Make a Plan, So You Can Love It When It Comes Together

Everyone who hates to plan raise your hand. Go ahead; be honest here. Yes, even you in the back with the sideburns. I see you!

Most of us hate to plan. We’d rather get a few quick bullet points on paper then jump into whatever project we’re about to undertake, but then we’re surprised when the project goes all sideways and we have no good idea how to fix it. We wonder what went wrong when our Twitter feeds aren’t besieged with committed and engaged followers, when we aren’t racking up Facebook Likes like the Pinball Wizard racks up high scores, when our Pinterest posts aren’t getting re-pinned from shore to shore. You can avoid much confusion and set yourself up for success with a basic social media plan that asks three simple questions. (tweetable)

1) Who is your audience?: I know what you’re thinking, because when I launched my blog ten years ago, I thought the same thing. You want everyone to read your blog, right? I did. The harsh reality is that not everyone likes me. I know, right? I’m shocked! But you won’t be universally adored either. No one appeals to everyone. The first step in your social media plan is to figure out who your audience is. (tweetable) Imagine your ideal reader (or whatever). Write down who that person is — their age, income level, education level, hobbies and interests, level of political engagement, ideology, whatever you need to list to get a picture of that person in your head. That is the person for whom you will craft your content.

2) What do you want from them?: Here is where we figure out what we want our audience to do with our awesome content. Maybe you want them to donate or buy your loot. Maybe you want them to share all your great content. Maybe you want them, at a pre-arranged time, to take to the streets and sing "Sweet Caroline". You get to pick, because your audience won’t pick for you. I’m not being snarky here; you can’t assume folks will know what you want them to do with your precious social media content. (tweetable) You have to give gentle nudges along the way and unless you figure out what you want them to do, you can’t tell them.

3) What will you give them?: You’re done, right? You know who your target audience is and you know what you want them to do. That’s all you need to begin your social media takeover! Well, hold on a minute. I’m about to lay something on you that will be the secret sauce to your delicious social media buffet. Find stuff to give them. You might have merchandise lying around, around which you can build a monthly giveaway. If you don’t have physical goods, you can use the intellectual power of your organization to serve up "how-to" videos your audience can use to improve their own skills. You have many ways to be generous, but you must resolve to use them. Once the folks you most want to attract realize they can get good stuff from you on a regular basis, they will come. (tweetable) You can bank on that.

One word of caution: It is possible to plan too much. You can get so bogged down in preparation that you never produce what you’ve been planning. In my experience, over-planning stems from fear. We are afraid to offer what we have to the world, so we bury ourselves in the calming work of planning for every eventuality. Over-planning is as large a sin as under-planning, though. Both lead to failure and disappointment. (tweetable) Answer the questions I posed, then launch.

And don’t forget your victory cigar. You’ll need it for the end credits.