to update your profiles daily AND you have enough valuable content for daily posts – then GO FOR IT! I would argue that for some this may not be a realistic expectation and updating weekly may be more achievable.
My posting schedule for 2012, daily business updates Monday through Friday, was something I was striving for AND for the most part was able to achieve. I considered my audience, WHEN they were online and tried to produce updates during those times. There are a bevy of time-saving tools that can be used to help streamline your updates, but that’s a whole different blog post!
It’s also ESSENTIAL you schedule time to ‘listen’ and respond on each active channel. Social media isn’t a one-way conversation and simply spewing out updates isn’t a good strategy for anyone. Taking the time to thoughtfully respond to other posts, photos, questions and conversations will help you learn more about your community and ultimately make you a better communicator.
(Caption: The Social Media Planning Spreadsheet outlines my plan for 2013 and can be a GREAT template for yours. It includes a tab for measurement, where you can track your metrics monthly. Simply add your own content under each tab, following the key points outlined in this article.)
Once you have established your plan, it’s important to come up with a few metrics to help hold yourself accountable and to determine if you’re getting closer to your ultimate objective. The ‘Measurement’ tab on the Social Media Planning Spreadsheet allows you to track your metrics monthly.
Looking back at my objective for 2012, organically growing my business network by a certain percentage over the 12 month time span, I can come up with a few simple metrics to measure this outcome. Tracking these metrics weekly or monthly can then help to determine if I’m on the road to reaching my goal by year’s end. I strongly recommend setting up a simple spreadsheet and committing to updating your metrics regularly. Try to incorporate metrics that not only speak to the size of your community but also the engagement level.
My metrics for 2012 may have looked something like this:
- # of LinkedIn connections
- # of Twitter followers
- # of RT’s, Replies and mentions on Twitter (via Tweetreach.com)
- # of Google+ circlers
- Klout score
Is it worth it?
All of this planning may seem like TONS of work and it will take time. However, the time you will save from useless updates on platforms where nobody is listening will more than make up for this initial investment.
Not only will you maximize your effectiveness and meet your objectives, you will also begin to see the fruits of your labor. Seeing monthly improvements in your social media metrics will help fuel your efforts and keep you inspired to continue your regular updates. All in all creating a snowball effect of social media success!
How do you plan on managing your social media profiles in 2013? Got any time-saving tools that help you stay on track? Please share your insights with the community by adding your comments.