By Stanford Smith, Contributing {grow} Columnist

I get asked a lot of questions about blogging and social media.  These questions range from the profound; “Does social media really matter?” to the absurd “How many words should I use in every blog post sentence?”

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I enthusiastically answer these questions. I remember when I started blogging and content marketing and how worried I was about making a mistake. Answering questions is my way of saving people unnecessary frustration.

Lately, however, I have noticed a troubling theme in the questions.

More and more people are sweating the small stuff.

Usually thoughtful and cool-headed people are investing hours pondering…

  • How many times a month should I post?
  • Should I answer every comment?
  • How many words are in a successful post?
  • How long should a headline be?
  • How many keywords should be included in the first paragraph?

These questions are the subject of tweetchats and even have enough gravitas to carry a full 60 minute webinar.

This is absurd.

Take a step back and you can see the hazy influence of the “get rich quick” mentality.  Without knowing it, these well-meaning folks are looking for a “silver bullet” that will instantly solve their problems.  Others are hoping that the right combination of post frequency, length, and headline type will instantly turn them into content rockstars.

These questions, while interesting, are ultimately meaningless unless you’ve tackled the “big stuff”

The Big Stuff: The Real Questions You Should Be Asking

The Big Stuff are foundational  questions that are difficult to answer in a five-minute conversation  These questions always focus on values, culture, objectives, and accountability.  They make people and organizations uncomfortable and may lead to a few arguments.

But the Big Stuff always underpins success. Answering the big questions protects you and your organization against wasted time, effort, and burnout.

Unlike the “small stuff” the big questions defy easy, quantifiable, silver bullets. Instead, you need to arm yourself with time, focus, and a healthy respect for trial and error.

Here are several of the big social media questions that organizations should start with:

How can our customers benefit from a two-way dialogue with our business?

Not all customers want a relationship!  Quarter-inch screw customers just want a cheap and reliable fastener.  They don’t care about your Facebook page or if you are active on Twitter.  On the other hand, the jogging stroller manufacturer absolutely needs to talk with moms and dads.

What can we share that is relevant, interesting, and valuable?

Start with your content.  Look at the brochures, briefs, white papers, and internal documentation that are floating around your organization.  Once you’ve gathered everything, ask yourself: “Do you have enough to keep a customer interested for a year?”  If you do, then release this content on a regular schedule and make sure you maintain quality.  If not, create a plan to start building your library of content.

You can’t answer the “post frequency” question until you know what you have to publish.

Do we have the right process for mining content from our organization?

Creating content is a discipline and skill that must be cultivated and nurtured.  Content producers are natural hunter-gatherers that see the world as “another blog post.”  Social organizations build clear processes for encouraging grassroots content creation and inspiration.

Are these processes in place in your organization?

Have we set up the right incentives to empower and reward employees for their social contribution?

Simply asking employees to write blog posts is the wrong way to build social competency in your organization.  You’ll get sporadic “compliance” at best.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Fortune 500 company or a two-person local business, you need to offer an incentive for someone to change their behavior and invest 100%.

Social Media is inherently creative and spontaneous and can’t be packaged in an 8-hour work day.  Blog post ideas sprout at 9PM while picking up apple Juice at Walgreens. A Pinterest picture happens at an impromptu company event.  Employees forced to “be social” won’t catch and capitalize on these moments.

What does success look like?

I’ll make it easy for you.  Successful social media creates and rewards delighted customers.  That’s all.  You can set-up your analytic tools to churn out the metrics as proof but readers, Likes, and retweets should ultimately lead to more customers.

Everyone who is interested in finding and delighting customers should participate in answering these “big questions”.  That means everyone from the front-desk, the delivery person, the marketing team, customer service, and the CEO.

Wait – Aren’t Those “Small Stuff Questions Important?

Listen...

Answering the Big Stuff, those important questions we discussed, will make the other questions irrelevant.  Once you thought about your content, the value you can deliver, and your customer’s needs all you need to do is publish.  It doesn’t really matter how much or how often.  Just publish valuable information your customers can use. They will appreciate and compensate you. Simple.

Make sense?

Talk to me.

 

Contributing Columnist Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass!

 

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