Nobel Prize winning author, Saul Bellow, died in 2005 when social media was still in its swaddling clothes. There is a very strong chance that he might have detested social media, but Saul Bellow, or one of his characters, nailed in four words what is essential to social media success. And probably to life.

Conscious intentions always prevail.’ Thus spoke Bellow’s character Ken Trachtenberg in More Die of Heartbreak.

What on earth does this have to do with social media you say? We’re glad you asked.

Too often when clients construct a social media content plan, there is no guiding ethos or conscious direction to the content. By conscious intentions we don’t mean calls-to-action, competitions, information, Q&As, thought leadership, or even awareness. Those are actions. What we mean by conscious intentions is an overarching strategy that advances the major objective/s of the organisation.

As individual pieces of content – or even content streams – the above can be effective enough in their own right. They might score well on vanity measures like reach or they might boost page likes. None of that is necessarily problematic. But it really needs to be assessed not against generic metrics, but against the overarching vision and main objectives of the organisation. Does it get us closer, further back, or are we just spinning our wheels in the dirt?

For example, if your organisation’s objective is to effect a political change, such as attracting or boosting government funding, or enacting advantageous legislation, do Dumb & Dumber memes with 300 likes get you closer to the target? Possibly. Does a thought leadership piece that gets 30 likes from the right people get you closer? Probably.

While social media interaction is not a zero-sum game, and while we recognise there are several avenues of attack, and a need for light and shade, the content of a social media plan always needs to be viewed with this thought in mind ‘how does it help advance our strategic vision and objectives?’

That’s where our old mate Ken Trachtenberg comes to the fore. If conscious intentions don’t prevail in your social media and broader PR plan, events can wash over you.

If instead you’re sharp eyed and clear about what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll pick up on the opportunities around you or create them. Whether that’s adding commentary to topical subjects, trends, and breaking news, or stealing a march on those that would covet the same space as you by hosting an event with industry partners.

Social media shouldn’t be understood as a siloed activity. Too many organisations don’t understand the function of social media; that it’s a portal to your organisation, a brand creator, a relationship builder, a public interface, and importantly, an underutilised campaigning tool.

To return to pursuing legislative or funding goals, ask yourself this. Does your campaign include public awareness to garner support in the electorate? Does it involve stakeholder outreach to give trust and authority to your calls to action? Does it involve building political support on social platforms, or if necessary, putting an agnostic politician’s feet (gently) to the fire?

For smaller organisations, or bigger organisations stretched to capacity, social media too often becomes another task to tick off in a busy day. Organisations can fall into the trap of trying to get quick and easy wins through content that hits metrics but fails to advance the position of their organisation within the sector.

The function of social media is not to service social media metrics but your broader organisational goals, and in that sense we’re with Ken Trachtenberg. Conscious intentions should always prevail when it comes to constructing your social media plan.

Tony Nicholls

Tony Nicholls

Founder and Director of Good Talent Media

Tony Nicholls is an accomplished journalist who has held roles for more than ten years with the ABC, SBS and Network Ten, covering thousands of news stories across Victoria, Australia and in the international media.

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