Six Key Elements of an Effective Social Media Strategy

December 8, 2008: There is a misconception for some that a social media strategy is easy to develop and implement. While social media sites are simple to use – submission forms with 2 to 3 fields, one-click voting buttons and updates written in 140 characters or less – simplicity in success cannot be farther from the truth.

You must remember that ease of use also creates a low barrier to entry. Anyone with an email address (which you don’t even need for Reddit) profile name and password can create an account. The ability to stand out amongst the masses requires regular participation, quality content and an active network in the community.

But complete immersion is not the only solution. Somewhere between those that barely get recognition and the Digg Top 100, Twittering Elite or the Top Stumblers, there are effective social media contributors. Those people that are able to contribute to the communities they are a part of and have built a channel for their business and website. Most business owners should strive for this objective.

In order to create an effective and sustainable strategy in any social media community here are 6 key elements required:

1.) Focus
Being able to contribute effectively in a social media community requires focus. It’s very easy to veer off course with the influx of new information and discoveries on the web. Don’t get sidetracked with your available time. Focus specifically on your goals within the social media community. Make note of interesting information but bookmark and save it for a more detailed investigation later in the day.

2.) Time
It’s very difficult to determine what the “right amount” of time really is for social media exploration. There are users who spend hours every day in communities like Digg, Reddit or Twitter but that doesn’t mean they’re being effective. Start by spending 30 – 45 minutes each day in 15 minute intervals. If you remain focused, you can get a lot done in a small window of opportunity.

3.) Perception
Pay attention to the details of successful submissions, content and influential users. Note the themes, tones and perspectives of quality social media submissions. When networking with new people, take notice of their interests and sites they frequent as well. As you make these observations and tie them into your own contributions, your chance of more meaningful participation will increase as well.

4.) Communication
At some point, you must network within the community. You must send @replies in Twitter or even simple “hello’s” to those who follow your social media activity. It’s just as important to be willing to receive communication and carry out conversations with new people (this is “social” media). Just remember one thing: if you would not say something in person, take a moment to consider whether it should be communicated online as well.

5.) Creativity
Contribution requires creativity. There are millions of profiles in the most popular social media networks. The creativity of a profile, avatar, submission quality and communication style all go into account when building a network and gaining recognition. Unfortunately, guidelines are subjective and you can find exceptions for almost every best practice. Work hard at creating your own unique voice in the community and in understanding what works (and doesn’t work) for your specific situation.

6.) Commitment

It’s easy to stay committed to a strategy when there are positive results. It’s challenging when other deadlines are pressuring you or the results don’t materialize immediately. The participation in social media is not always convenient or directly beneficial. If you give your time and energy consistently over time, you’ll get back the results desired. Understand that each action is a building block towards long-term success.

An Effective Social Media Strategy
In most cases, we only hear the success story and not the work that goes into the process. In some cases, it’s difficult to accurately connect the dots that enabled success as well. While there may be shortcuts and short term results, those that build sustainable and effective social media channels for their business incorporate these six elements into their strategies on a regular basis.

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