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 some unfinished wood was on the outside instead of the inside?

Many explore the social media landscape with a similar perspective. Either thinking; ‘how difficult can it be?‘ and diving right in. Or, deciding it will take less time to figure it out along the way. You will save yourself much time and frustration, and achieve greater success, if you plan first. It all starts with strategy.

1. Social Media Strategy: Just like any other project, strategy is a critical first step. Clearly the goal in social media is to build a broader audience and create solid business building relationships. Ultimately, this furthers your influence, creates brand awareness and can take you places well beyond traditional marketing. But first you must identify the following:

a. Who: Who am I targeting? Don’t limit yourself to pipeline. Social media is a great way to find strategic partners, create brand evangelists, and identify new venues you may not have otherwise considered. Open your mind to potential connections that may be a few degrees away from you.

b. What: What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Consider your audience, and shift your mindset. This is not about “what do I want”. Think about establishing yourself as a thought leader, someone who comes to mind when people are faced with an issue. Ask yourself~
i. “What does my audience need”
ii. “What problems can I solve”
iii. “What value can I add

c. Where: Now that you know who you want to engage in conversation with (notice I did not say “who you are talking to”), and what they need, determine where they participate online. Research which of the ‘big five’ are relevant:
i. Twitter
ii. LinkedIn
iii. Facebook
iv. YouTube
v. Blogging

d. When: Now that you’ve identified where you’ll go to engage with your audience, you’ll also want to consider when they are there. If you distribute content when your audience is not online, your strategy is not serving you. Research the behaviors of your audience and channels. For example, LinkedIn has confirmed that Monday and Wednesday mornings are when profiles and activity get the most views.

e. Why: To build my business 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 building in mind, but tap into your deeper why. Why are you in the business you are in? What are your core values, how can you cater your message and content to convey those values and what is meaningful to you in serving others?

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

2. Social Media Training: Once a strategy is in place, you want to be sure you understand how to use the channels chosen in your ‘where’. If you are newer to technology or social media in general, it is a good idea to take one at a time. Learn it thoroughly, get used to the rules of engagement and etiquette, and then layer in others. If you decide you want to become multilingual, you are not going to study Spanish, German and Mandarin all at once are you? Learn one, and the learning curve for the others will reduce. Taking everything on at once can create overwhelm and result in limited success.

3. Social Media Management Tools: As a social media coach and trainer, I firmly believe these tools should be shared beyond those of us considered ‘social media managers’. Isn’t anyone using social media to grow their business a social media manager? Learn the tools that will help you become more efficient and streamlined. Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to integrate numerous profiles and schedule content distribution in advance. Tools like TweetAdder help build a Twitter following in a targeted fashion. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity, and too many tools are simply about volume.

4. Schedule and Time Management: Create a schedule and follow it just like meetings in your calendar. I recommend the following process for clients to schedule over the course of the week.

a. Front load your week with planning a theme catered to your audience and identify your content around that topic.
b. Schedule your content using relevant third party tools.
c. Engage with your audience; focus on 20 minutes or less a day!
d. To ensure you don’t get taken deep into the web of the Internet (bad pun intended) set a timer. An egg timer, or your phone alarm, and put it across the room. Get up and don’t look back. Engagement efficiency will come with time.
e. End of week, spend fifteen to thirty minutes looking at metrics, and how they give you insights into how you plan your next week and evolve your strategy.

A solid strategy and planning will help you target, focus, and get online with a clear understanding of how to convey your message and brand in a voice that shares your mission, facilitating the creation of authentic relationships that help your business soar!

Author's Bio: 

After 15 years in the corporate world, Sue Koch took what she loved from her past and created Soaring Solutions, LLC to help others grow, thrive, and reach new levels of engagement and success in their businesses.

Soaring Solutions is a full lifecycle Social Media Consulting & Training organization with a coaching mindset.