Have you ever ordered a piece of ‘assembly required’ furniture, glanced at the cryptic instructions, put them down in frustration and tried to figure it out on your own, because, really, how difficult could it be?

Perhaps it isn’t so difficult, but planning would better ensure the intended end result. Be honest, how many of us have taken a look at our final masterpiece, and realized the unfinished wood was on the outside of the IKEA desk?

Many tackle the social media landscape with this same perspective. Don’t feel bad if you’re one, a large percentage of Fortune 500 companies admit to this as well. We either think; ‘how difficult can it be?’ and dive right in. Or we decide it will take less time to figure it out along the way and shoot from the hip. Then years later we wonder why social media isn’t working for us. It’s time to think differently. Social media is a business marketing tool. Why treat it with less respect than other business strategies?

You will save yourself much time and frustration, and achieve greater success, if you plan first. So, what is a social media strategy?

Social Media Strategy: Just like any other business growth effort, strategy is a critical first step. Clearly the goal in social media is to build a strong community of trusting brand advocates who help generate awareness, leads and sales. It is about creating strong business relationships. Ultimately, this furthers your influence, creates brand awareness and can take you places well beyond traditional marketing in a shorter period of time. Let’s go back to basics with the 5Ws of strategy.

a. Who am I targeting? Don’t limit yourself to pipeline. Conversely, watch out for the “I market to everyone!” mindset. Social media is a great way to find strategic partners, create brand evangelists, and identify new venues you may not have otherwise considered. Social media works best when you have a targeted focus in mind. Newsfeed algorithms cater content to those most likely to consume it, so a generic focus will actually limit your potential. Getting more specific will make it easier for you to determine your content themes and truly make an impact.

b. What business goals will social media help me accomplish? Consider your audience, and shift your mindset. This is not about “what do I want from my audience”. Rather think ‘What do they need and how can I help serve them”. Establish yourself as a thought leader, someone who comes to mind when people are faced with an issue in your area of expertise.

In content planning for social media, always ask yourself…

  1. What does my audience need?
  2. What problems can I help them solve?
  3. What ongoing value can I add?

Doesn’t it make sense that by establishing yourself as a thought leader, offering guidance and perspective to those in need of your services, will in turn help you grow business? Of course these efforts are done along side campaigns with powerful calls to action, but to earn this trust, you must first deliver.

c. Where do I find them? Now that you know who you want to engage in conversation with and what they need, determine where they participate online. Use social media as a research tool first. By demographic, where is your target audience consuming & sharing content? By industry, where is your target audience consuming and sharing content? Find influencers you trust, respect & learn from, and follow them. Get involved in those conversations and determine how you can take the lead by sharing your unique value. Participating first helps you determine where to best lead.

d. When do I share? Now that you’ve identified where you’ll grow and engage with your audience, you’ll also want to consider when they are active. If you distribute content when your audience is not online, your strategy may not serve you to its best effectiveness. You’ll find a legion of “The Best Time to Post on Social Media” articles, which tell everyone to post at the same exact time as one another. Want to know why I hate these articles? Read on here… Research the behaviors of YOUR audience and channels, and meet them where they are at. Doesn’t it make more sense to avoid doing exactly the same thing as everyone else?

e. Why: To get leads and make money! Now, wait a minute… As I mentioned earlier, social media is a great way to create and build relationships. Those who succeed in doing so are those who come from a place of authenticity. You can certainly do this with business growth in mind, but tap into your deeper why to really excel.

  1. Why are you in the business you are in?
  2. What are your core values?
  3. What does your target audience struggle with daily that you can help alleviate?
  4. How can you cater your message to convey those values and what is meaningful to you in serving others?

No one wants the hard sell anymore. It’s time to excel at “education marketing”. Turn your expertise into “edutainment”. Make it juicy, and make it about them.

A complete social media strategy has several other components, but the ‘Five W’s’ will get you a stronger start than most!

Next, we’ll discuss 3 critical follow up steps needed to complete your strategy with a strong implementation structure.