We all have a Facebook. Most of us have an Instagram. Plenty of us have Twitters. We’re all checking into our personal profiles regularly– with at least half of us checking our Facebooks several times a day –, but the ability to get a few dozen likes on the cute picture of our puppy isn’t even close to what’s needed to create a strong social media strategy.
All business accounts need social media marketing strategies. It’s not enough to just post at will and share whatever pops into your head, because even in the unlikely event that it manages to wrangle up half-decent engagement, it won’t actually help you accomplish any of your goals. And goals should be the big differentiator between personal profiles and business profiles.
In this post, we’re going to show you how to create a social media strategy for any business from scratch, even if you’ve never done it before. We’re going to take you step by step through the process of everything you need to consider while creating a customised, just-right-for-you strategy that will help you accomplish all the goals you never even knew you had.
1. Assess Current Business Objectives
When you’re getting ready to develop a social media marketing strategy, assessing your current business objectives is important, before you even start looking at what specific goals you want to accomplish with social media.
Realistically, what does your business need that you think social media might be able to help you with? It’s not enough to say “because everyone else is doing it.” That won’t give you a base for a strong strategy, and business profiles without strong strategies will flop.
Look at your current business objectives, and pick a few that you think social media could help you accomplish. These might include:
- Building brand awareness
- Establishing stronger relationships with your customers
- Offering more transparency and authenticity for brand recognition
- Driving more sales through social content
- Increasing lead generation efforts
- Connecting with new audience members
- Creating more value or touch points for your customers
- Establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry
Social media can help you accomplish specific goals in all of the above. Right now, write a list of what you want your social media marketing to help you with, because this will be the base of the strategy that we’re going to create.
2. Understand Your Audience
After you have a very, very basic understanding of what you want your social media marketing to do for you, the next crucial step is to get a firm grasp on who your audience is. This will influence and ultimately dictate a lot of your social media strategy, including which platforms you use and what content you share.
You should be able to answer all of the following questions about your audience:
- Demographics including age, gender, income level, and profession (if relevant)
- Languages spoken
- Pin points that you want to help them address
- Interests and behaviours
- How they use your product/interact with it
- How they engage with social media
- Any key identifiers, like “mother,” “pet owner,” “vegan,” or “athlete.”
Creating buyer personas at this stage is often really helpful. Develop personas for the audience that you already have if your profile is up and running, and you should also create personas for the audience you want to attract.
I worked with a client, for example, who owned an artisanal gelato shop. We easily attracted the upper middle class and upper income families who would splurge on gourmet food. Once we created and targeted a buyer persona for vegans, however, we were able to reach an entirely new audience who was excited about the vegan gelato offered, too.
If you aren’t sure what audience you’re currently attracting, use your native analytics tools to check it out. Facebook’s Audience Insights is easily the superior tool out of all the native social analytics platforms, and will give you information about everything from audience characteristics to their relationship status and income level.
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3. Choose Your Platforms
Stage number three is going to involve choosing the platforms that you want to promote your business on.
You’ll notice that we say “choose which ones” not “plan a strategy for every platform.” That’s because not all platforms will work well for all businesses, and it’s much better to really rock one or two profiles instead of trying to create a business Page on every single platform out there.
A lot of B2B businesses, for example, wouldn’t do well on Snapchat. Companies targeting ultra-masculine men with products like guns or weight-lifting machines probably wouldn’t have a lot of luck on Pinterest even with the demographics changing (though it would be possible), and companies trying to sell cosmetics might have limited potential on LinkedIn.
Know your audience, and understand how and where they’ll be most likely to interact with you.
You also want to consider your business objectives. If you want to focus purely on lead generation, LinkedIn and Facebook could be better options than Snapchat, Pinterest, or even Instagram depending on your business. Selling can be effectively done on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram, and establishing thought leadership is often well-suited for LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Look at all the factors of what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach, and choose your platforms from there. Rank them in order of priority so you know what to start with first.
A full list of platforms that could benefit a number of different businesses include:
4. Set SMART Goals
Only now is it time to set specific goals that detail exactly what you want to accomplish on social media and how you’ll assess progress.
Why we’ve waited until now is simple: different platforms have different types of interactions that can be measured, so it’s important to have your platforms chosen up front so that you can take the time to assess key performance indicators (KPIs) and choose the metrics that you want to watch. A save on Pinterest in the form of a repin can be more valuable than a save on Facebook, for example, where a share or click might benefit you more.
The key here is to set SMART goals. This acronym stands for goals that are:
- Specific. Instead of saying “I want more customers,” you would say “I want more clicks from social media to my site.”
- Measurable. You should be able to carefully measure when actions are taken towards the goal, such as counting clicks or seeing lead generation forms being filled out.
- Attainable. Your goals need to be realistic. You probably shouldn’t shoot for 1 billion followers when you have ten likes on your Page, and two of them are both from your mother.
- Relevant. Each goal you set should be directly tied to a business objective. Otherwise, it’s a little like treading water; you’re technically moving, but you aren’t really going anywhere.
- Timely. You should be able to set time limits for your goals. Opt for “I want to reach 10,000 followers in six months” instead of “I want 10,000 followers.” It keeps you on track.
An example of a social media SMART goal might look like this:
I want to generate 800 new leads through Facebook within the next six months, which can be tracked through Google Analytics as clicks coming from Facebook and moving through the landing page to the confirmation page. This will help me to expand my business, which is my current goal.
5. Check Out the Competition
Competitive research will be an important part of most marketing strategy developments. Take a look at what your competition is doing on each social media channel. You can get some ideas of strategies that you want to try and see what sorts of content your audience responds well to.
Do they seem to share a lot of videos, or gravitate to how-to content? How does your competition wrangle up UGC and engagement?
In addition to gaining some ideas for new strategies, you also want to look for opportunities to differentiate yourself. If your competitor doesn’t go live, for example, there’s an opening for you to fill a need or try out a different strategy that your competition hasn’t addressed yet.
A quick, manual review of your competition’s social media is the best way to see what they’re up to and how their audience is responding. Take some time to look at a few of your biggest competitors on each platform they’re on.
6. Create Action Items Adhering to SMART Goals
At this point, you likely have a good idea of what sorts of strategies you may want to use to accomplish your specific goals. This is the stage where you actually lay out those strategies with detailed action items.
Let’s look at the SMART goal we detailed above. We want to generate more leads. We might use the following strategies, which may or may not be integrated with other marketing platforms:
- Write blog posts that push people through a lead magnet funnel, and then promote those posts on social media.
- Share exclusive Offers for first-time customers like a free consultation, free class, or a solid discount in order to entice opt-ins to the email list.
- Promoting free lead magnets like ebooks or webinars, which both require a user’s email information in exchange for access to them.
- Sharing statistics from a case study in a post with a CTA to read more, and sending people to the lead magnet landing page.
Create a list of the exact strategies that you want to use. Other examples of action items might include:
- Sharing content from influencers or tagging influencers in order to build relationships.
- Hosting social media content to increase social engagement and UGC.
- Having hashtag campaigns to generate conversation about your brand.
- Using live video sharing industry insights to offer value and establish thought leadership
7. Set Up a Content Calendar
Once you’ve developed the strategy, it’s time to start implementing it. In order to ensure that your strategy is well-executed, I strongly recommend using software like Hootsuite, Agorapulse, or Sprout Social to create a cohesive, scheduled content calendar that plans out your action items carefully.
Each of the above tools will let you create, schedule, and then auto-publish posts that include pictures and links. While you’ll need to implement some action items natively– like ad creation and management, live scheduling, or offer creation–, the ability to create a strong content calendar up front will benefit you immensely. Nothing will be left to last minute scrambling, it gives you time for the whole team to approve the calendar if necessary, and you’ll see better results.
8. Assess & Adapt
This is going to be a quick section, but it’s an important one. Once your new strategy is in place, it’s important to evaluate it’s progress on an ongoing, continual basis. Check in every month, looking at the progress towards your goals.
At this stage, it’s good to acknowledge that some strategies will take time to build up momentum. If you just started a new group to offer value or are going live weekly on Instagram, it will take some time to see growth in engagement, which can often happen exponentially instead of incrementally. Give your strategies a good solid few months to build traction, but watch them carefully. On-site analytics and Google Analytics can help you track whatever goals you’ve set out to accomplish.
If a few months go by, however, and you aren’t seeing legitimate progress towards your goals, it’s time to assess why and adapt. Sometimes there could have been a change on one of the platforms that’s to blame, like an update to the algorithm that makes it harder to reach people. In other cases, the strategy may not be implemented correctly; maybe you’re failing to schedule or promote those lives ahead of time, or they’re too long to keep people engaged. Be agile and willing to adapt.
Creating a social media strategy may sound easy, but it’s a time and effort intensive process that shouldn’t be rushed. By taking the time to carefully assess your goals, your audience, and how the two align, you can create an actionable, detailed, measurable strategy that will help you tackle every objective that comes your way.
And, if for some reason the first strategy hits a wall, the detailed plan and the tracking of its progress can help you to assess what’s not working and why so you can regroup and adapt accordingly.
It’s important to acknowledge that while there are best practices that can help you see results in your social media marketing, your actual social media strategy will need to be highly personalised. There is no one-size-fits-all here, so while you should keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry, it’s ok if something that works for others– including your competition– doesn’t seem to work for you. As long as you’re getting results and staying agile to adapt to the industry, you’ll be good to go.