There it is again, another new social media network to investigate. The first question you ask yourself: "Do we join or not?" That's potentially followed up with, "Will my boss ask me about this?"

The rapid growth of social media platforms sometimes outpaces the ability of businesses to get their arms around how best to use it. Before you can use a new channel, you must create a strategy around it. But many marketers struggle with how to create strategies.

In organizations, stakeholders often discuss logistics and tactics rather than strategies: "Who is going to post this to Facebook," or "We should tweet this out from the corporate handle versus the product." That approach is futile for one simple reason: Without a comprehensive, clear strategy, your tactics will never achieve your goals.

Many folks are excited about how social media can help transform the way we engage with clients, industry pundits, and fellow staff. Yet, one recurring obstacle impedes progress. We repeatedly want to change the conversation from strategic, "what's the ultimate goal of using social media to achieve organizational objectives?" to tactical, "I think we should be on Pinterest."

Without a clear vision of the goal you wish to pursue via social media—whether to increase brand awareness or client engagement, or decrease customer support inquiries—you will never get beyond tactical conversations. Why? That conversation is like a rocking chair: Everyone feels great about accomplishing a task—they feel movement—but, as time will surely tell, your initiative ends up going nowhere.

So, how can you begin to chart a successful social media route? Map out these five areas.

1. Goals and More Goals

Before starting out, you have to know what the goals are for your social media program; hopefully, those goals are tied to business results (otherwise, why even pursue them?)

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Rachel DiCaro Metscher is director of corporate communications at Hobsons, a provider of personalized learning, academic planning, post-secondary enrollment, and student support solutions.