Conversations about social media often start with talk of tactics.
- “We have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.”
- “I’m on LinkedIn but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing there.”
- “Google+ looks interesting – do you think we should be there?”
The first question I ask in these conversations is: why?
- Why do you have a Facebook page?
- Why are you ignoring Google+ and Twitter, but investing time in LinkedIn?
- Why are you even bothering with social networking in the first place?
Do you know who, what, where and when?
If you want to be efficient and effective with your time and resources, you need to know the 5 Ws of your social media strategy:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What do they care about?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- When are you going to find the time to invest?
This approach will help you determine why you want to engage in social networking at all and what you can hope to accomplish.
So, WHO is your target audience?
Start by answering the most fundamental questions in social networking: who you want to reach – who is your ideal client? Develop a detailed persona for each type of person in your target market, including their age, life status, likes and dislikes.
If your target persona includes your contemporaries, then ask your friends what they think. If they are younger/older than you, do some research in the target demographic.
By really getting to know who you want to reach, you can start to form a clear picture about what they care about and how you’re going to help them find it.
So, WHAT does your target audience really care about?
Don’t focus on what YOU want to tell your target audience about your business. That’s old-fashioned marketing and it’s rapidly going the way of the dodo bird.
Instead, focus on what topics your target audience cares about and how you can help them find what they want. Focus on being useful. Helping people, it turns out, is a great way to attract precious attention in this attention-starved world.
For instance, say you’re an agent selling life insurance, do you think your prospects are online searching for an insurance product to cover off their income shortfall in the event that they die prematurely? Not the vast majority of them.
On the other hand, sharing information that helps them manage their pain points might get more attention. Maybe it’s an article about protecting your kids online or about how to plan a family vacation on a budget. Or perhaps you’re sharing healthy and easy to prepare recipes for dinner.
If you focus on selling, you get a customer for today. But genuinely help someone and you have an opportunity to create a customer for life.
WHERE does your target audience spend time online?
You don’t have unlimited time to invest in learning every social networking platform and reading every blog, so you need to pick a few that you can focus on. Ask yourself:
- Is your target audience more drawn to the personal network that Facebook offers or do they prefer the professional network of LinkedIn?
- Does your target audience use email or text messaging to communicate with each other and with you?
- Are they active on Twitter or Google+ and therefore more likely to appreciate the value of thought leadership in these spaces?
Your answers to these questions should influence which networks and tools you use to reach your market. If you don’t know the answers, then ask your existing clients that fit your target market where they spend their time online.
WHEN are you going to find time for social networking?
Everyone is busy, but we find time to do the things that matter in our businesses. If social engagement is going to make a difference in your business, you have to find the time to invest in it.
Here are some strategies to consider:
- Skip one or two of those traditional networking events each month and invest that time in social networking.
- Leverage some of your admin team’s downtime to act as your eyes and ears in social networks, looking for opportunities for you to engage clients and prospects.
- Hang up the golf clubs and invest that time instead in honing your social networking skills and knowledge.
WHY do you want to engage in social networking?
Everyone wants new leads in order to grow their business — but that’s an outcome, not a strategy.
Your strategy might be to grow your online network and strengthen your personal brand. Or perhaps you want to attract younger prospects or recruits to your practice. Maybe you want to cultivate your thought leadership around a particular topic or area of specialty.
These are strategies that can guide your social networking and in time produce stunning results.
By investing quality time and resources into your social networks and building social capital, you will start to attract the leads and business opportunities that you want.
But if you can’t answer these basic 5 questions about your online strategy, you’re probably not going to get much out of your social networking efforts.