2012 visualization of the many social media conversation channels by Brian Solis and Jess3 via http://www.theconversationprism.com/.
Take a few minutes to look at the above visualization of the many social media channels in the Conversation Prism above, grouped by type. If you're active on social, you probably see a few missing, which makes sense, as the illustration is over a year old. Now, take a moment to think about the social networks you use the most. For me, that would be LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Sure there are others I have logins for, but they're not places I visit daily as part of my personal and professional social media use.
You could spend all of your spare time trying to keep up on reading and interacting with all the social networks relevant to your personal and career interests. Which is why you need to budget your time and set up a plan for making the most of your time. But before you dive in to that part, first you need to define your objectives and identify the best channels to reach your audience.
Step 1: Identify your social media goals and objectives
Are you using social media to build your personal brand in your career field? Or are you more directly using it to market your professional services or small business? If you are trying to chase after more than 1 goal in any one social media channel, chances are you're not going to be able to use it effectively-- and you may burn yourself out in the process.
An objective is a broad, high-level statement of what you are hoping to accomplish. In the context of your social media activities, an appropriate goal could be "to become an industry thought leader on <my subject area>". It could also be "to become more knowledgeable about <my subject area>". Or even "to build a community around <my business>". They key is to pick the most important thing you'd like to accomplish with your social media use, and articulate it.
Defining your supporting goals
Your goals are a direct offshoot of your objective. They are the more granular, specific supports for reaching that goal. A popular tool for creating objectives is following the SMART criteria:
Putting this criteria into action, let's say you chose "to build a community around <my business>" as your goal. A SMART objective in support of that goal would be "create new, business-focused social media accounts and grow them to 10 customer/influencer interactions per week in the next 6 months."
Step 2: Identify your target social media channels
OK, now that you know what you want to accomplish, you need to determine which social media channels will give you access to your target audiences that will allow you to accomplish your goals. First, you may want to check out some general social media usage demographics, such as those from the Pew Internet project, which was recently on Mashable in an infographic form. I've started a Pinterest board for myself to keep track of interesting and useful social media infographics and data visualizations.
Now, think about the audience with whom you are looking to interact. Are there any community-specific forums or websites where they frequently congregate? For example, if you make and sell handcrafted items, you'd find other like-minded crafters on etsy. If you're a yarn shop owner, you'd want to be involved with Ravelry. To draft your list of key places, think about where you usually go for all of your news on your topic area, and expand out from there by seeing what your fellow enthusiasts are sharing, the other sites they link to in their profiles, etc. If you're stuck for ideas, go to google and type in <topic name> <social media channel name> or <topic name> forum and see what pops up.
Step 3: Planning your time
OK, now that you've decided on a small number of social media channels that you plan to interact with, you need to set yourself a budget of time, such as 30 minutes per day, and a plan for how to most effectively use that time in support of your objectives. Here's an example of a social media plan I created for a solopreneur crafter as an example.
In this example, we identified flickr, etsy, Facebook, and crafting/homemaking blogs as the key social channels to work on (yes, this was created in the time before Pinterest as it would definitely make the cut today). We broke down tasks to take no more than 30 minutes per day, and spread out activity across the course of the week. They key here is to make sure the tasks are specific, and done in the necessary order to support the rest of the week's activities.
Our example plan in action
Day 1: The first task of the week is to upload photos to flickr of new crafted items that will be added to the store that week.
Day 2: Building on day one, we actually add the items we photographed and uploaded to flickr on day one to the etsy store.
Day 3: After adding the new etsy store items to our Facebook page, we spend a few minutes on flickr, favoriting handcrafted items from like-minded makers.
Day 4: More community-building and idea gathering. Today it's building out the etsy community by adding new shops and/or items to the shop owner's favorites list, and liking other crafty Facebook pages, while logged in to the shop's Facebook page.
Day 5: With tomorrow's blog post in mind, today is another flickr upload day. If there isn't anything newly completed to shoot, then take a photo of a favorite available item in action/in use.
Day 6: Add new items, if any, to etsy. But the key task is publishing a weekly blog post. Take that action photo from yesterday, and write a few paragraphs about what inspired its color, construction, name, etc. Or share another source of inspiration for the week.
Day 7: Read blog posts of interest from your blog feed reader, and leave at least 2 comments. Be sure to use your blog URL in the comments form.
Rinse and repeat each week.
The importance of sticking to your plan
You've set your goal and objectives, and drafted up your plan for the week, and your daily budget of time. But that is only half the battle here. The other half is sticking to it.
You may be tempted on occasion to spend additional time poking around on your social media channel of choice. And that's OK-- in moderation. But it's incredibly easy to get sucked in and follow a maze of clicks and discover that an hour or more has gotten away from you. This is why I try to always have an objective in mind when logging in to my social media accounts. That defined objective becomes a way to keep from wasting away an entire Saturday without anything to show for it.
Need help defining objectives for your goal? Leave a comment!