Social media efforts are more successful when they connect to business objectives and goals. Companies that merely collect likes and followers as if they are trophies to put on a shelf in the lobby are not managing their social media programs to their fullest extent. I have always said that traditional marketing practices still apply for social media marketing, but let’s look at it from another direction: journalism.

Every good news story answers the questions of the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why). If you can’t answer these five questions for your next social media campaign or the launch of another social profile, take a step back to answer them before proceeding.

Who?

Who is your target audience that you wish to reach? Social media can be used very differently when attracting prospects or serving customers. There is some overlap in the kind of content that speaks to both of these audiences, but they have very different needs. And so do you. With one, you are trying to build a relationship by establishing trust and providing value, and with the other you are nurturing a relationship that may have many touch points and lots of history unrelated to marketing.

What?

What will you be doing? This is the easiest question to answer, because these are the tactics. This is where many people start. But let’s add a second “what” to the list: what action do you want your audience to take? Social media is not a passive activity. Click, share, Retweet, sign-up, contribute, download, create. These are some of the actions that can people take to show that they are consuming your information.

When?

When will these activities take place? Coordination of social media efforts is important, to make sure they have maximum impact. This could be based on a marketing calendar or real-time events. Nobody is interested in thinking about Valentine’s Day on February 15th. With so much content published every day, timeliness is one part of relevance that can connect with prospects and customers.

Where?

Where will you publish, post, and share your content? The ability to easily cross-post content from one platform to another makes this a bit more complicated, but you need to think about both where your audience is and what the benefit is. Does it make sense to share every Instagram photo on Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, Tumblr and Foursquare just because you can? Probably not, but there may be reasons to post to each on some occasion. These can include real-time relevance, SEO, documenting an event for the future, or even connecting with a new audience. A blog, or other central social hub, can also serve many of these roles.

Why?

Why are you doing what you are doing? This is the strategy question that sometimes falls by the wayside in the excitement of an awesome social media idea. Marketing efforts need to serve a purpose. Brand awareness is fine if you can track its change after the campaign. Improve customer relationships. Increase sales. These are all great answers to the question of why, but you need metrics in place to understand how you have achieved your goals with your social media blockbuster activities.

If you want to learn more about the questions you should be asking as you plan your social media activities, download our free ebook about creating a social media strategy.

Free Ebook: How to Develop a Social Media Strategy

Photo credit: Flickr