Frost’s First Rule of Social Media Marketing: “Know Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing”

Putting the cart before the horseThere’s something about the social media gold rush that makes otherwise intelligent people seem to lose their heads. They race off, with the cart firmly attached before the horse, and find themselves doing all kinds of crazy stuff before stopping, exhausted, to try to figure out why things aren’t working.

I see this issue so often, it’s worth repeating here: there’s no point doing anything in the social media world unless you first decide what you’re trying to achieve. This means you must have a goal in mind and know precisely what problem you are trying to resolve with social media channels. This could be as simple as raising awareness of your brand or services, helping customers with after-sales support, or listening out for feedback so you can improve your offering. But, whatever it is, you need to agree on it, write it down, and keep it front of mind whenever you do anything through social media channels.

Many marketers I meet have rushed in, created Facebook and Twitter accounts, and set to growing their follower counts through a combination of good fortune and traditional bribery. They abuse these channels to publish (i.e. shout) advertising messages at their followers and wonder why few comment back (i.e. converse). They listen only to their followers, not the majority who are talking vociferously about them behind their backs.

Stop the madness sign

It’s time to stop the madness. If you’ve set off into the social media jungle and are starting to wonder what you’re doing there, maybe you need to get back to basics. Here’s how:


Define the problem you’re trying to solve. This is your mission, the reason why you’re doing this stuff in the first place.


Set some SMART objectives, giving yourself short- and long-term targets. But don’t set these in concrete. A month from now you’ll be wiser, so be prepared to adjust your goals if they prove too soft or ambitious.


Write an editorial calendar so you know in advance what sort of content you’re planning to share with your community over the next 2 weeks and when.


Agree on an engagement framework and some basic rules. Who will reply to what, and when.


Listen. Stop what you’re doing and listen. What are people saying and doing online? What do they say about you and your competitors? Where do they say it and when?


You’re now ready to create your channels (e.g. Facebook fan page, Twitter account, blog etc., whatever is best for your audience) and start engaging on the social web.


Revisit your plan at least every fortnight for the first few months. Keep asking if you’re making progress towards to agreed mission. Be flexible and adapt your approach where needed.

As you’d imagine, there’s more to it than seven simple steps. But this approach will help you set off in the right direction and give you a good chance of staying on course towards your intended goal.

Share your thoughts and idea with me on Twitter. I’m @allisterf.

About Allister Frost

I'm a marketer who helps companies adapt and grow in our digital world. This site is the place where I share my thoughts about marketing, how it's evolving and what great marketers are doing. Let me know what you think.

Posted on April 8, 2011, in Digital Marketing, Marketing, Search Marketing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Aren’t many brands stuck in a catch 22 situation because they refuse to enter into social media until they have a precise plan, but they won’t know what will resonate with customers until they do begin to engage?
    It’s always struck me that the best objective for initial engagement in social is “to work out what the plan should be”.
    If brands formulate grand plans, and guess at what the success metrics will be, then they will certainly change the moment they enter into the fray; and if they stick to the plan because they have committed to metrics, then they would be very lucky indeed to be successful.
    Isn’t the best plan to have no plan? But rather to gently slip in with the aim of seeing what will work best, and then match that back to the business objective it best serves? i.e. test and learn

  2. Interesting perspective Poleydee… It might work for some businesses, and let’s not forget this is typically how the big guys started out at the dawn of the social web. But as the medium matures the potential dangers of dabbling increase. I’d certainly recommend that every marketer should be finding their social media voice for their own personal brand (e.g. by tweeting from a personal account) and trial and experiment there. But doing this under an official brand persona is dangerous, if not foolhardy.
    So, I kind of agree with some of what you’re saying. Test and learn, and refine your plan. But you’ve got to have a reason for getting started in the first place or you’ll have no plan on which to improve. Catch 22 indeed!

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