Just how the hell are you supposed to get the attention of your audience? It’s not easy, but we have some ideas here at SocialFlow, and it informs everything from the way we build our products to the way we train the teams that interact with our customers.

When going after that social media attention, make a commitment to throw out all the marketing jibberish that has been heaped upon you regarding social media. Be practical, cold, and calculating. Believe the data. Everything else is suspect. Once you strip the situation down to axiomatic truths, you can then build up a creative and differentiated strategy. Your social media strategy shouldn’t need to choose between being fun or being consistent. Social media should, above all else, work for you.

Let’s look at a realistic assessment of social media marketing. It is generally not at all possible to succeed by just saying what you want to say, to whom you want to reach at the time you create the message. A lot of brands and their partners at less-sophisticated agencies, however, do things exactly this way. You may have a great message and great content, but if people are inclined to be interested in other things, it is still going to look like spam when you try to reach them.

Try this small experiment: If you are at work right now, and you’re reading this, it is safe to assume you’re pretty engaged in topics around social media marketing and algorithms that power the platforms and strategies to improve this. Maybe you’d also be interested to know benchmarks around your industry regarding performance on Facebook or Pinterest, or possibly read a whitepaper on how different types of publishing approaches play out on the major platforms. We know this because you are displaying an empirically measurable intent to interact with a set of concepts. However, if someone were to pop up next to your desk right now while you are engaged with this article, and ask you about your favorite activity (be it golf, snowboarding, charity work, etc.) – it would likely be interrupting what you are doing, and you’d consider it spam for the time being. As soon as you got up to head to lunch, you might be open to have the conversation – and may even prefer it to all the talk of social media marketing. After all, it is your FAVORITE thing to do. Once your contextual intent diminishes and your ability to discover things opens up, you are very willing to switch into another set of topics.

To summarize the point: don’t bring sand to the beach. Don’t swim against the tide. Don’t … you get the idea. Use the cues that your audience is giving you, about what they’re interested in talking about, and what they’re sharing and then use this signal from real people doing real things to inform the timing, context and content of your messages. If people are firmly committed to not lending their attention, they won’t, and you will have limited, if any, success in getting to your end goal.

Once you start understanding the flow of your audience, and can yield success from the interaction – it helps to understand that not all of your successes will be equal. Sometimes you’ll do okay, and sometimes you’ll hit it out of the park. In the times where you see success, especially outsized success – DO NOT WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY. If your audience reacts strongly in your favor, whether you paid to reach it or earned the success by way of publishing to them – this is your chance. If you’re ever going to spend money on social media marketing, you won’t see a better return on your dollars than delivering a message to people who look very similar to the people you are already succeeding with. Use this signal to spend more, or start spending behind the delivery of that message. Figure out what the defining traits of that audience are, and spend to expand the reach of that successful message. Instead of you testing and cycling through messages which resonate with your audience – you are on the other side now. Your audience has told you what works and you can go out and use the wide reach of social to find more people willing to pay attention to you.

Just as important as identifying what is working- is your ability to find out what is not working. Being honest with yourself is key. Sometimes, things do not pan out as you had intended. If you have a message you really like and you publish or pay to get the message out there – and it flops – do not put more money behind it. You have the proof you need to give up on that message. Again, real people have said they are not likely to interact with your message, and adding more money to that campaign, isn’t going to help bring a subpar message to an unengaged audience.

Spend more to inflate your wins, and clear your losses off the board as soon as possible.

Once the mechanics are working in your favor, you can begin to apply a bit more rigor and science to your marketing implementation.