Success with Social Media

Great advice from a social media expert on how to make virtual connections.


At 5 by 5 Design we believe it’s possible to change the world by posing the right questions, listening to the honest answers, and following the path that emerges from the dialogue. Today’s discussion offers tips to help you get started or improve upon your social media activity.

Allison Broeren is a social media consultant, storyteller, and co-founder of Strike Theater. She has worked on social media marketing for events and iconic baking and cereal brands for more than 12 years. In 2013, she was named a Changemaker of the Year for her marketing work on the Women of the World Poetry Slam, a Minneapolis tournament that brought poets together from around the world. Whether she is planning social media for an open mic, a marshmallowy bowl of cereal, or a special dessert, Allison is passionate about connecting with consumers and creating content that matters to them. 

We’ve asked her a series of questions to help us learn how to use social media to make connections with your audience. Here’s what she had to say.  

1. How can an organization get started with social media if it hasn’t been active before?  

You just need to dive in! It’s easy to get stuck in an over-planning phase and think you aren’t ready. That’s not quite true. You can learn and evolve as you go. That said, it’s a lot easier to execute in a planful way. You should start with an understanding of your brand voice, who you want to be speaking to, picking what social media channels are best for this work, and deciding what kind of content you will be sharing.

One thing to always know about social media is that it’s constantly changing. You’ll always be making adjustments. In some ways I find that freeing. In other ways it’s really helpful for your business to have somebody tied into the social media world that can follow all these changes and advise you on how to stay on top of trends. 

2. What is your social media management process to stay organized and plan activity?

There are more spreadsheets involved than people imagine. The thing about social media is that it never ends. Campaigns can come and go, but the everyday stuff that bridges big news is just as important. Also, it’s constantly evolving. Platforms change functionality, you find learnings in your analytics to tweak your strategy, you experiment, and it’s not always successful.

The only constant is evolution. But it can be more manageable with good organization. I have my master spreadsheet that has the plans for each month and all the nitty gritty details: due dates, approvals, links to creative, copy options, date to be posted, what channels it’s on, if it’s organic or boosted, and more. Nobody really wants to look at that though, so I also have an easier to glance at format for showing clients what the plans are and how the execution will happen. 

3. How can social media be used to engage your audience? 

There’s an audience for everything on the internet. But when you’re thinking about engaging your audience, it’s important to make thought-out opinions about what audience you want to attract. For example, you’ll find different followers with memes vs. heartfelt storytelling.

The voice of your brand is so important. Make sure that you are talking to the right people, so you can make impactful connections. Different social media channels vary with what is right for them. Something that is perfect for LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily equate to how you’d share the same message on Instagram. I also think being honest with your purpose is important. Consumers tend to sense when you are being fake as a brand. 

4. What are some common pitfalls, challenges, or mistakes you’ve seen brands make with social media?

Just like everybody else, I’ve been doing a lot of house projects during the pandemic. It’s been amazing to look at the varying quality of social media out there for different contractors in the same field. You should show up. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be managed. If your last post was four years ago it makes you wonder. If you can’t find anything about a company on social, it makes you wonder. Your strategy doesn’t need to be super fancy, or involve multiple posts on multiple channels a week, but you should have a plan to look like a business that is open, thriving, and sharing. 

Other mistakes I’ve seen are brands not reading the ‘room’ and getting in trouble weighing in on things that aren’t their mission. It’s been a very sensitive year in this manner. How does your brand pivot its messaging in the time of Covid-19? How does your brand address the social unrest? Does your brand talk about politics? These types of risks can have a lot of rewards but can also backfire on a brand. 

Also, it’s easy for everybody to think that since they have a Facebook page or Instagram account, they can do social media management. There’s a lot more to it: strategy, building content, scheduling, replying to comments and messages, analytics to see what is working and what isn’t, and more. Social media never turns off. 

5. How can a social media consultant help clients be successful with social media?

It doesn’t matter how small or large you are, social media is important. I’ve worked on zero budget short-term projects up to multi-million-dollar brands. The process is very similar for all of them. Defining the brand voice, figuring out the right social channels to show up on, dreaming up what content buckets you can fill with your messaging, creating visuals and copy, and of course the actual schedule of how frequently you should post what and when.

Sometimes a client has some of this figured out already and I can help fill in some of the gaps. Other times, I’ve built up strategies and handed them over to clients to execute. I can also help do the execution. I can be helpful for a brand refresh or dreaming and defining next steps in growing your social plans.

I find it’s good to bring in an outside set of eyes every now and again to see if your brand is actually articulating its voice and values in the way you think it is.

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