field-of-dreamsReminiscent of a popular 1980’s movie titled “Field of Dreams“, many professionals continue to struggle with building a strategy for social media success. Based upon my experiences and judging from the plethora of articles with the tagline “I’m on LinkedIn (or I’m on Twitter), Now What?” one thing is clear, many professionals are getting ahead of themselves. The “Field of Dreams” strategy (otherwise known as the “If You Build It, They Will Come” approach) simply does not work in favor of your business or personal branding efforts.

Building a profile and then trying to figure out what you should do next simply does not make sense to me. If you really want to be successful at anything, you have to build a strategy first. Think in terms of coaching a sports team. The coach has a strategy for how they would like to play the game. The coach then recruits and finds the talent (or necessary resources) that will be most effective in achieving success. In the case of social media, you must figure out what you want to accomplish and set your goals, conduct your research (i.e. identify your target audience and where they can be found), then select the resources (i.e. social media platform) that best fit your strategy.

“If you build it they will come” only works in the movies. Start with the end in mind and be prepared to change your course as you embark on your journey. Just like any business, there are ups and downs. What worked once may not always achieve the same result. For those who are reading this and already actively writing content or blogging, you know exactly what I mean. I’m sure we’ve all had the breakthrough articles that achieve far greater results than we could have imagined. At the time, our excitement is very high and perhaps we are humbled by the response, only to have our next endeavor fall short of our anticipated results. The key to success is continuing to stay the course; making changes when necessary and delivering information or solutions that meet the needs of our audience.

Before you run out on the field, make sure that you get your head in the game and have a plan in place to win the game. When I first joined Twitter, I knew that I wanted to learn more about my industry. My strategy was to follow industry leaders, create segmented lists (i.e. Industry regulations, Insurance professionals, Social Media marketers, Financial Planners, etc…), and begin interacting with those that I admired so that I may learn as much as possible. My goal has never been to have the most followers. I am grateful to everyone who has followed me throughout the years. I appreciate all of their support and look forward to learning more from them and sharing ideas and experiences for years to come. Some of those followers over the years have become friends on Facebook, and connections on LinkedIn. Better yet, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of those that I admire in person and remain in contact both online and offline to this day. All things aside, I am pleased with the results thus far on Twitter and my other social media efforts. There remains much for me to learn and I am certain that my strategy today will continue to evolve as the world around me changes.

My hope is that before you put forth the effort to join the next social media platform that pops up or perhaps join a pre-existing platform (i.e. Twitter for most professionals), that you take a moment to plan ahead, devise a strategy, and them implement the tactics and build and manage the profiles that will help to achieve the results that you want.