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While watching my niece and nephew on a cold and rainy fall afternoon, my standing as a “fun uncle” was in jeopardy.

School let out early and the kids were restless, stalking the house like caged tigers. My usual ideas, like backyard soccer (too wet), going to a movie (nothing good), and the indoor fun center (closed for relocation), were all non-starters. Running out of ideas and desperate, I had a suggestion. “You guys want to learn how to juggle?” Their eyes lit up and they starting jumping up and down in unison. I took this as a good sign.

That afternoon, while teaching a seven-year old and a ten-year old how to juggle, I realized two things.

  1. Learning to juggle is a lot like creating a social media strategy.
  1. The world definitely needs another juggling metaphor.

Okay, maybe not. But let’s do this anyway.

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One ball = Know who you are

Learning how to juggle is frustrating. Everyone wants to be Cirque du Soleil-quality right away, but you need to learn the fundamentals first. Start with one ball and throw it from one hand to the other. Get really good at throwing and catching. If you can’t juggle one ball, you can’t juggle three.

Like juggling one ball, understanding how you want to present your brand is the most elemental part of creating a social media strategy. If you don’t know who you are, what chance do you have to get strangers to understand you? Focus on what makes you different. Discover your unique company voice. Find the one thing that you need to tell the world. Once you do this, you’re ready for the next step.

Two balls = Have a plan

Juggling two balls successfully is a real accomplishment. You have to break through a mental block and throw the second ball when the first ball hits its apex. Throwing a ball before catching the first one is not a natural instinct. You have to prepare yourself and plan to toss that second ball at just the right time. Then you have to remember to catch both balls. Trust me, a lot of people forget to do this. The entire act takes a lot of discipline and forethought.

Discipline is also a key to effective social media strategy. Many companies try to wing it. They think they can just start randomly posting or tweeting about their products and people will engage. This is not a social media strategy.

You need to make a plan. Start by researching the best times to post for each platform. Develop an initial set of compelling content that you can share. Make time to engage with customers who respond to you. Determine how to synchronize your social media activities with the phases of a product launch or marketing campaign. If you don’t have a plan, it isn’t a strategy.

Three balls = Build on your momentum

Juggling three balls is all about momentum. The concepts are exactly the same. Once the second ball reaches its apex, you throw the third and catch the first. Once the third reaches its apex, you throw the first ball again and catch the second. And so on. You just need to keep going. If you stop throwing and catching, you’re no longer juggling.

Similarly, once you start to build traction with your social media strategy, keep moving forward. Use analytics to determine what content is most engaging and create more. Focus on building your brand loyalty by listening to your customers and addressing their concerns. Use your growing social media influence to promote new activities. Become a valuable, contributing member of likeminded social communities that will give you content and share yours. Most of all, take advantage of your momentum and amaze your customers with your newfound skills.

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