3 questions to guide your social media success

If you can’t answer these questions, you’re doing something wrong.

There is an infinite variety of minor circumstances that can occupy your attention and create frustration for social media and content marketing professionals.

The pace of change is breathtaking, and the feedback loop is instantaneous. This creates a culture of disproportionate attention to detail. So much has been written about the mechanics of social media marketing in the past year that I fear we’re losing sight of the horizon.

My aunt, the brilliant corporate trainer Jeanne Baer, uses the analogy of sand and rocks. We tend to pay too much attention to sand, because it sticks between your toes and annoys you and is everywhere. We pay too little attention to rocks, because they’re big and heavy and hard to move.

As you get another year under way with optimistic expectations to take your social and content initiatives to new heights, you should recognize that rocks, not sand, will dictate whether you’ll achieve your objectives.

Make sure you can answer these three “rock” questions at all times in 2013. If you can, the sand will take care of itself.

1. How does social media make us money, and how can we prove that?

The goal isn’t to be good at social media; the goal is to be good at business because of social media.

This is the year of social optimization. Growth is slowing, and it’s time to focus on making money, saving money, or both. It is essential that you have a defined social media strategic plan that supports real business objectives such as customer acquisition or customer loyalty.

If you’re still using social connections (fans, followers) as a major proof-point of your efforts, stop. Take the time and make the effort to measure financial impact. Is it easy? Often, it is not. Is it doable? Yes. (Here’s a post on a six-step process for measuring social media, and why not measuring social media ROI is your fault, and this e-book on measuring content marketing may be useful, too.)

2. Do we have adequate resources to succeed?

Social media isn’t inexpensive; it’s just different expensive.

I’ve written before that you’re better off having a more narrow social media marketing program and focusing on excelling in the venues in which you choose to participate. But I recognize that isn’t reality. Most companies see a social network gaining traction, and they feel a gravitational pull that forces them to “be where our customers are” and participate. That can spread your attention very thin, and dangerously so.

Customers increasingly expect real-time customer service via social media, and fees required to maximize your exposure on Facebook and elsewhere are only going to rise. On the labor side, in particular, this is also the year in which more and more companies will decentralize social media, and make it a part of many people’s jobs, instead of relying upon dedicated social media teams. It’s much more scalable that way, and it recognizes that all employees are in marketing and customer service now, regardless of whether they want to be.

3. How are we segmenting our participation?

If you’re doing the same stuff in every social network, why bother?

The tractor beam effect and social network expansion has turned the former “Big 3″ of Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin into the “Big 6″ of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+/Google Communities. Note that I don’t list YouTube in either column because, while necessary and relevant in most cases, I don’t really view it as a social network but as a content platform such as Slideshare or WordPress.

How is your participation in Twitter different from your participation in Facebook? How does Instagram differ from Pinterest? If you don’t have clear segmentation for the audiences, content, objectives and metrics of each of your social presences, you need to figure it out immediately.

Realize that Facebook isn’t a social network, it’s a social layer (according to my friend Tom Webster based on our research from The Social Habit). The truth is that almost every person that is on Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest or any other social network is also on Facebook. Thus, if you’re playing the same cards on Facebook that you’re playing elsewhere, you’re just wasting time and money.

For each and every social network, you need to understand which audience you want to engage with; your content plan and editorial calendar; necessary resources; and how you’ll measure the success of that specific presence.

Your three business words for 2013

Many people perform a “3words” exercise (invented by Chris Brogan) to help them frame personal and business goals for the coming year. I suggest that for social media marketing, you move beyond the sand, and consider these three rock words to help guide your success:

  • Strategy
  • Resources
  • Segment

Jay Baer is a social media strategy consultant, speaker, and co-author of “The NOW Revolution.” He also hosts the Social Pros Podcast. He is the founder of Convince & Convert, a social media strategy firm, and he blogs at the Convince & Convert social media strategy blog, where this article originally ran.


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