Despite the promise of customer engagement, brand affinity and those ever-important fresh leads, many social media marketing efforts fail to deliver. The reason might be that you're not thinking like a traditional publisher.

Publishing companies have time-tested techniques to create content that people want to read. Reader engagement (think: customer engagement) is what we all want from our social media initiatives. And this is where we can all copy a page from the publisher's playbook: Successful media endeavors are built upon a strong editorial mission. Social media is no different.

Unlike a marketing plan, an editorial mission puts readers' needs first. How many people really want to read your "sales tweet"?" Your potential readers are much more concerned with their own problems than with your messages.

Instead, think of social media messages as a way to give readers what they need. Position yourself as a partner or a colleague who will help them out – not as a seller of stuff.

What's your mission?

There are three steps to creating an editorial mission:

  1. Know your audience
    Figure out exactly who you are trying to attract. Who are your ideal customers? What do they do? What are their interests? What are their pain points? If your audience is too broad or too vague, you will not be able to effectively deliver the content they genuinely need and you will fail to attract and engage them.
  2. Know what they need to know
    Focus on what your audience really wants to read (and remember, it isn't a sales pitch or a marketing message!). What information can you provide that will help them get their jobs done? How will it solve their problems? How will it engage and entertain along the way?
  3. Know why they need to know you
    What your mom said is true: You are unique. Position yourself as uniquely qualified to curate, create and deliver just the sort of information your readers need. Every organization (and each individual within) has a distinct perspective. While it is not always easy to put a personal face on a professional Twitter feed, a clear editorial perspective should shine through. This will help readers (i.e. fans, friends and followers) genuinely connect with you and your content.

Mission driven and prospect-focused

With a clearly defined editorial mission, social media becomes easier and more targeted. No more hoping "something interesting" will hit your inbox. No more trolling the Web aimlessly looking for a re-tweet-able video. Instead, you can proactively create alerts to ensure a steady stream of quality content to choose from. Then just add a bit of your personal flavor and share it with your community – and reinforce your message through interaction and engagement.

Soon, you'll have built an engaged audience that will turn to you as a trusted ally, a go-to resource - a great foundation for building successful marketing and sales relationships. And don't forget that you can further engage your audience members by targeting content to their specific interests – area of expertise, college attended, organizations in which they are involved and even hobbies. ZoomInfo's profiles on 50 million business professionals is a great place to research your prospects, get to know them and make meaningful connections.

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