Over the last few years, I have had multiple opportunities of working within the trenches of social media management. From speaking to social media agencies to helping nail down what exactly our business should do about social media, I have concluded that social media is a highly significant undertaking when planning business growth. Any form of social media for your business should be taken very seriously, carefully planned, and executed to get the best return on investment.

My intention with this article is to help you consider some key questions that need to be asked as you head deeper into the woods, either with an agency taking charge or if you’re building your own team.

I recently came across a fresh study undertaken by an independent working group that took a deep dive into the social media of its 50 clients and found out their respondents had wasted between 15 to 80% of their social media budgets. One of the main reasons for this waste of precious marketing dollars is due to the incorrect strategy and execution of any social media initiatives.

We live in an incredible time today. Social media (as many platforms) offers the ability to promote your message, read your clients, and engage with your audiences. How can small and medium-size businesses leverage social media for its strengths, make the right choices in strategy and execution and get good results?

To answer this, we must first understand what role social media plays in our individual business and if it is indeed the right medium to use while engaging with our target audiences. Below is a seven-step process -; more of a Q&A form -; that you can follow to find the best way forward, even before you start speaking with the social media agencies or teams that may help you along the way.

Today we live in the era of the informed consumer, and if you have not done your homework prior to speaking to other people, experts, and vendors, you may not get the best deal or the best results. Let’s get started

1. Who are my true clients, prospects and audiences?

The answer to this question lays the foundation of your next steps. For most businesses that are working within the B2C or the B2B space, identifying the target client base and audience is much easier. Most businesses would fall under this category. As an example, the target audience for a dentist would be patients looking for dental work. For a mechanic, a target audience would be drivers or car owners whose car needs fixing up. Take time to really drill down and identify who your intended audiences for social media are!

2. Where do my target audiences hang out on digital media?

We have progressed rather rapidly over the past decade or so, and the internet has changed from being something that our PC could access to being ubiquitous, something available anywhere and everywhere. Today your cell phone is your TV, which is your communication device, which has now become your doorway to the rest of the world.

In order to understand where to best reach your clients, you must figure out where they hang out on digital media. If we go by the law of averages, then you can safely assume that a huge majority of your audience in the B2C space is on Facebook. If you look at the younger generation, the majority of them use Instagram. To build a clear strategy, this question must be answered, and guess who can provide you with the answers? Your audience.

Use a mechanism of surveying, email outreach, and gathering information at every interaction with your audience members. This means perhaps conducting a survey or asking your clients to fill in information when they visit your site or interact with you. Knowing which social media platform your target audiences use is going to be a big help.

3. What do my audiences need the most?

You must also ask yourself what your customers and clients need the most. Again, going back to one of the previous examples, if you are a dentist, you must ask yourself if your patients should have really good dental hygiene or your emergency number stuck to their refrigerator. Stay with me here, as I will explain this further. I completely agree that your role as a healthcare professional is to help your clients; however in the best interest of your clients, your role is actually to make yourself the least important thing in their lives by making their lives better so that they ultimately do not need you as much.

This is a very important business concept where your job does not become promoting yourself to your audiences, but, instead, is to ensure everything is done so that they do not need to visit you or meet you again. For a dentist, therefore, the prime task should be to keep patients educated on dental hygiene for fewer visits to the clinic. For car mechanics, their goal is to help their customers maintain their cars so that there are less breakdowns.

Ask yourself: What do your clients need the most?

4. What engagement strategy suits my business the best?

We are now getting into the pre-execution part of your actual social media strategy. This is where an agency or an expert can help you chart out detailed steps in terms of what your business does, how often your clients expect to hear from you, the best way to reach them, and the key social media platforms to leverage.

Not all businesses and industries should be on every single social media platform promoting their expertise. Every social media outlet has a specific demographic and audience base that needs to be matched with your needs for engagement.

5. How much social media is enough?

It is very easy to over-communicate your value proposition and overdo your communication on social media. One reason why some organizations outpour everything on social media is due to a lack of strategic approach. It is not necessary that an excess of social media will get you better results.

On some of the platforms, you might be better off posting once a day, while on others you may be OK posting three times a day. This depends on how much attention span your audiences have, how fresh content remains on these social media platforms, and what your audiences are expecting from these platforms. As an example, your approach to posts on Instagram has to be fundamentally different than that on LinkedIn. Both these platforms have a different demographic mix and hence must be approached differently.

You can also refer to some scientific studies that have been undertaken to further understand the science of social media posting frequency. Ask your social media agency why they recommend a certain amount of posting and their reasoning behind it.

6. What should you measure?

The failure to measure the impact of your social media activity is a failure of your entire social media strategy. This is one of the reasons why most of your social media spend can go to waste.

Metrics on social media are abundantly available, and each platform today offers the capability of seeing analytics on your campaign’s performance. Your agency should measure impressions, shares, reposts, and comments to fully evaluate how your social media strategy is panning out. Ask your social media team for a detailed monthly report, both on performance, as well as on ROI

7. What is changing?

Keeping on top of change is a very valuable leadership trait. To know what is happening with your clients and audiences, you must constantly reach out and understand if there are any changes impacting their lives.

One of the most relevant examples from today’s time and era is the current COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, many businesses and individuals are facing unprecedented change in their personal and work lives. As a business, you should understand what these changes are and how it has impacted people you are trying to reach with your social media. This in turn should help you understand how your engagement should adapt to the changing times, circumstances, and events that shaped the lives of your audiences.

Next steps

Social media can be a key ally when expanding business, creating influence, and serving your audiences. Social media agencies are great to work with; however, many of them do not provide clarity around things because customers never ask.

To get the best ROI for your investments, businesses should develop a general sense of what to ask agencies by understanding how social media works. I hope this helps you have a better and more meaningful conversation with your digital marketing team or providers and help your business gain the necessary traction it so well deserves.

Read more: business.com