In my last post, I talked about social media fails and how doing social “right” is about trial and error or learning through failure what works and what doesn’t. Of course no one wants to fail, but we all do. While I have certainly had my share of blunders, I’ve also been lucky enough to gain a few insights along the way. Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a local college that has just started offering a formal social media degree. I was encouraged by the progress the industry is making and thrilled to see so much interest from young students. In fact, if I were to have a conversation with a social media marketer who is just starting out, either in this major or as an entry-level professional, this is what I might say to them:
Dear Young Social Media Marketer,
Welcome to one of the most rewarding, yet strangely unsatisfying careers around—social media marketing. Your job can be intense, exciting, and even exhilarating, yet so much of what the industry might define as standard process is still to be determined. There’s an art to social media and it takes a certain amount of skill, dexterity, and let’s be honest, a little luck to get it right. Here are three things I know now that I wish someone had told me along the way.
No. 1: Resist the Urge to be Everywhere All the Time
Most businesses understand the need for an active social media presence, but with new platforms seemingly popping up every day and other “cutting edge” marketing tools on the rise, it’s a challenge just to stay current. However, don’t assume you need to be everywhere, now. The truth is it’s a better strategy to stick with the one or two platforms you’re confident in and master your approach before trying to juggle a few new ones. Why? It takes time to get a handle on not only your voice, but also your target audience and what it is they want to hear from you.
Each platform deserves its own time to prove value. Besides, in efforts to be everywhere, there’s a strong chance that you’ll do all the channels just okay, but none of them great. In other words, don’t make the mistake of trying to eat the whole elephant. Twitter boasts over 20 million active users, sending an estimated 500 million tweets per day; master that and you’ll make inroads faster than you think.
No. 2: Be Social Network Agnostic
It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of watching a social media presence grow—it’s fun stuff. But keep in mind that success on each individual platform, while important, is not the end goal. Gaining Facebook followers or reaching more of your audience with tweets is good, but it does not automatically translate into increased revenue or lower costs. Try to look at your active channels and platforms as vehicles to help you get where you’re going instead of the end-all strategy themselves. After all, a healthy skepticism isn’t a bad thing and it can help you keep a better focus on where you’re headed and why.
No. 3: Have a Plan that Supports Your Business Outline
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a solid, workable plan in place that supports business objectives while pursuing a social media strategy. Surprisingly, the majority of social media strategists have no plan and no idea how to do what they’ve been asked to do. A concrete structure and strategy can help govern day-to-day activities, maximizing your investment, and more importantly, your time.
As most of us know by now, social involves more than engaging users with personalized content across their devices. It’s about building relationships with customers and the people you want to reach. For the young social media marketer, this is an exciting time with the chance to create real business impact—despite unknowns.