I am not usually one to rant, or start off on a negative foot.  That is unless I have a strong opinion on something and my end goal is positive.

This is going to be short and sweet. Take it or leave it.

I have been meeting with several clients lately who are down and out.  They wish they had more money. They wish they had a website that converted.  They wished they had a facebook page with more fans. They wish they had more Twitter followers. They wish they had more people at their events. They wish the phone would ring.  They wish they could afford more than Ramen noodles.

Bottom line folks… quit spending money when you have no plan.  Take the time to set objectives, goals and a strategy.  Random Acts of Marketing will get you no where but to random returns.  Random returns does not equal Return on Investment that is postive. It is usually just the opposite and close to impossible to measure.

Too many organizations have spent thousands of dollars the past year to two years but have not spent the time to plan, organize, measure and think ahead.  Instead they throw a Facebook page up because everyone else is, they put together a Twitter page because everyone else is. Yet when it comes time to engage with their customers, partners, community and investors they don't know what to say.

My point is simple… if you don't know what to say then don't do it! Take the same money, same time you invest in the Random Acts of Marketing and build your plan, build your brand, build your business! Then the Facebook page will have fans, the Twitter account will have followers and your phone will ring.  If you hide behind an avatar of a logo that means nothing you'll get just that.

Social media is about engaging.  Like it or not it is about giving more than you receive.  If you don't know what your audience wants or how you can help them, then you don't know what to give.  What does that mean? It means that your efforts in social media, internet marketing and probably business in general are going to provide half the return they could if you took the time up front to know your customer, build your plan and execute.

Okay…off my fruit box.  I'll at least end with a few tips of how to GET REAL and GET A PLAN!

Answer these questions as a start:

1. What was your plan last year if you had one? What were the results?  What did you do right? Wrong? What could you do better?

2. What is your core target audience? Secondary? Tertiary?

3. Do some research on your target audience.  The first phase in Social Media and marketing in general is to LISTEN! Go join the social media platforms where they hang out. What are they saying? What is competition saying? What is the tone? What are they asking? What do they need? Why are they asking the questions? Is there a gap you can fill that no other biz is filling?

4. Why are you in business? What is it you do that is better than anybody else? If you need inspiration go read Seth Godin's Purple Cow or Linchpin.  Read something that motivates you to be better than average.  Take a risk. Do something different.  It is the only way you will survive in this economy.

5. What are your objectives? Get real with this? Quantify them.  What equals success? Yes, qualitative measures are needed too.  However, they won't keep the lights on.

6. What are your goals both short and long term.  What do you want to be 6 months from now? When you grow up? Or do you never want to grow up?  That's okay.  Remember a GOAL must be SMART-Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time Bound!

7.  If you have trouble answering the questions above and are by no means motivated to go find the answers then I challenge you to read the books I mentioned above.  Add Gary Vaynerchuk's “Crush” to the list too.   If these don't help then you may be in the wrong line of business.  You must have passion for what you do or you'll never do a good job at it and you'll probably never be happy!

8. Now that you hopefully have some goals and objectives…. HOW are you going to achieve them?  Get realistic! Do not base them on a million “what if's”.  Base them on the resources you have in the bank, on the way  and people on your team TODAY, not tomorrow! It is better to cut 20 things from the list and do them right then to keep 50 and do them all half quality.

9. Learn to say NO! This is the time. You can not do everything.  Pick the one or two things you are good at, that your market needs, that you can fund and DO IT! Execute! Cut the things off the list that don't matter to your customers, won't provide a positive ROI.  If the “big boss” wants them then have a real discussion with him/her based on your goals/objectives and available resources and explain why you recommend they should not be done in this phase.  Present real numbers though.

10.  Do NOT start with the technology the facebook pages, Twitter or Hootsuite.  Instead use the POST methodology.  Start with the People, Objectives, Strategy and last Technology!

11.  If you don' t know how to do any or all of this… it's okay.  Hire someone that does.  The small amount of $$ you pay an expert to help you build a plan can reap a positive ROI on the first campaign if you do it right.

12. Don't give up! Keep your head up but BE REAL in who you are, what your business is, what it can do and where you want to go!

This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive set of actions for a comprehensive business plan.  It is though a reminder to the many of small biz's out there flying by the seat of their pants thinking social media is going to save your behind.  Sorry folks… it's not.  Yes, it can help jet set you with the right integrated plan behind you.  But it will not save your business as a stand alone entity of mismatched facebook pages, tweets and profiles.

Please comment and share your thoughts.  Social media experts are you seeing the same thing?