Building and sustaining a successful Social Media strategy takes time and work. I’m often asked what makes a good strategy and while there is no single answer to this question, there is a standard plan of action. Each business, brand, or individual will have different purposes and goals for using Social Media. But whatever these are, the steps to get there revolve around the same plan. The best way to convey this is to think about growing a garden – it doesn’t matter what is being farmed, the process is essentially the same.
So let’s take a look at the ways in which gardening relates to growing a Social Media strategy.
Picking Your Plot of Land
When it comes to gardening, you have to find good, healthy, viable plots of land to use. Different soils and terrains produce better results for different crops. Social Media is much the same. There is a lot of “land” out there to choose from – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Pheed, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, FourSquare, MySpace, Orkut, Reddit, and so many more. You need to determine which sites, and how many, are the ideal planting ground for your Social Media strategy.
Prepping Your Land
So now that you have a viable piece of land, you don’t just throw down some seeds and walk away. The ground needs to be tilled, fertilized, groomed, and organized into sections for each item to be grown. When it comes to Social Media, you can’t just pick three sites and start posting. You need a plan – what are the reasons for being on these Social Media sites, what are your short-term goals, what are your long-term goals, who is your audience, what does your audience want, how will you engage your audience? Answering these questions and putting a plan in place is the key step to any Social Media strategy.
When your garden is ready to be planted, it’s time to plant the seeds. The seeds need to be properly spaced to allow for sufficient growth. They need to be placed at measured intervals and at a calculated depth into the soil. Now that you’ve determined what you will use Social Media for and why, you need to determine HOW you will use it. How frequently will you post, what type of posts will you generate, who will be responsible for making the posts, who will respond to customer requests and engagement, how will you handle negative comments, how will you cross-advertise across multiple platforms? These are important calculations that you must make to ensure a successful strategy.
Watering and Tending the Garden
After the seeds are planted and as the garden starts to grow, there is a set watering and tending schedule. Water must be provided at the appropriate times to feed the garden. The garden must be tended for weeds and other distractions that may disrupt the growth of the crop. Now that you’ve established a schedule and administrative responsibilities for your Social Media strategy, you must ensure that the necessary steps are being executed. Providing fresh content, monitoring engagement and responding quickly is the key to your success on Social Media. It’s important to remember, that like a garden, this is the one never-ending step of the process.
The Crop is Growing, Even if You Can’t See It
For the first period of growth, you can’t see the crop above the surface of the soil. Instead the seeds are growing and developing beneath the surface, putting out roots into the soil for stability and to absorb nutrients. The seeds start to sprout and head towards the surface but it will still take time for the sprout to break through. Social Media success often takes a long time to “see”. The progress and development of the online campaign can take months or years to reach a fully measurable and successful state. But this doesn’t mean that it isn’t working – it’s just still “growing”.
Evaluating the Crop
As the crop is growing and expanding, regular test samples are taken and observations made to determine the viability of the crop. Is the watering schedule sufficient? Is the crop growing at the expected rate, is it smaller or more abundant than years past? Are there signs of disease or infestation that may jeopardize the crop? Likewise, you need to constantly monitor and evaluate your Social Media strategy. Is your posting schedule working – should you change the posting times, add more posts, or post less? Is your content working – are you getting good engagement with your audience, do you need to add different types of content? Are your engagement levels where you want them – what can you do to increase your engagement? Are there negative posts jeopardizing your success – how do you respond to these, are you reassuring your audience that you value them? Social Media is a very fluid environment and posts that worked just last week may not work this week. Stay attuned to the trends and input of your audience in order to maximize your efficiency.
Reap Your Harvest
After all the hard work, the crop is bountiful and reading to be picked. Similarly, when executed properly, a good Social Media strategy will produce bountiful rewards. Capitalize on these rewards – customer loyalty, lead generation, new customers, sales, referrals, etc. to maximize your brand’s success.
Just remember that a Social Media strategy is a continuous garden – it needs constant tending to consistently produce results. The more it is maintained, tended, and watered, the larger and more productive it will grow.