How to Succeed With Social Media

Last week I was filming business owners talking about the challenges they face with social media. The top two issues?

  1. It doesn’t do anything for the business (no ROI)
  2. It wastes a lot of time

Which got me thinking about why social media isn’t working for a lot of companies. Mostly, it’s because they set out to fail. Not deliberately, of course. But they simply don’t set up their social media efforts to succeed.

So here are the critical points you need to address before you start with social media.

Set Clear Goals

Social media is just like any other business activity. You must have SMART goals (meaning that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). Without goals, how would you know how to prioritize your social media activities, which tools to use, or what messaging works best? And, more importantly, how would you know if you’ve succeeded?

Do your social media goals look like this? (these are the stated goals for a company with a current Social Media Manager job opening)

  • Expand our social media community
  • Expand our presence on Wikipedia, Linkedin, and YouTube
  • Expand the number of users on Facebook and Twitter
  • Increase inbound traffic to company website from social channels

What, exactly, do any of these mean? Expand numbers by how many and by when? Who are the “users” you’re after and why do you want them? What is the purpose of bringing in more traffic to your company website or social media pages? And the biggest question of all – why do you want to do any of this??

If you can’t answer these, and similar, questions in excruciating detail, then you’re not ready to jump into social media.

Define Your Audience

Who is your audience? Who are you trying to attract, engage with, and (hopefully) sell to? If you’re not sure, it’s probably time to do some basic market research to clearly define your target audience.

The social media tools and platforms you choose should be based on your audience. What you say, how you say it, what you offer – all of that is dependent on who you’re talking with.

Ultimately, you want only qualified followers. These are the people who are interested in what you’re offering, will engage with you, and will eventually buy your product or service. If you spend time and money growing an audience of followers who aren’t interested, what will you get? Nothing. And what’s the point in that?

Be Realistic

If you’re expecting exponential growth in Twitter followers, Facebook “likes,” or blog comments, get over it right now.  Growing a social media presence is hard work and will take time.  Sure, if you jumped on the social media bandwagon 4 or 5 years ago, you might have a huge presence by now. After all, there weren’t too many competitors back then. But, now, the social media marketplace is saturated. People have thousands of choices when deciding which companies to interact with online, and many people are already overwhelmed by the companies they’re currently following. They simply don’t have time, energy, or interest to spare. As a result, you’re going to have to work harder and longer to attract potential followers, build relationships, and keep them interested. And if you back off on your efforts, you’ll quickly lose momentum – and followers. Don’t enter the social media space if you’re not in it for the long haul.


We hear it all the time – “engage with your followers.” OK, that’s nice. But how do you do that?

If you think about how you engage with people in your daily life, you’ll have a good starting point.

  • You probably listen and then respond to what others have said.
  • You ask questions.
  • You talk about useful, entertaining, or new things that the other person is interested in.
  • You share information about yourself (without getting into anything that could embarrass you or the other person).

The two things you probably don’t do are (1) constantly talk at the other person and (2) repeatedly ignore them and then expect them to want to talk with you.


There are so many social media options available today, and more appearing every day, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When you’re starting out, pick just one or two (for example, Facebook for interacting with customers or LinkedIn for B2B marketing). Learn them inside-and-out, get comfortable with them, optimize your profile, try a variety of different approaches, and track your results over time (remember that SMART goals thing?). See what’s working for you and what isn’t. Then eliminate the things that aren’t working.

As for that new, shiny social media toy that’s just been released – ignore it (for now).

Integrate Your Marketing Efforts

Social media isn’t a stand-alone marketing tool – although it’s often treated that way. Rather, it’s part of a larger online marketing effort that can include SEO (search engine optimization), PR, PPC (pay per click), videos (for example, on YouTube or Vimeo), blogger outreach, email newsletters, banner ads, RSS feeds, and more.

Your social media efforts must be integrated with all of your other marketing initiatives (digital or otherwise). For example, target the same keywords as the company website, generate buzz around new products, services, or content in advance of their launch, align with print ads, or set up a meet-up at an upcoming trade show. The goal is to amplify your marketing efforts across multiple channels.

Keep these points in mind as you start your social media journey and you’ll find that you’ll achieve your business objectives/ROI with far less time and effort than you imagined.

And for those of you with successful social media efforts underway, what advice would you give on how to succeed with social media?


  1. Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand on November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Wonderful article and another one I am looking forward to sharing with others on both my fb pages, twitter and Google + the more others learn about Social Media the more it helps all of us Thank you Annie

    • Monica Hemingway on November 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

      Thanks so much Annie. Appreciate you sharing. It always makes my day to see that you’ve RT’d or shared one of my posts!

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