The Number-One Question I Get Asked About Social Media

Since 2012, I've worked with small businesses, startups, international brands, national restaurant chains, global tourist attractions and multi-million dollar non-profit organizations.

I've worked with people who have been entrenched in marketing, advertising, PR and communications for multiple decades.

I've worked on three different continents, but the number-one question I always get asked is:

What social media platforms should we be using?

Answering that question is like turning on the oven before going to buy the food.

Purpose before platforms

The history of mass media shows us that platforms have a lifespan.

Once upon a time, radio and newspapers were the way people consumed content. Today, it's social media. In a few years, it'll probably be virtual reality devices.

The point is: Platforms come and go.

I'm always worried about people who brand themselves as platform-specific experts, because the popularity of every platform inevitably fades. Some platforms have a longer lifespan than others, but they still have a lifespan.

Instead, I focus on the purpose of why ABC business wants to use social media. In other words, what are they trying to achieve (the goals) and how are we going to achieve it (the objectives)?

Once I have that information, I then figure out who they're trying to reach (target audience demographics) so I can analyze their pleasures, insecurities, personality traits, beliefs, attitudes and motivations (psychographic analysis).

Finally, I hypothesize the reasons this group of people uses social media, and why they would theoretically connect with ABC business on the various platforms.

What's in it for them?

Well, content, of course. But what kind of content?

Do they want to be entertained, inspired or motivated? Or, are they more interested in self-help and information?

Only after we've done our due diligence of answering these questions can we begin to think about how these answers translate to content (the umbrella strategy), and how the content translates to the various social media platforms at our disposal (platform-specific strategies).

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But Josh, that seems so obvious.

You'd think so, but the numbers don't lie.

90 percent of businesses are using social media, but 60 percent of them don't know how to tangibly measure its success (or lack thereof).

Two-thirds of businesses also state that developing a strategy is their single-biggest challenge with social media.

As a result, most businesses default to randomly posting eye-candy photos and click-bait links, or they continuously share the same piece of content across multiple platforms, without any rhyme or reason. (I'm always amused when I see someone put a link in the caption of an Instagram post.)

In short, they focus on product marketing instead of content marketing, either failing to realize or outright ignoring the fact that we've transitioned from the service economy to the experience economy.

That's why I created The Social Media Strategy MasterCourse -- a self-paced online course that guides you through the process of developing a comprehensive strategy. (Best of all, you can try it totally free for 14 days.)

It's actually quite simple: If you don't have a strategy that's based on generating real results, what's the point of using social media? Just to say your business is on it? Just to stick a few icons on your website? That was so 2012.

Now, turn off the oven while you go buy the food, or you might burn down the house.

Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer (a digital hub exclusively for current and aspiring social media managers, consultants and strategists who want to build or boost their freelance business).

For high-level content about social media, marketing, personal branding, freelancing, entrepreneurship and other random thoughts, connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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