As business owners grapple with the mechanics of social media — like what platforms are most appropriate and how often to tweet — they can lose sight of the larger goal. In these cases, it can be useful to think about why and how you’re using social media in the first place.

To help you ponder the big picture, a metaphor can often be an effective means to evaluate your activities from a different perspective. Take the game of football — it actually has a lot of parallels to social media. Both activities involve the pursuit of a common goal using a variety of specialized tactics and strategies. Still not convinced? Take a look at the following comparisons between football and social media and see how the former can inspire and inform the latter.

1. It’s a Team Game

Football is not possible without a team of players. Although each member of the team has specific strengths, everyone has to play together to achieve a common goal. Every team member also wears a uniform. Anyone observing the team from afar can easily tell which team the members belong to, and the team members themselves can easily identify each other through the chaos on the field.

Whether you’re a one person operation or running an enterprise with thousands of employees, you cannot successfully engage in social media for your business without enlisting the co-operation of others. If you’re a sole proprietor, you still need to find trusted people, resources and tools, to help you build your social media community from the ground up. If you run a large operation, you need to co-ordinate your social media efforts among your staff and assign roles and responsibilities to the appropriate people.

Just like the national anthem that’s sung at the beginning of every football game, if you make sure you and your team are all singing from the same song sheet, you’ll set the right tone to achieve success.

2. Sometimes Superstars Emerge

Though football is clearly a team sport, sometimes superstars emerge from within the ranks. These are the players who dominate the game and really make it exciting to watch. Often the high-profile and buzz surrounding these players generates interest in the game from people who wouldn’t have paid much attention otherwise. Superstar players can bring visibility, investment, spectators and sometimes other superstar players to the team.

Business is changing. Don’t be hemmed in by a strategy of keeping an employee where he or she cannot be most effective for your team. In your business or organization, some of your staff may excel when it comes to social media. Encourage these social media superstars to do more of what they enjoy and more of what they’re good at. You’ll know you made the right decision when you see the social media world beating a path to your door through these well-connected employees.

3. Good Coaches Monitor Everything

The next time you’re watching a football game, check out the action on the sidelines. Chances are you’ll see the coach with a clipboard (or tablet) in hand, taking detailed notes of the action on the field. Every team worth its salt also has its own cameras positioned around the field to capture real-time data about the game that can be analyzed later. Informed decisions and strategies are often made based on the analysis of this data.

Your organization’s social media strategy should also be diligently monitored, measured and analyzed. How else can you know where you’re most successful and where you need to make constructive changes to your game plan? Use the best and most comprehensive monitoring tools you can find to give yourself an edge over your competition.

4. Capitalize on Interceptions

Although most football teams don’t plan on interceptions as being their core strategy for winning games, sometimes that’s exactly how important matches are decided. It’s likely that when a team capitalizes on such a mistake by its rival, the entire play is later scrutinized to see if it this action can be predicted, or repeated. In other words, if weaknesses can be found in one’s opponent, or if conditions can be predicted where an interception is more likely to happen, the team that capitalizes on this stands to gain a great advantage over its opposition.

Social media provides a number of legitimate, ethical opportunities for companies to compile competitive intelligence on their business rivals. By monitoring mentions of your competitor’s brand, you can gain valuable insights into how that company conducts its business — at least on the social media playing field. Take advantage of the public data that’s available on social media. Use this information to figure out where your competition is headed. If appropriate, use this information to get to the goal before they do!

5. Missteps May Happen. Be Prepared.

Yes, sometimes even football can be profoundly affected by outside influences. For example, the term “wardrobe malfunction” has now become part of the lexicon, and it will be forever associated with the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII. ESPN also discontinued the opening theme song to its Monday Night Football program after a controversy erupted with the song’s author, Hank Williams Jr.

Although these cases may have generated some negative publicity around professional football, these missteps were not insurmountable and ultimately were not detrimental to the franchise.

Unfortunately, the business world is not exempt from social media blunders, either. However, if you’re prepared in advance to deal with negative situations, you’ll be much better equipped to turn negatives into positives, should the need arise.

6. It’s All About Moving the Ball Upfield

Although spectacular “Hail Mary” passes do occasionally result in success, most football games are won by advancing the ball incrementally — yard by yard — up the field. Even when the end zone seems far away, sometimes pushing the ball forward just a few yards can make all the difference. With a first down, the goal becomes more achievable, knowing that you have renewed momentum behind you.

Renowned NFL football coach, Vince Lombardi, once said: “The price of success is hard work and dedication to the job at hand.” The same advice that helped him win a number of championships can be applied to using social media for your business. When you first start out, it can sometimes seem like your efforts are not paying off. Many business owners still question whether or not social media can deliver a positive ROI. However, with a little perseverance and a sound social media strategy in your playbook, you stand to make connections, discover opportunities and achieve your business goals.

[ Source: Leadership Now; Image credits: Dov Harrington, Parker Michael Knight, Open Sports, The Brit_2, Ben Jackson Photography, I’ll Never Grow Up, Noelle Lorraine Photography]