When it comes to social media, building a strategy is essential. It should serve as the foundation to everything you communicate about your business across platforms. A successful strategy should:
- Explain your “why”—the reason you’re even using social media
- Describe your target audience, which will help guide every social media decision
- Establish key objectives and map out your “how” so you can begin measuring success
- Ensure you know whether you dollars are being put to good use
The bottom line: You should always know the “why” to every single post or ad campaign across your social media accounts and be able to explain the greater goal each is working to accomplish.
If you cannot, you are wasting time and money because you have no way to measure whether or not your marketing has been successful.
Let’s repeat that.
If you don’t know the strategy behind your social media posts, you aren’t marketing.
You are posting and praying something works.
In order to avoid the “posting and praying” trap, here are 5 steps to developing a successful social media strategy:
1. Start with the “blueprint” of your business
Begin by laying out the most important features of your brand—elements that are necessary to weave into your social media strategy. Nick Westergaard, author of Get Scrappy, Smarter Digital Marketing for Business Big and Small, describes this as defining your brand and how you will tell your story online. “You can’t always see your brand, but it’s what the rest of your work stands on.”
Important features include:
- Know your target audience (Be specific. Utilize Facebook ad categories to help)
- Define what makes your business/brand unique
- Map out your brand story
- Describe your brand personality and voice
- Define your brand visuals
2. Map out your social media plan
Asking questions is the key to mapping out your plan. Begin with asking the why, what, where, when, who and how.
- Why are you even using social media?
- What is your objective, and what are you expecting as a return on investment? Are you looking to increase brand awareness, discover new leads, provide customer service? What social media networks and content can help you reach your goals?
- Where will the action steps take place?
- When will they take place?
- How will you implement them?
- Who is going to do it?
These questions might be tough and take some time to figure out, but answering them will help clearly define the work that needs to be done and who is expected to accomplish it.
3. Understand no two social media platforms are the same
Every social media network is different and contains its own best practices for marketing. It’s important to understand each in order to map out how you can use it to reach your goals.
Decide on your objectives for each social network in terms of reaching and interacting with your target audience. For example, how are you going to use Instagram to achieve your social media objectives? Will you use Facebook, or LinkedIn, or any other social media network differently? Using each social network in a way that matches best practices will help you clearly define and measure whether or not you’re reaching your goals.
4. Map content to your yearly sales cycle
Every business has a sales cycle, which includes seasons and trends. What are yours?
It’s helpful to take a step back and review how your social media content could align with specific seasons and trends. What are your potential customers thinking about during specific times of year? Can you match your sales trends with topics to use on social media?
For example, a landscaping company is looking to book summer lawn care packages when the snow is starting to melt. Or a retail shop is gearing up for the holiday season in the fall. Match your sales trends with potential content and call-to-actions in your strategy. You will use this later when building out your monthly content calendar.
5. Plan on paid advertising
Social media is pay-to-play. The days of reaching your customers organically (free) are over. The research is clear. It’s a foregone conclusion across social media news networks.
But that doesn’t mean you should jump off Facebook or other social networks. It means you have to step up your money spend. Determine what that looks like for your business. What can you spend monthly? What content should you promote on which networks?
The importance of paid advertising makes having a strategy even more important because it allows you to be strategic from the beginning, ensuring you’re not wasting money in places that make no sense for your audience and goals. When looking at how to use your advertising dollars, refer back to your goals. How can you accomplish them through paid advertising? Can you establish monthly, quarterly, yearly campaigns with a corresponding budget? Map out what that looks like for your company.