January 11, 2011 in My thoughts

GROWing effective Social Media

This article must start with a disclaimer that it doesn’t offer expert advice on how to use social media because I am not a social media expert; I am a coach and I simply use social media for my own business; these are my thoughts on how to take a coaching approach to social media and is based on what is working for me.

The potential opportunities offered by social media are massive. The video on social media ROI from the excellent Socialnomics is over a year old but has staggering examples of the potential return on investment in social media.

Whilst the potential is huge, there are plenty of abandoned Twitter business accounts and an article on Social Media Today on ‘2011 Predictions: Top 12 Reasons Businesses Will Fail at Social Media’ suggests more failures to come and suggests reasons including unrealistic expectations, “random acts of social media’ and assuming that social media will fix a broken business.

I really struggled with social media at first as I started to read a number of blogs and follow people on Twitter to identify best practices but I quickly got confused as a lot of the advice seemed to contradict what I was reading elsewhere and even the best practices seemed at odds with each other; As soon as I got excited about blogging, the next article I read would suggest that blogging is dead.

Once I’d realised that the differing best practices arise as a result of people having different social media strategies, it made a lot more sense! It is a bit like reading about exercise and fitness routines; a gym routine that is working for lots of other people may not work for you if the routine is designed for a weight-lifter and you actually want to run in a marathon. The routine might be great, it is just designed to achieve a different goal to yours. As I started to get my head around this, I discovered another social media pitfall for myself; that of searching for the right technology that will make everything perfect. It would be very easy to waste quite a bit of time in search of the perfect technology as I know from personal experience.

This is when I started to realise that I needed to get clear on my goals for social media before getting busy with tactics and this is when I started to do a bit of self-coaching. One model for the coaching process is the GROW model (which stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will) and working through these four questions helped me:

1 – What is your Goal for using social media?

Get really clear on what you want to achieve through using social media. If you’re running a business or charity then you should already have a really good starting point for this with your business strategy and your marketing plan. If you don’t get your goals right, then there is a huge risk that you will devote a lot of time and effort to doing things that don’t produce the results you want.

2 – What is the Reality?

What is the reality of your current social media efforts? What are you doing? How is it working for you and what results have you seen? What have you tried to improve and how has that worked?

3 – What Options are open to you to achieve your goals?

This is a great time to read loads of blogs and tweets and get lots of ideas and read lots of best practices. Now that you’re clear about your goals and the reality of what you’ve already done, it is time to be even more creative and start to look at lots of different ways in which you can achieve your goals. At this stage, don’t rule anything out as not feasible or daft and just keep your options open.

4 – What Will you do?

This is the time to critically evaluate your options against your goals in the light of the reality of how things have worked so far. Once you’ve done that, and maybe refined (or merged) some of the options it is time to pick one, develop a plan that works for you and get on with it. The world of social media moves quickly so you’re not writing the plan for the next 10 years, just the next few months. Part of your plan should include some measurements to measure progress against your goals so that you can check on the reality, consider new options, and make new decisions about what you will do. You might experiment with some new things, decide they’re not for you and close down the accounts.

And that is it; a simple, coaching approach to social media.

If you do want some social media expertise and inspiration, these are some people that I’ve found to be inspiring and helpful:

Chi-chi Ekweozor – @realfreshtv and at Real Fresh TV

Gemma Went – @gemmawent and at Red Cube Marketing (who has also produced a helpful free social media strategy ebook)

Scott Gould – @scottgould and at Scott Gould and Friends

Tom Mason – @totmac and at Delineo

And, if there’s a nearby local meeting of people interested in social media (like the Social Media Surgery in Manchester, UK) then they can be a really great way of developing ideas with like-minded people.

I’m really happy with my social media strategy (although I still have a lot to learn and I’m still building my blogging and tweeting habit) and I wanted to share the approach that has helped me. What has worked for you?


  1. March 23, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Scott Gould

    Thanks for the shout out Ian 🙂

    1. March 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm


      Scott, my pleasure! I like what you do; honest, authentic, helpful. Following you on Twitter and reading your blog helped me to find my feet (or my voice) with Social Media! Cheers, Ian

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