Growing up I played a ton of organized sports and looking back there were certainly many life lessons. One of those lessons seems particularly relevant to my world today, which is focused on helping organizations successfully engage in social media.

No matter the sport, my coaches constantly stressed the fundamentals and pointed to various professional athletes as being ‘fundamentally sound.’ With that in mind, I’ve put together five fundamentals that will help ensure your next social media campaign is setup for success.

It starts with relationships
Relationships are key to any communications endeavor and social media is no exception. Too often, brands look to get quick hits in social media rather than invest the time and energy to cultivate relationships with influencers.

It is important to build a relationship with a journalist or beat reporter, right? Well, the same rules apply with an influential Twitter user or blogger. Take the long view. At the end of the day, social media is about people and relationships, not the channels through which they engage.

Engage your entire real-world ecosystem
By nature, companies have vast networks of partners, customers, investors, employees and so forth. That said, so often social media campaigns are rolled out that fail to engage these various constituents. Involve relevant portions of your real-world ecosystem early in the process and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Focus on a business issue, customer pain point or competitive differentiator
If the point of executing a social media campaign is to generate coverage from traditional (or even social) media, then you’ve failed before you’ve even started.

Successful social media campaigns either explicitly or implicitly tie back to a business issue, customer pain point or point of competitive differentiation for one brand vs. another. Next time you’re in brainstorm mode, be sure to ask yourself if the ideas being discussed map back to any of these items. If not, scrap them and move on.

Fully integrate it from the start
Social media cannot succeed if it’s left on an isolated island like the cast of Lost. Ensuring a social media campaign supports or is supported by advertising, PR, marketing or other functions is an absolute necessity. If you take this approach from the start you may even be able to begin to break down the walls that create corporate silos. It’s a win-win.

Marry the virtual and physical
This one is related to the cultivating relationships point above. Making connections online is one thing, but meeting people IRL as they like to say can take things to an entirely new level.

Real-world meetups not only help with relationships, but they also provide a great opportunity to get product in the hands of a target audience. With all the buzz around social media and online marketing, don’t underestimate the value of hands-on interaction.

How do you ensure your social media campaigns are fundamentally sound?

–Trevor Jonas @TrevR