This past summer, I participated in a golf tournament on a beautiful New England morning. Sunshine cascaded down over the gently rolling greens and placid bodies of waters that speckled the course. The impressively manicured links served as the backdrop for the charity event. By all accounts, a great day outside of the office.

This is, of course, until I started golfing.

Chunks of grass traveling farther than botched drives and repeated trips into the woods characterized my 18 holes. I found most of my trips down the fairway to be full of disgruntled mumbling into my hat about the incompetence of my clubs.

Needless to say, frustration set in.

Once my blood pressure receded to a healthier level, it got me to thinking. Golf is something we can’t wait to do once the weather warms up every year, a perennial opportunity to engage in a revered pastime – embracing the outdoors by playing a simple game. A great chance for networking and stress relief.

Many businesses have a similar idea about social media. Simpy signing up for an account will lead to new followers, brilliant engagement and more sales. They look forward to jumping right in, not realizing the stress and effort that is required.

What happens when your Utopian mental image of social media, like golf, goes sour?

Much like my now bent five iron, our own tools can be our main sources of irritation. And much like golf, social media requires a hard and fast process to be successful. You’ll never see anyone pick up a club and be Masters champ, and you’ll never see someone jump on to social media with no plan and have 50,000 followers overnight.

Let’s start in the tee box.

Teeing Off

Before you line up your first shot, you should be thinking. Are you a long ball hitter? Is accuracy your priority? When starting a social media presence, this is no different. Research your audience. Utilize tools like advanced Twitter search, FollowerWonk, Klout Topics, or countless other resources to find exactly the audience you want to engage with. In short, do your homework. This will dictate your posting strategy and the rest of your plan.

Approaching The Green

It’s time to start zeroing in on the flag. Selecting the proper club to reach the green is critical, unless all of your clubs are like mine and lead you directly into a sand trap.

I liken this to your posting strategy. Selecting the proper frequency, keywords, multimedia and other elements are what truly hones in on your audience. A great approach shot can set you up for an easy putt. High quality, timely content can set you up for meaningful interaction with your followers.

Sinking The Putt

In social media, audience interaction is something like the holy grail. Getting informed, engaged followers who are truly invested in your brand is tremendously important. Your research to find the right audience and then process of providing them with the ideal content will progress to you getting the social media results you desire. Nailing a birdie putt isn’t all that different from a lead coming in through inbound marketing.

It’s what you do next that matters most.

For more tips and inspiration, download Grow Socially’s free White Paper on Inbound Marketing today >>