07/17/2013 03:28 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2013

Is Your Social Media Broken: Time to Get Back to Basics

I get contacted on nearly a daily basis by someone who is having a hard time with their social media and wants my advice on what to do to "fix" it. They are hoping I can take a quick look at their sites, identify a glaring error and make a quick, easy suggestion on a very simple fix that will instantly turn things around.

Sorry everybody. It is not that easy.

Whether it is someone who has contacted me on my Facebook Fan Page or through Twitter, or a corporate client who has retained my company, Boom! Social, I usually start by asking the same question, "What is broken?" The most common response to this question is a blank stare followed by some version of "What do you mean?"

What I mean is:

• What is your social media strategy and how far down your implementation timeline are you? • How is your social media performing versus the goals you set for it? • Where are your "key performance indicators" (KPIs) versus where you thought they would be? • How is your original resource allocation plan working versus the facts on the ground? • Have you leaned the basic skill sets required for each different social media channel? • What is your content strategy plan? • Has site branding, cross-integration and site optimization been completed?

Huh, you need all of that?

Yes, yes you do.

I understand that different people have different skill sets and there are different resources levels available based on the size and type of your company or organization. However, whether you are a "solo-preneuer" or a Fortune 500 company, the roadmap is largely the same when it comes to social media. Forget all of the fancy talk and business terms for a second, I am going to give you 3 relatively simple things you can do to either get your social media back on track, or start you out on the right foot.

I caution you in advance, there is no "magic potion" or "secret sauce" that I am getting ready to share. It is common sense and my hope is that you say "Of course. I cannot believe I forgot that!" when you are done reading.

Start with Goals: Let's say you want to "get in shape". Getting "in shape" is a subjective term. How do you know when you are there? Most people use weight as an indicator of what kind of shape they are in and most people have a "number" of pounds that they want to lose. So, let's say you set a goal to lose 30 pounds and that when you do you are going to consider yourself "in shape". Now we have a goal with a measurable objective. You can track your progress towards that goal every time you step on the scale. If you want to take it a step further, give yourself a deadline. "I want to lose 30 pounds before my high school reunion in 4 months".

So if setting and achieving goals works for most everything else, why do so few people do it with social media?

My advice is to start big and work down. What exactly do you want social media to do for you and your company? Do you want to use it to improve your customer service? Is it a mechanism to get more people to attend live events? Do you want to use it to sell products and services? Great! So many times people set a performance indicator without knowing what, if any goal that supports.
They say, "I want 50,000 Facebook Fans". My question is, why? Having 50,000 fans means nothing if it does not support your overall goals and objectives.

Before you do one more thing with your social media, take a few minutes and write down your social media goals. Where possible make goals objective and attach a deadline. If you need a little help in deciding what your goals should be, remember the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting acronym. Make sure your goals are "Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely".

Strategy Next: Now that you have social media goals, what is your strategy to achieve those goals? I have news for you. The basic social media sites you use and the amount of resources you need to commit to each varies dramatically based on your goals. Far too often people say, "Well, I have to use Facebook", "I do not get Twitter" or "Pinterest is fun and I am going to have 100 boards". Your personal opinion matters, of course, but choosing the right social media sites to support your goals matters more. I hate to keep using the "get in shape" analogy, but it works so well here. Imagine if you said "Well, I hate vegetables, but I love hot fudge sundaes, so I am going to eat 3 hot fudge sundaes every day to lose weight!"

I tried that one time. It did not work.

If you sell retail goods to women, then Pinterest is the place for you. High end professional services? Then LinkedIn is a good place to spend much of your time. Are you a photographer? Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are definitely more photo and graphics driven. You are more likely to connect to your ideal client there.

Picking the right social media sites is a great start, but your strategy should also include other items such as the resources you plan on committing to support the sites, your content strategy, key performance indicators (KPI's), and the measurement tools you will use to track them among other things.! Most often with social media people do it just the opposite way. They run right out, get a Facebook Fan Page and start generating tons of horrible content or, worse yet pushing their product and services without taking the time to build out value with their ideal audience. I call that the "fire.....aim...ready" strategy and the results are usually miserable.

Once you have identified the social media sites you are going to use, allocate the resources to support them and otherwise establish your social media goals and strategy, take a little time to prepare before you start generating content. By "prepare" I mean create credible, consistent branding to be used across all of your social media sites. Optimize your profile with website links, keywords and completed "About" sections. Inter-connect sites or create easy navigation amongst them where possible. Learn the basics on how to use the site, the basic terms of service and etiquette.

In other words, get you site ready to be found, easy to navigate and set to make a great first virtual impression.

So, am I right? Are you saying "Of course. I cannot believe I forgot that?' Social media works so much better if you build it around a plan, goals and a rock-solid foundation.