As a society, we have always been naturally social. However, being social has taken on a whole new meaning in the digital age. Now more than ever, people from around the world are connecting despite how much distance is between them. Whether it means reconnecting with long lost friends or family, making new friendships and relationships, or even discovering new passions, social media has helped people do it all. It goes beyond just the individual connections users have been able to create, however. Social media has also allowed more personalized access to celebrities, influencers, and brands all over the globe.
Social media gives brands the opportunity to create content that shows off their personality and easily share them with the world. The benefits of implementing a social media strategy are virtually endless. A few of these impactful benefits are:
- Stronger brand loyalty and brand awareness
- Increased website traffic
- Better brand exposure
- Higher rankings in search engines
- Expanded communication capabilities
While there are many digital tools to choose from, these are just a few of the reasons why a strategic presence on social media should be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. Ideally, if your strategy is properly implemented, all are within your reach. It is important, however, that you develop a sound plan before moving forward with any social media engagement. These positive results won’t happen just by simply creating profiles and posting at random. The basics of social media promotion are very simple. The various social networks are also easy to navigate, which greatly benefits businesses, both big and small. The platforms offer infinite resources for brands to reference to ensure they are used to their full potential.
How to create a social media marketing strategy?
While the premise of social media is pretty straightforward, developing a thorough and effective strategy for it should take careful consideration. It is highly advisable to include a focus on this key medium to your business plan. If you’re ready to get started, follow these ten steps below to build out your brand’s winning social media strategy and maximize your reach.
1. Define who you are as a brand.
What is your vision? Can you easily describe the core of your brand? If not, then this is definitely where you have to start. Whether you’re an established business or an emerging company, the importance of a well-defined brand identity is immeasurable. A unique feature of social media is that it engages your customers (and potential customers) in two-way communication. Think about who your brand would be if it was a person. Would you be playful and witty or more serious and thoughtful? How do you want your customers to view your business? These are all crucial questions to consider before diving into any social network campaigns.
2. Set realistic, measurable goals.
While the thought of introducing a social media strategy sounds wonderful, without quantifiable goals, you will never know whether or not it is working for your brand. Who wants to put in so much effort without any results?! Keep in mind that the goals you begin with can change over time as well. The ones you set forth when you launch your social media strategy won’t necessarily be the same a year or even six months later.
Think about what you want to accomplish with your social media channels. What results would you like to see from each tool? Some channels you may want to focus on for website traffic growth, while others may focus more on achieving sales. Regardless of what your goals are, the key is that they are measurable and time-bound for seamless tracking. A great pneumonic to follow for constructive goal setting is “SMART.” This will ensure that the goals you set are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Having specific goals will help you not only formulate your strategy but allow you to continuously check your results to make sure you’re on the right path to accomplishing them.
3. Narrow down your target audience.
You can’t build a successful social media marketing strategy without knowing who you are trying to reach. Though the number of people who actually purchase from you may be much broader, there should be a subset of the population you want to attract. A target audience is the customer base at which you aim your social media efforts. It is how you define your ideal customer. What do you know or need to learn about them? Define the demographics and psychographics of your customers. If you are a new business, you may want to do some in-depth research by implementing focus groups, surveys, and other tactics to gauge audience response to your product or service. Some areas you may want to zone in on are age, geographic location, income-levels, purchasing behaviors, and interests.
4. Learn the pros and cons of each social network and choose where to focus.
There are quite a few social media channels, with new ones emerging constantly. The largest and most well-known social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok. Facebook still remains the dominating social media platform in the world with more than 2.5 billion users globally, though many of these other platforms are also not far behind. This is why having a well-defined target audience is so important. Trying to reach a general audience on social media is inefficient and can be very costly. Just because a social media platform is large doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your brand. Understanding your target audience’s behaviors on social media will help you decide where to focus. You may want to start with only one or two social media platforms and expand as you see fit, depending on how many resources you can allocate. A sound social media strategy is a specific one.
5. Plan out the execution.
Now that you have decided who you are targeting and on which platforms, you must plan out the execution of it. The investment both mentally and monetarily in social media’s value can be immensely fruitful. Some important factors to consider:
- Will you have on-site campaign managers?
- Will you outsource your digital marketing to a third-party agency?
- What budget can you allocate to your social media marketing?
- Who will manage the budgets and adjust campaigns accordingly?
Outline your execution plans in advance, so there is no confusion when it comes to launch time. Keep in mind that just because someone has a social media profile, doesn’t mean they have strategic experience in using it. Complete a cost-benefit analysis for bringing an expert into the fold. Find the best fit for your particular corporate structure, so you do not delay the implementation process. On some platforms, you may want to post only organically, while others should include both organic and paid approaches. Each requires specific skill sets that you’ll want to ensure your team or agency possesses.
6. Create inspiring, authentic content.
While every stage of the social media marketing plan is important, the content you create is perhaps the most vital in whether or not it works. The content distributed on your social channels should be driven by your brand identity and your goals. Content should be engaging and authentic. Craft content in a way that captures the attention of your audience while being purposeful and relevant. Think about each post individually and as part of an overall story. Each one should have a purpose, even if it is just to garner a laugh or offer inspiration. This does not mean your content should be sales-y. (In fact, a social media page that mostly talks about how great your brand is will receive minimal traction.) Your content is how you communicate with your target audience. What type of conversations do you want to have with them? How can you build a relationship and earn their loyalty? Content should also be multi-dimensional. Here are some examples of compelling social media content:
- Short videos
- Lifestyle photography
- Content submitted by your fans/followers
- Shareable, inspirational quotes
- Product/destination images
- GIFs or multi-media posts
- Live sessions/stories
7. Implement content calendars and engagement guidelines.
With your amazing content comes the strategic way in which you post it. The content you create should be just as purposeful as the way in which you post it. Certain types of content may not be appropriate for every social media channel. Your content calendar should become your best friend as well. Social media content strategies should be viewed from a long-term perspective.
We recommend you to make a projection for months ahead and what they will entail for your company. Are there specific holidays or special promotions that are timely? Other content may be more evergreen and can be shared at any time. Regardless of which platform you are posting to, remember that your tone of voice should remain consistent. You are the same brand with the same story to share, no matter where you publish it. Though you may be able to recycle some content between channels, it should not be a mere repost to every channel you have a presence on. You may choose to share longer videos on YouTube, for example, while cutting shorter tutorials or briefs for your Instagram TV. By scheduling out your posts well in advance, you won’t have to scramble to figure out what you should post every day. Don’t worry, though, if you want to post something that happens in real-time. Even with a content calendar, you can always shuffle to fit in time-sensitive content in the moment. The time of the day your posts upload does matter too, so be mindful of when your audience is online for a better chance of them seeing it.
In addition to having a specific strategy for how you post your content, you also need to have a plan for how to respond to your audience’s reactions to it. Any comments, questions, or mentions from your followers should always be responded to as soon as possible. The sooner you react, the better loyalty you will develop. Some brands have team members dedicated to monitoring what their audiences are saying on social media so that they can engage them immediately. This strategy can be very effective if you have the resources to implement it. There are plenty of platforms that help aggregate these comments in one place for simple responding.
8. Track your industry and competitors.
Your social media marketing strategy may be absolutely fantastic, but it does not exist in a vacuum. Monitoring your industry and competitors on the various social networks is critical. Engaging in competitive research can help remove some of the guesswork by learning what’s working. While copying can be seriously damaging, understanding how your competitors communicate can give you a lot of good insight. Anything you like should be adapted to fit your organization and be noticeably different from everything that’s already out there.
Similarly, tracking the industry as a whole can tell you a lot about emerging trends and faux-pas. Being first to market still has a lot of value on social media. Any trending or viral posts can take gain immense visibility for your brand.
9. Assess and reassess.
If you do not check your progress against those goals you set way back at the start of this process, you’ll never know if you are headed in the right direction. Discover how you’re performing by diving into your social media analytics. Each social network provides an array of analytics about the success of your channels and ad campaigns. In addition, there are some simple-to-use third-party tools that provide in-depth insights into your campaign results, such as Sprout Social and Sendible. Assess your performance across each channel and type of post to track which content strategies are over-performing, underperforming, or performing on-pace. Understand why certain tactics worked, and others have fallen flat. Reassess your approaches and decide what changes need to be made. Perhaps you have achieved certain goals and are ready to take on new ones. Don’t start your campaigns and turn a blind eye. Consistent monitoring and follow-up will help you weed out the areas that are time wasters and identify paths that are better to focus on. A slight tune-up can optimize your performance in a major way.
10. Relaunch and reinvent.
To have a dominating, effective social media presence, you should constantly reinvigorate it. Give your audience a reason to keep checking back in with you. Throughout the year, your business’s leadership team should meet to discuss new directions, promotions, and fun campaigns to keep your audience engaged. While no cosmetic surgery is required, a social media makeover every so often can breathe new life into your channels. Never stray away from your brand’s identity, but think about new ways to reach your audience. How can they be a part of telling your brand’s story? You may even consider asking your users this question outright. Let them tell you directly what content they would like to see from you! Social media is fluid, so your approach to it should be flexible too.
Grow Your Social Media Audience!
Overall, a successful and effective social media marketing strategy is attainable across virtually every industry if done properly. Some of the highlights to proper social media use are building strong brand loyalty, increasing website traffic, improving your company’s search engine rankings, and communicating with your customers in a meaningful way. If you’re ready to get started, ensure you follow these ten simple steps:
- Define who you are as a brand.
- Set your realistic and measurable goals to focus on.
- Narrow down your target audience, so you know who to reach out to.
- Learn the pros and cons of each social network to make intentional decisions on where to be.
- Plan out how you will implement each phase of your strategy.
- Create inspiring and authentic content that will build a social media following.
- Implement content calendars and engagement guidelines, so you never question where you’re headed.
- Track your industry and competitors to stay ahead of trends.
- Assess and reassess to achieve success.
- Relaunch and reinvent to keep it fresh.
Through the various social media channels, your brand can successfully engage with millions of people from around the world simultaneously in a strategic and personal approach. Whether you are launching a new company or looking to grow the reach of your existing business, a sound social media marketing strategy can impact your business in ways that were difficult to attain previously.