Rick Liebling is Head of Global Marketing for Unmetric.


“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

Five years ago, omnipresence was the social maxim for brands. With each freshly minted social network, brands gleefully added a new button to the company website and proudly pronounced: “Connect with us on (fill in the blank).”  

The “If you build it, they will come” approach to social worked for some, but for many who hopped on every network because “everyone else did,” the trees fell but nobody heard them. The notion that brands should only engage with audiences that a) exist, and b) pay attention, seems self-evident, yet many continue to project their voices into the void.

This is largely due to the powerful force of habit. It’s hard to alter or pull the plug on “something we’ve always done.” Your social content might go up every day like clockwork. Many social media engagement platforms make it easy to cruise on autopilot – all in the name of efficiency.

But as Drucker reminds us all, there’s a fundamental and important distinction between efficiency and effectiveness. 

If you’re spinning your wheels and just doing social “well enough,” it may be time to step back and examine your larger social strategy. Here are some tips to get started.

1. Redefine objectives

In some cases, you may have to start by defining objectives. This critical step was (and still is) overlooked by many brands on social media.

You spent the last five years amassing an army of fans and followers, but what do you want to do with those folks? (Or more importantly, what do they want to do with you?) List all of the networks you’re on and clearly define the purpose of each. Is it sales? Customer service? Recruiting? Showcasing company culture?

Some networks might have a mix, but without objectives, you have nothing to strive for or measure against.

2. Look to data

Where planning precedes action, data always trumps intuition. And, in an age where social media managers are under increased pressure to justify efforts and resources, data is a powerful ally.

This isn’t to say that data can’t inform or inspire creativity; it can and should. But the gut feeling of “this social strategy seems to work” doesn’t cut it any more with the CEO.

With the right platforms, brands can use data to uncover insights into what social networks provide the greatest audience engagement. You can also dig deeper into content and campaign-level analysis to understand what specifically resonates with your audience. 

3. Adjust efforts

Once you’ve defined or re-defined objectives and looked closely at some data, it’s time to take action. Do you have a social network where you’re only talking to yourself? Are you posting efficiently to a network you shouldn’t be on at all?

Over the years, the combined intelligence of the social sphere has produced many core best practices for each social network. With some quick research, you can easily find anecdotal evidence of what has or hasn’t worked well in the past for brands on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Start with this, but also remember, data is your friend. Take a look beyond generalizations and use data to understand what content works best for your particular industry, competitors and audience demographic.

4. Measure

They say you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and social media is no exception. After adjusting your efforts, it’s important to measure the results. This could be weekly, monthly or quarterly, but you should have a system in place to track progress against your objectives on a regular basis.

Trend analysis takes time, however. Meeting objectives doesn’t mean jumping ship if you can’t link Facebook posts and Instagram pictures directly to sales in the first two weeks. This knee-jerk reaction is no better than the one responsible for mindlessly maintaining social networks because someone once said “we must do it.”

Again, using data is the best way to measure social ROI.

5. Repeat steps 2 – 4

From here, social strategy becomes a virtuous cycle. Data informs action, and action leads to new data to measure. Over time, you may be surprised at what you find and where the data leads you.

Social media (as with all forms of marketing) isn’t an exact science, but unless you have clear objectives and a way to analyze, act on, and measure data, you’re simply shooting in the dark.

Read next: Learning to listen: 6 huge benefits of paying attention to your community