A Proven 12-Step Plan for Boosting Your Visibility and Credibility

Mapping out a solid social media plan in advance can help you to stick with your goals and see results. Without a guide and benchmarks, it’s easy to stray from the path.

Here’s a month-by-month blueprint to help bolster your social media activity and online influence this year. How do I know it works? I’ve done it all myself, focused, faltered and everything in between.

January: Resolve to make a plan

Some call it a New Year’s resolution. Others despise resolutions and simply have to “decide” that they’re willing to take action and make something happen. Take time to think, jot down notes and consider your big picture. What do you want from social media in 2017? What are you willing to do to make this mental image a reality? That is your plan. Know your target audience, ideal client and position in the marketplace. Assess what you’ve been doing in social media, what’s working and what may have faltered. Compile a list of competitors. Equally as important, write down a list of 5-10 industry leaders and people of influence who you’d like to get to know Tweak as necessary. Time is another important factor. Will you dedicate an hour a week to write a blog post? Three hours a day for Tweets, chats, blog commenting and videos? Be realistic. And live by Gary Vaynerchuk’s rule: Family first.

February: Identify sweet new resources

Valentine’s Day can bring tasty rewards this month. Set up a new “Favorites” list, and build your library and archive. Use apps such as Pocket and Evernote to organize links and bookmarks. Compile white papers, e-books, e-zines and TED Talks that you can easily access and study. Then, take it one step further. Read and absorb the material. Hmm. Quite a concept.

March: Apply the ‘Final Four’ mentality

March Madness and college basketball remind us to “practice, practice, practice.” Yes, social media and technology can be overwhelming. That’s why—like college athletes—we must break down goals and focus on specific exercises and drills to strengthen our presence. This month—and each one that follows—choose one app or tool that will move you closer to achieving your business goals (refer to January). Focus on learning everything you can about this one particular thing, and practice, practice, practice. Once you’re comfortable with it, rinse and repeat.

April: Plant social media seeds that will flourish

One of the greatest challenges in social media is how to create your online voice, brand and personality. Think of each post you share as a seed to your brand that will take root and stay for the long haul. You have access to massive amounts of people. What do you and your company stand for and represent? Why should people care? Be sure you’re not planting a garden full of weeds.

May: Keep your eye on the ball

Spring means baseball! Are you prepared to hit the social media ball out of the park? Rocker John Fogerty’s song Centerfield contains the lyrics “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play…” Are you prepared, or do you need to hire a coach? It’s OK to ask for help. A coach will hold you accountable. Have you been taking responsibility for your time, learning and priorities? Are you in the midst of the action on the ball field, or are you hanging around the dugout watching everyone else?

June: Explore waves of publicity

Summer is typically a slow news cycle. Look around on social networks and identify traditional and digital media contacts. Don’t forget bloggers, too. Where do your story and business fit into their coverage and audience? How can your expertise, company, products or services help others? Start creating tip sheets, press releases and videos to showcase your expertise. Be the solution to someone else’s problem. Plan ahead and pitch your stories in advance of long holiday weekends when reporters and bloggers are scrambling for something interesting to cover. Be proactive and relevant. A single placement can bring waves of follow-up press.

July: Keep moving, especially in the heat

While everyone is sunning on the beach complaining business is slow, you must keep moving. Use this “quiet time” to learn how to record videos, host podcasts or lead a webinar. Check out Vimeo, Snapchat and Facebook Live. Get engaged with your followers on a new and personal level. You can also stay active by commenting on blogs. Read posts by movers and shakers in your industry and write meaningful comments. Respond to questions posed in LinkedIn Groups and support other businesses on Facebook. When it comes to communicating, social media is a two-way street.

August: Do your summer reading

Are you watching online conversations, chats and posts that can pinpoint influencers in your target market? Social media gives us access to CEOs, decision makers and celebrities at refreshing new levels. Observe how respected people in your niche interact with others. Don’t simply read a blog post. Take time to read the industry newsletters and trade publications that respected leaders enjoy and discuss. What books do influencers mention on their LinkedIn profiles? Probe a little bit and you’ll discover their values. When appropriate, ease into a conversation and get to know them. You may soon be asking to swap links or guest posts. How cool is that?

September: Learn from kids

Children are naturally curious and eager to explore new things. We can model this mentality. September means back-to-school; a time for meeting new people, building on last year’s lessons and acquiring new skills. Be open to fresh ideas, different opinions and new technology. You may experience a renewed sense of creativity and energy.

October: Avoid wearing a mask
Yes, it’s Halloween, but social media thrives on transparency. Don’t masquerade as something or someone you’re not. Be genuine, authentic and helpful to everyone online. Oh, good manners and common courtesy will add to your success as well.

November: Enjoy the colors

The fall foliage is plentiful this time of year and reminds us that colors are captivating, vibrant and bring a sense of wonderment. Do your website, e-zine, posts, and Tweets offer these same attributes? Do people stop and take notice of what you’re doing, or are you blending in with the rest of the digital landscape?

December: Have you been naughty or nice?

It’s time to reflect and measure. How did you do? Go back to your goals and map from January, and review what you’ve accomplished. What have you learned and implemented? Who have you helped? How did you build or improve your online presence and influence? Have you gotten any paid clients or opportunities from your social media efforts? If you’re not looking at a return on investment, what’s your return on relationships; your return on engagement; your return on influence? How has social media helped you grow, both personally and professionally? Is your social media foundation solid? Celebrate your achievements and look back at No. 1 on this list. January is right around the corner.

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