E-mail. Digital. Search Engines. Mobile. New media. Social media marketing. The list of marketing avenues goes on and on. It’s a fun and exciting time to be in the industry with so many shiny tools available, but it can be overwhelming for the same reason.

With new platforms constantly being created, others shutting down, and audiences shifting between them, it can be dizzying trying to keep up. And with marketing budgets tighter than ever, it’s crucial to know where and how to invest your time and resources online.

During a breakout session I recently attended at the American Marketing Association (AMA) Iowa Experience, the group’s speaker laid the groundwork for bringing order to the chaos of social media marketing by creating and sustaining meaningful engagement. The guidelines are as follows:

Be Smart

Being smart with social media marketing means developing your strategy around the five W’s and one H:

  • WHY are you using social media? Define your business objective. Is it for branding? Community building? Public relations? Market research? Sales? Lay them all out there.
  • WHAT will you be doing? Define it with a direction and specific channels.
  • WHEN will this plan happen? Set dates and stick to them. The more specific, the better for holding yourself accountable.
  • WHERE will your marketing happen? Both online and offline. Keep a list of all your marketing efforts to help you figure out the best way to integrate them all.
  • WHO does your plan involve? Take inventory of your in-house personnel and assign responsibilities accordingly.
  • HOW do you measure success? Circle back to the business objectives determined in “why” and evaluate if your goals measure up.

Answering the questions above will create the road map you need to help drive your social media success, with “why” being your destination point. You’ll be able to navigate through social more efficiently and easily get back on track if you get lost.

Get Inspired

The most reliable way to create content is to look for ideas everywhere. Get ideas from your direct competitors and other industries. Find inspiration from the mom and pop shop down the street to companies with million dollar advertising budgets. The quality of content takes precedent over the quantity.


Social media shouldn’t be the only way you get your message out, and it certainly shouldn’t replace other traditional marketing efforts. Seventy-four percent of people still prefer email as their method of commercial communication and mobile purchasing decisions are influenced by email more than any other.

This ties back to the “where” question in your marketing strategy. Integration becomes easier when you can see the big picture. The channels you use should complement each other not compete against one another.


There’s no shortage of numbers and analytics out there, but just because something can be counted doesn’t mean it should necessarily be counted. Measurement should always tie back to your specific business outcomes. This circles back directly to the “Why” destination you defined in your strategy. If you’ve defined your direction, you know exactly what you need to measure.

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