Why is it that every good business – big or small – has a focused social media strategy, while the average individual social media user appears to be stumbling in the dark hoping for the best? In my opinion, all of our online interactions are an extension of our offline selves and consequently have the potential to add or detract value from our lives.
Like any business looking to get the most of its tools and resources, all individuals should ask themselves, “How can I use social media to improve my life?” And if you find that you don’t have a clear answer, you may want to consider using these 5 steps to develop a personal social media strategy.
Step 1: Determine Your Social Media Goal(s)
This is very straightforward. Understand what you want out of social media in the long term, and make that your goal.
For example, my goal is to use social media to increase my work productivity, stay abreast of current events, and keep in touch with my good friends.
Step 2: Develop Social Media Objectives
Objectives are the short-term actions that help you achieve your long-term goals. As such, every objective must align with your goal.
When it comes to setting objectives I am a big fan of the SMART mnemonic. The idea is that by making your objectives SMART – S pecific, M easureable, A ttainable, R elevant, and T imely – the more likely you are to meet those objectives and attain success. This may seem rather daunting, and you certainly don’t want using social media to become a chore. But let’s face it: if you want to see positive results, you must be willing to put in some effort.
A few of my objectives would look like this:
- Spend 1 hour a day consuming current events.
- Spend 3o minutes a day, between the hours of noon and 2pm, reaching out to friends and family on Facebook.
- Spend 30 minutes a day, between the hours of noon and 2pm, reviewing tweets, and tweeting and retweeting to my following.
- Spend 1 hour a day consuming work-related material.
The advantage to setting goals is that you’re more likely to stay on track because you know exactly what you want. There was a time when I would find myself on Facebook for HOURS at a time – randomly browsing photos or even making a few inappropriate (and unnecessary) comments – without any real purpose. Developing my social media goals and objectives has made me much more aware of how my use of social media directly benefits – and hinders – me.
Step 3: Identify Useful Tools and Resources
Understanding the resources that can help you achieve your objectives – and, ultimately, your goals – is extremely important. In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of social media overload. You can spend your entire day using 50 different social media tools and achieving very little. Or you can choose to select the tools that you believe will most help you reach your objectives.
For example, two of my objectives involve using Facebook and Twitter. One of my pet peeves is unnecessarily going back and forth between applications. I’ve found that by using TweetDeck, I can achieve both my Facebook and Twitter objectives effectively and seamlessly.
Another example would be my use of RSS feeds and podcasts. Thanks to my RSS feeds, if I want to read about either current events or work-related social media, all I have to do is open my email inbox, Google Reader, or iPad to find that the relevant content has been automatically aggregated and delivered to me. In my article “Blogs, Blogs and More Blogs: The 5 Types of Blogs,” I discussed my avid use of podcasts because they allow you to consume massive amounts of information while engaging in other activities (such as walking, driving, etc.). So if for some reason I’m not in the reading mood or it’s simply not convenient, I will opt for a podcast. It’s often free and always convenient!
So my list of tools and resources is: TweetDeck, RSS feeds, and podcasts. If you’re looking for a guide as to the various resources available, I would recommend reading my article, “The 8 Types of Social Media.” This will give you an understanding of the types of social media tools that may be useful to you.
The point of this step isn’t to limit your use of social media tools. It’s to capitalize on your use of social media by helping you get the most out of the tools that you choose to use. In general, I definitely use more than the three social media tools noted above, but when it comes to achieving my social media objectives, I find that limiting myself to these tools is the most effective method.
Step 4: Develop an action plan
Now it’s time to decide the best way to achieve your objectives using the tools and resources that you’ve identified.
For example, my action plan is as follows:
- Use my RSS feeds and podcasts to consume work-related materials and current events.
- Use TweetDeck to manage my Facebook and Twitter objectives.
Step 5: Execute
We’re ready to execute! One of my favorite quotes is from Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” If you want to use social media to enhance your life, it’s imperative to take action.
Like everything in life, this will be a process. It’s important to continuously evaluate what’s working (and what’s not), reassess your needs and goals (as they do change over time), and, as needed, start the process again.