Social media offers new channels of communication to serve existing customers and clients and reach new prospects. The challenge is this: Unless you have a meaningful plan to use social media to achieve some outcome, you're probably spending time and money in the least effective way possible.
So that's why I focused on the strategy side of social media marketing each time I taught Social Media Practices, a course I developed when I was a faculty member at Samford University.
Strategy is the same approach I take when consulting with clients or preparing a conference presentation on social media marketing and content development. I find that most people (students and business owners) like to focus on tactics–what's where the fun is.
But if you don't know where you're going or why you're doing something, you have no way of knowing if you're accomplishing anything or just spending time and money churning out noise.
This post is a part 1 of an article I published over on LinkedIn and I'm offering here to widen the distribution.
Here's the thing about social content for small businesses:
The value of social content comes when it serves a business purpose and is based on a strategy that's carefully designed to support business objectives.
How Does Social Serve One or More Business Objectives?
The first questions I ask prospective clients are aimed at helping me understand what they are trying to gain through social media. What business objective will your social media presence relate to? If they don't know, we talk through some possibilities.
Meaningful social presence and good social content can help business objectives related to sales, customer support, product/service development and enhancement, and broader market research.
The obvious (ultimate) answer is, of course, to grow your business through sales, retain and support existing customers, and find new clients who need the services your business provides. But you need to spend some time thinking specifically how social media content and engagement can serve specific business functional areas.
Quick Aside: I believe your social content must tie back to your website presence. That's a topic for another post, but everything I'm saying about social content presupposes that it is, in some way (directly or contextually) leading prospects to your website and lead capture tools. This is something Chris Brogan is known for advocating, along with most other small business marketing consultants.
Today, the digital and social sphere is usually the front lines of customer service and social content may be the first touch point for a prospect who is exploring the types of products or services you provide.
Takeaway: Before you start to develop a content strategy for social media it's imperative to identify the ways this social content will serve the ultimate business objectives.
Once you know where social fits into the larger business picture, you can start to consider social media on a more strategic level.
People – Objectives – Strategies – Tactics
My version: People – Objectives – Strategies – Technologies – Tactics. (POSTT)
I'm not the originator of the P-O-S-T approach, although I added a second T (for Technology, as in channels), as a wrinkle to help students in a class on social media strategy that I developed at taught at Samford University.
People: Who Are You Trying to Reach?
Before you launch into sharing content across a multitude of social channels, you MUST first identify the audience(s) you need to connect with.
It's not enough to say “new customers,” “existing customers,” or even demographically: Small business owners with more than 5 employees, or plumbing service providers, or parents of kids age 8 and up who need orthodontics.
Your customers and clients are not demographic segments or socio-economic data points.
Your people are real humans who have interests, needs and values. You may serve multiple audience segments, so you need to carefully craft the biographies of your ideal customers. These are sometimes called avatars, sometimes simply customer personae, sometimes bios.
Develop one of these avatar bios for each category you serve or want to serve. And write it like you're describing a character in a book or movie. Give each person a name, think about what they want (or might want) from you in relation to how this relates to their overall life. What are their hobbies or values or goals? Again, think of each as a real person.
If you know your customers well, you can use a few real people to develop these audience biographies.
Once you have those biographies in place, then you can start to understand more about how to reach them. More on that in a moment.
Objectives for Social Media (Digital) Presence
Before we get to strategies and tactics you need to consider social objectives that relate back to the business objectives.
Perhaps if you're a B2C retailer or provide a service like home repairs you may want to offer a social presence to help with customer service (support function) and respond to prospects who have questions (a sales function).
If you're a B2B provider or offer services that are confusing, complicated or new, you may want to emphasize thought leadership (sales) or helpful resources that educate prospects and explain what you do (business development).
Once you've defined your objectives for digital, then you can move on to developing the content strategies to lead you closer to achieving these objectives.
Strategy is Your Road Map
In my teaching days, I often had students who were confused about the difference between a strategy and a tactic, so I used this analogy:
Let's say your objective is to travel to Atlanta from Birmingham to attend a job interview.
You need to develop a strategy to get to Atlanta. Issues to consider in developing your strategy are whether to drive, fly, walk or ride a bicycle. What's your budget? How much lead time to you have? When do you leave? If you drive, will you drive your own car or rent one? Will you take the interstate or backroads?
Let's say the strategy is to drive to Atlanta to achieve the objective of attending a job interview on Thursday. Then we define specific tactics: Leave Wednesday midday and stay overnight so you're rested for the morning interview, travel Interstate 20, etc.
The same approach can be used to understand strategies vs. tactics in developing plans for social content and social engagement.
This post is getting a bit long, so I will divided this up into a second installment, where I focus on a hypothetical social strategy and offer some tips for identifying the technologies and tactics to implement the strategy.
If you're looking for help, I'm available for consulting work on digital content strategy development and can also help you on the digital content production side.
My production specialties are writing and on-demand audio. I can help you find the right partners for comprehensive branding services and videography, if that's necessary.
Find out more about Sheree Martin here on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet, including:
I developed my version of the POST approach based on the ideas in Groundswell, a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Group. [The link is to the book on Amazon, and is an affiliate link.]
Groundswell was first published in 2007 and I used the 2011 revised/expanded version as a recommended textbook in the first semester I taught Social Media Practices. Even though the statistics and other data, along with discussions of social media practices and platforms, are of only historical relevance today, I still think the book provides a great backstory for anyone who doesn't fully understand the underlying foundation of social media marketing.
You can find better sources for tactics and best practices in 2016, but Groundwell is still a great resource for anyone who feels that they don't really understand this whole social media thing and how it relates to business. [Amazon affiliate link.]
Sometimes I think Copyblogger's Brian Clark installed trojan horse in my computer a few years ago when I joined the Authority community.
Or maybe he's just a mind-reader.
Of course, it might simply be a coincidence that has something to do with the fact that we're both non-practicing lawyers of similar age who discovered the internet in the early 90s, way before most of our generation, and we both escaped from the drudgery of law practice.
And, just in case you're curious, this isn't a rant and it's not intended to be mean-spirited.
I feel a sense of validation, knowing that the brilliant Brian Clark comes up with many of the same ideas as I do—and succeeds at implementation.
And since this blog is where I tell my story of my own hero's journey, I thought I'd share this mini-epic—if only to serve as a reminder to myself that I am a hero who's generating the same ideas as early as those who are the masters of the internet universe.
Of course, I would also like to be one of the unemployable at Rainmaker Digital. I think I would make a great podcaster for their team.
[Tweet “The next great member of the @RainmakerFM @Copyblogger team should be @RealSheree”]
In any event, Brian is the “successful” one, at least in terms of business and finance. And I'm a Brian Clark/Copyblogger fan-girl.
Disclosure: I use Genesis framework on many of my websites (not this one) and I've been in the Authority community since 2013 and have paid for the Rainmaker platform since the beta days of July 2014. And I got to say hello to Henry Rollins at the 2015 Rainmaker Authority Conference. None of the links in this post are affiliate links.
From Go-Go's and Emma Peel to Digital Media Empire
Here's one of my videos circa early 2002, available on YouTube thanks to ValleyEarl (After posting to YouTube in 2007, I took mine down, since I'm risk averse):
While I was stalled as a freelance writer doing long-form copywriting for ad agencies and working as freelance online editor for a couple of manufacturing trade sites, Brian was building his own online business portals.
In 2000, I could see the future and I wanted to be part of it, but I knew that my HTML coding skills weren't going to take me where I needed to go and I didn't have the capital to hire developers.
Like Brian Clark, I was reading Wired, Fast Company, and The Industry Standard.
I thought about writing this blog post that evening but, like I said, I was busy with my last semester of teaching.
I was also in the midst of starting a new podcast, Birmingham Shines, which I planned to use as a promotional vehicle for my rollout of the expanded Shinecast® media empire.
Instead of writing a blog post about “great minds” or mind-melding, I filed the idea away in my head to write someday, or not.
We're Each On a Hero's Journey
A few days later, in early April 2015, I wrote my About page for the Shinecast.tv website.
And on that About page, I wrote this, pretty much in the form it appears here:
Each of us is a hero.
Our life is a journey.
On the path, we encounter the people, places and things we are given to teach us the lessons we need to move farther along the journey.
The mission of Shinecast® is to help you on this journey.
We can’t be the true hero of our own life unless we grow into the person we were meant to be.
Real. Authentic. Integrated.
Shinecast is where you find stories, inspiration and the tools to help you Discover, Grow, and Shine in all areas of your life.
The Shinecast vision is about living a whole, real and authentic life in the 21st century.
The Shinecast lifestyle is about achieving health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.
Although I published the About page on April 6, and made a few copyediting revisions since then, mainly to break up the paragraphs into shorter phrases, the essence of my message has been in development since late 2012.
The idea to use the hero's journey as my own metaphor came mainly through my use of the hero's journey as the framework for a freshman Communication Arts course I taught in Fall 2014.
I wanted to find a way to help students move beyond traditional academic essay writing and focus on storytelling.
The story behind this photo?
While doing yard work, a cacophony of chattering and screaming birds (of all stripes), prompted me to look up to see a snake slithering into this bird house, where the blue bird's nestlings were housed. I managed to grab my camera and capture a series of photos of the unsuccessful hero bird.
The message to the students in my class:
Each of us is a hero and we're on a hero's journey and we need to face our obstacles, fight our battles, and be transformed.
Aside from learning to tell better stories, I wanted the students to feel empowered as they began their college experience, rather than being stuck in a box that someone else created for them.
In the first class session, I scattered a bunch of boxes on the floor and asked the students to write a few paragraphs about what these boxes represented to them.
It was my way of getting acquainted. I don't like feeling boxed in.
I believe in the power of the hero's journey, so I decided to use it as the framework for all of the content I planned to create and publish under the Shinecast® brand.
The Shinecast mission is premised on the idea that life is a journey, we're on a path, and my Shinecast resources are intended to help shed some light along the way.
If you're interested, check out some of my podcasts on iTunes
That episode is about what makes a brand (hint: it's not the logo) and the importance of authenticity in finding your brand identity.
So anyway, that coincidence was, as they say, the last straw.
I had to chime in with this blog post and my own hero's journey to this place I'm at in mid-September, 2015.
This isn't the whole story.
Even though this version is highly abbreviated, this blog post is long enough, as it is….Keep in mind that I'm a lawyer. We like words. Perhaps I'll use this blog post in my memoirs some day.
Flashback: Spring 2012
By late Spring 2012, I knew I was going to leave my academic position sooner than later.
I had have big, long-term plans for building my Shine Springs Farm and Apiary, so I started looking for ways to transform my blog, The Ben Franklin Follies, into something more than a variety show of content, where I let my curiosity determine what I'd write about or, occasionally, curate.
In September 2012, I started my first podcast, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, and quickly realized that:
(a) My love for audio content was stronger than ever. I'd majored in broadcasting in college, with an emphasis on radio, and had worked as a college radio DJ and weekend board operator for my university's big NPR-affiliate station.
(b) Podcasting was only going to get bigger and I wanted to have a whole stable of shows.
(c) The Shinecast was a cool name for a podcast and could be a key part of my branding.
If you listen to the earlier episodes, it's clear that I was learning podcasting, but you have to start somewhere……
From Podcasting to Online Courses
The Shine Springs Farm Shinecast developed a small, but seemingly loyal, following.
Thanks to Copyblogger, I knew by that point that teaching and online courses were going to be huge, so I registered the domain, Teach Social Business, and put together a website where I would document how I was teaching a college-level social media/content marketing course I'd developed.
I intended to create some type of course to sell to other college professors who needed to teach a course in social media yet didn't fully understanding social media and content marketing.
I started posting to the Teach Social Business site and decided to take a few courses myself, to get a feel for how these online courses worked. It's still there, although it doesn't look very pretty right now.
Chris Brogan's Brave New Year
As it happened, my 50th birthday was coming up in November of 2012 and I'd been on a self-reflection and journaling binge through the Fall of 2012, trying to figure out how to transition out of my academic position into something entrepreneurial that would also support me at my current standard of living.
Chris Brogan happened to announce the launch of his Brave New Year course during the week of my birthday, which always falls around Thanksgiving. I signed up.
Over the next 60 days, I worked through Chris's course and was fairly active in the Brave Facebook group and Google+ community. I also did a couple of other small online courses and joined Corbett Barr's Fizzle program for about 6 months, just as it came out of the beta test.
One mistake I think I made in those months from December 2012 – February 2013 was to listen too much to the feedback I got when I posed questions to community members.
I remember sharing that I was going to develop a course to offer to college professors to help them teach social media and I distinctly remember getting a bit of pushback, including a comment from Chris Brogan that asked something to the effect: “What makes you think a college professor would buy your course?”
He may have meant this in the context of doing audience research, but I felt somewhat chastened. After all, it was Chris Brogan asking the question, not Joe Schmo.
Not long after that, Chris launched his own course, Social Media Mastery. I'm not sure if it had that exact name, originally, but that or a similar course came along not long after I put my idea on the table.
That was the first clue that my ideas had validity, even if I wasn't quite ready for prime-time.
Come On, Get Happy
I've always loved my idea for The Ben Franklin Follies, even though I've never expressed it well or executed it well.
Because I'm so in love with it, I've also always been reluctant to let it go and move on.
I still don't know whether I should let it languish or revive The Ben Franklin Follies and I'm still trying to decide. I know all the psychology about sunk-costs and all that. But hey, Pal Joey gets a revival every now and then and The Ed Sullivan Show was huge (in its day).
Some of the blog posts get decent traffic (by my measure), especially for a site that's updated sporadically and is all over the map in terms of content.
The Ben Franklin Follies truly is a smörgåsbord, especially if you go deep into the archives.
In February 2013, I sat down and wrote the basic outline for how I could transform The Ben Franklin Follies into something bigger and better and more focused.
I thought of Ben's essay, “The Path to Happiness,” and the Poor Richard maxim: “Early to bed, early to wise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
When I set out to look for domains (such as the happy life project), I discovered someone named Gretchin Rubin had written a book called the Happiness Project. I'd never even heard of it. Not wanting to be influenced by her thinking, I avoided even looking at her website. I know she's successful. Props. I look forward to reading it someday soon.
I had still have plans to publish The Happy Life Manifesto as a book of short essays.
After a great deal of back-and-forth, I ultimately revamped the Ben Franklin Follies blog around the theme of helping my audience on the path to health, wealth and wisdom.
And I found someone in England to design a logo for the Ben Franklin Follies:
By the end of March 2013, I had a website re-design completed and seemed ready to move forward.
But I languished.
Not sure if it was fear, or just too much on my plate.
I got my first two colonies of honeybees in May 2013 and spent massive hours each week from late May through August doing my Shine Springs Farm thing. I loved every minute of it.
Becoming an Authority
In August 2013, as I turned my attention from farming back to teaching, I also turned my attention back to developing my online media empire.
I joined Copyblogger's Authority program and signed up for the first Authority event as soon as registration opened.
I managed to keep my blogging alive, but I continued to languish, seeking advice and letting the short-sightedness of others poke holes in my balloon.
I got a couple of bits of meaningful feedback from and one naysayer who apparently didn't ready the part where I wrote that the existing content was all over the place and that I would be more focused in the future.
Of course, I let the naysayer's admonishment hold sway, at least for a while.
Turtles Eventually Win The Race
In the 20 or so months since my post to the Authority forum, I've continued to push forward, sometimes 2 feet forward, 23.9 inches back, but I'm making progress.
I've written an ebook on real food that's essentially ready for sale–just needs a final proof-reading (and a better cover).
[Tweet “Words are the windows that reveal how we see and shape our world. #3words”]
The sceptre is a symbol of authority and power. The person who holds the sceptre has the duty to act and the right to speak.
Sceptre is the word that came out of the blue to me and seemed to be unrelated to the other words on the short list I started working on a few weeks ago. I've never had a problem giving myself permission to take action, but I sometimes am reluctant to take charge or to speak “loudly.” Until I was around age 24, I wasn't reticent to take on leadership roles.
Something changed in my mid-20s, and I became more reserved, less willing to be “out front” in leadership roles, unwilling to tell my story. I didn't even want leadership roles anymore because I began to associate leadership with hubris and selling-out. I saw too many politicians and corporate-types seize power and then use it to destroy and/or pillage.
In the second half of 2014, I came to realize that I'd done a terrible job of telling my own story of successes, challenges, strengths. And that I'd done an even worse job of explaining how I've been helping others. I came to realize that by refusing to accept my strengths or use them in the public service of others, I had been, in effect, rejecting my calling.
The Sceptre serves as a reminder that I have accepted my mission, and that I have the duty, the power and the authority to speak and act in pursuit of the Shine vision that I've been given. The Shinecast (my focus in 2015) is a part of that mission, as is Shine Springs Farm.
Beams represent energy, strength, illumination and direction.
Energy is revealed through particles and waves that travel in beams.
We perceive light through waves of energy that is reflected off an object.
Navigational guidance comes through electromagnetic signals that are beamed to ships and planes.
Bars of heavy wood or metal serve as beams that support buildings. Without beams, a structure has no real foundation.
A beam also provides the balance to a scale. Think of the scales of justice. The beam is the cross-bar that enables balance.
I am both a recipient and transmitter of beams. I am a beam of light and energy to others.
The Orchard represents design, longevity, legacy.
An orchard requires planning, pruning, patience, and it lasts beyond one season. In the old days, when families lived off the land, orchards were investments for the future and a source (and sign) of wealth.
Orchards require attention to produce a meaningful harvest and the patience to allow nature to proceed at nature's pace.
A successful orchard is not, however, reflected in the industrial-style monoculture we see today in the giant orchards of corporate farms.
A flourishing orchard is filled with a diversity of life, provides habitat for an array of creatures, and delivers a bountiful harvest.
As much as I love gardening and growing things, I'm not using Orchard here in a literal sense, though. Orchard is not about a specific outcome. When the word “orchard” first popped in my head, I kept asking: “Why orchard? Why not garden?” The distinction is something I contemplated for hours, both actively and subconsciously.
For me in 2015, Orchard is about commitment, design, focused effort, pruning where necessary, patience and harvest. The Shine Vision is the orchard. The Shinecast Project and Shine Springs Farm are cornerstone species in the orchard.
What Are Your 3 Words for 2015?
So those are my three words for 2015: What are your three words?
Did you write a post about them? Leave a link below in the comments–I'd love to read your post and find out more about YOUR three words.
2015 is YOUR year to Shine.
[Tweet “2015 is my year to Shine.”]
My three words for 2013: Zoom, Vivace, Jazz
Zoom: Vision for a multi-media “empire” and related to my ability to zoom out to see the big-picture and zoom in to focus.
Vivace:An attitude and zest for life, happiness, health, fitness
Jazz: Improvisation within an ensemble. Great jazz is improvisational, but rarely do great jazz artists perform purely as a solo act.
I had an idea for a course and I figured I’d better take a few courses first, to experience the different ways an online course could be structured. Chris’s Brave course was priced reasonably and seemed to offer content that I’d enjoy.
In hindsight, I think it was something more than happenstance that Chris sent out an email promoting the course the same week as my birthday. Since my birthday is in late November, I always use the Thanksgiving holidays as a time to reflect on the past year, my dreams, where I want to go and where I am on the path. 2012 marked a particularly significant birthday for me.
So I purchased Brave New Year on November 26 and the first module landed in my inbox the morning of my birthday.
And that video from Chris Brogan launched me on a journey that has opened my eyes and expanded my vision for the future beyond anything I’d imagined since I was 25.
I wasn’t really looking for bravery, at least not as it’s typically defined. I’ve always been brave in the face of adversity.
But bravery is about more than steadfastness in the face adversity. As Chris says:
The opposite of bravery is not fear; the opposite of bravery is surrender.
Bravery is also about living with your whole-heart. We associate bravery with courage and courage is all about heart. The French word courage is derived from the Latin cor, or heart.
I'd already turned the corner but a few years ago I might have been on the verge of surrendering. And the course turned out to be just what needed to kick-start my visioning for another phase of my life.
As I worked through my birthday and December reflections, aided with the questions raised in Chris's Brave course, I started to realize I'd stopped dreaming big. I was dreaming safe. I was dreaming small. I wasn't really dreaming, I was just following directions for a pre-defined path.
I wasn't following my heart.
Deep down, I already knew this. But the times in my past when I’d ventured forth in pursuit of something bigger, I’d stalled either due to my own missteps, procrastination, (perceived?) lack of resources, or maybe just being ahead of the curve.
What I discovered when I worked through that first hour-long Brave video was a renewed enthusiasm for vision, for a specific vision I’d had since childhood. I could sense how I would weave the colorful threads of past experience into a coat I would wear into a new stage of my life.
As I continued into December 2012 and early January 2013, the vision began to coalesce into something more tangible and I took a few more steps on the path.
This week marks the 52nd week since I began the Brave journey with Chris Brogan.
The most astonishing thing is that I've come to realize over the past year that everything in my life has happened exactly as it needed to happen to prepare me for what comes next.
In Greek mythology, the Moirai–the three fates–control destiny, subject only to the overriding veto-power of Zeus.
In the same way that Dickens offers us the ghost of Christmas past, present and yet to be, the fates sing of things that were, are and will be.
I don't believe we are resigned to live as puppets in a destiny controlled by some external, all-powerful force.
We spin our threads and weave them into own tapestry by the choices we make, the actions we take.
But I also believe that we are inspired and designed to achieve something greater than our individual selfish desires.
When I was 17, I didn't get something I wanted. What I got was so much better. And in that process I was introduced to the symbol of the distaff. What does that matter, you ask?
The irony is, as I that I began writing this post and doing a bit of Wikipedia fact-checking to verify my memories of Greek and Roman mythology, I discovered a thread of connection.
I discovered the distaff is the symbol of weavers in all ancient mythologies and cultures, as well as the three Moira, the fates.
Is it a coincidence that my grandfather owned a cotton ginning company?
In any event, I make the connections because I'm writing my story.
To quote Chris Brogan again:
You are the author of what's coming next.
Another way to put it: You are the one who weaves the tapestry of your life.
[Tweet “”You are the author of what's coming next” says @ChrisBrogan “]
We need to be brave if we're going to weave an original tapestry.
If you want to be brave, you must have courage. You must have heart. You must have love. Because courage comes from love. And as I say in thesis one of my Happy Life Manifesto: It all starts with love.
Over the next few days I'll be sharing some of what I've been working on for the past year, some of what I envision. To be quite honest, some of the details are still a bit nebulous and are unfolding day-by-day.
I'm the author of my story, the weaver of my tapestry, but I don't yet know the ending.
Lesson: Don't seek to be brave if you want to dream to small.
What about you? How's your heart?
What story are you weaving out of the threads of your life? Leave a comment below and lets start a conversation.
And if you're interested in the Brave New Year course you can sign up here. (affiliate link). Chris is offering a 55% discount through December 2, 2013. Use the code OWNIT (case sensitive). Here's where I explain affiliate links, if you aren't familiar with this concept.