Since way way back in 2010 when I launched my social media strategy consulting firm Windmills Marketing (DBA PDCA Social), I’ve helped a multitude of companies through the creation and implementation of a social media strategy plan. When I launched my company, social media marketing strategy was something that wasn’t talked about, but I knew it was the central element that companies needed to make sense and derive corporate-wide ROI from their social media presence. Without aligning business objectives with social media tactics through the creation of a social media marketing strategy, companies truly end up spinning a lot of wheels with often very little to show as to what tangible business value their tweeting and posting has.
I knew that I had to create my own unique methodology to lead companies in the social media marketing strategy plan creation process, and working with each client helped me fine-tune what an ideal strategy should look like. Having a background in launching sales organizations from scratch in Asia, where I had to be both very holistic in approach as well as wear many corporate hats–both internally and externally–prepared me well for talking to CEOs and corporate executives about the ROI of their social media presence and improving their understanding of how important these channels are for driving marketing objectives.
Over time, I have observed that without a social media marketing strategy, you cannot know what you’re trying to achieve, what you should be doing, how well you’re doing, what you should be measuring, or how to successfully determine the ROI of your social media marketing efforts. With the advent of social business, a social media strategy must also look at the implications that your strategy will have on all of your internal stakeholders and include them in the planning. With the increasingly complex environment in which a social media program exists, it’s no surprise that creating a comprehensive social media strategy plan seems like a continued challenge for many.
I have already compressed all of these observations and experience – together with my proprietary framework and methodology – into publishing the social media strategy creation book Maximize Your Social. This blog post will serve as an introduction to a lot of what I cover in the book.
Before we look into what I believe are the essential components of a strategy, let’s first dig deeper into the process of actually creating a social media marketing strategy that matches your industry and drives consumers to your brand.
How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy in 9 Steps
Step 1: Audit Your Current Social Presence
Conducting an audit of your existing social media platforms allows you to evaluate the types of content you are currently putting out, and helps you determine how effective or ineffective your current social media profile and presence actually is. When conducting an audit, be sure to identify how frequently you are posting, how consistent your posting content is, and how compelling your posts are.
Although you want to make sure you are posting brand content that is looping your target audience back to your site, products, and marketing materials, you also want to make sure you are creating posts that invite discussion, and add value to your customers’ daily social media scroll. Social media success cannot be achieved without starting social media conversations and getting your name and products to as many people as possible.
Step 2: Set S.M.A.R.T. Social Media Goals
Once you’ve reviewed your social media activity, begin to craft specific and targeted goals for the type of content you want to put out in the future to encourage potential customers and followers to come back for more again and again. To successfully create a S.M.A.R.T. goal, you must craft a goal that is:
- Time Bound
Using these guidelines, you can create goals that are more readily achieved, because they are not generic, confusing, or esoteric in nature. Instead, S.M.A.R.T. goals allow you to create a goal with specific avenues to achieve them in mind.
Step 3: Determine Your Success Metrics and KPIs
To develop your success metrics and KPIs, refer back to your goals. What types of sales goals are you hoping to achieve? How do your social media platforms reflect those goals, and how are they going to help you consistently deliver on your metrics and KPIs? Even if social media posts are not the primary source of your marketing campaigns, followers have become invaluable in creating lasting, successful businesses of all kinds, and you must maintain your social media presence to achieve the targets you’ve set for your metrics and KPIs.
Step 4: Define Your Target Audience / Ideal Customer
The type of content you produce needs to be able to target a specific set of customers or followers, and audiences will react far better to companies that provide consistent social media campaigns, and deliver a steady stream of high-quality, valuable social media posts and information. A business cannot succeed in its social media marketing strategies if there is not a specific target audience they are catering to, as audiences largely drive the efficacy of your social media efforts.
To accurately identify your target audience or ideal customer, you can look at the audiences of your peers and competitors, make a broad sweep of demographics, such as targeting women between the ages of 18 and 25, or evaluate your products themselves and which customers they are most likely to appeal to.
Step 5: Research Your Competition: How and On Which Social Media Platforms Do They Engage with Your Target Audience?
Although paying close attention to your own social media analytics is important, you can also learn a lot from customers coming from the business one step over from yours. Do your competitors largely focus on posting on Twitter a certain number of times each week, and largely avoid Facebook? Is the business you are competing with extremely active on Instagram and Facebook, but not quite as invested in Twitter? Identifying the areas that drive the most traffic for your competition can help you hone and refine your own social media strategies to create a winning plan for your marketing team.
Step 6: Create a Content Strategy and Social Media Content Calendar
Determining the precise number of times you intend to post on social media and the basic idea of what you intend to post will help you create a robust and worthwhile company awareness campaign. Although it might not seem like an important part of the social media management process, consistent posting can increase your engagement rate and increase awareness of your brand or business, because it provides your followers and potential customers with a set of expectations they can rely upon, and provides a consistent medium through which to engage.
Your social media plan can be as far into the future as you’d like, or as short-term as you’d like, provided that your social media efforts are written down, laid out, and easily accessible to you and your team.
Step 7: Create an Engagement Playbook, Including How You Will Engage with Influencers
An engagement playbook is one of the many tools available to you to help clarify your social media networks’ goals and intentions, and lays out a specific way for you to engage with followers, employees, and even influencers you might bring on to help promote your brand or products. An engagement playbook can be large and extremely detailed, going so far as to craft standard question and answer sessions, create standard answers to customer questions and queries, and even establish a standard response for businesses interested in collaborating.
Engagement playbooks can also lay out marketing goals, and maintain a consistent tone for all of the communication that occurs between your brand and other social accounts, marketing professionals, and business managers.
Step 8: Establish a Budget for Paid Social to Help You Meet KPIs
Although it would be ideal if you were able to drive more engagement with your social accounts by simply posting and engaging with followers, this is typically not the case. Instead of hoping that using keywords, tagging other brands, and reaching out to specific demographics will work in your favor enough to hit your marketing goals, set aside a specific amount of money for your social accounts’ social media marketing strategies, and consistently apply that budget toward tools to hit marketing goals. Doing so may mean using outside marketing firms, paying for targeted social media ads, or paying for social media audience leads. This budget should also include influencer marketing and other standard strategies to increase your social media audience and drive traffic.
Step 9: Track Your Results and Optimize Your Strategy in PDCA Fashion
PDCA, or Plan, Do, Check, Act processes are useful in achieving business goals because they involve tracking your results, evaluating what is and is not working, and improving or discarding the unhelpful strategies and optimizing the existing strategies that are continually driving traffic, garnering comments, and improving the reach your campaign has achieved.
PDCA means going back over your social posts and existing marketing plan and evaluating what has delivered the greatest amount of interest. Evaluate the photos–their quality, their content, and even their lighting–and comb through the pieces of content that seemed to stand out with a fine-toothed comb. Then act on what you have discovered by mimicking that style in future posts to capture the attention of your ideal customers and continue to please your loyal customers.
Now that you know how to create your plan, let’s discuss some of the elements that your social media marketing strategy will need to be successful.
The 11 Elements of a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy
Branding is all about being consistent across channels. This means that the same naming, color scheme, and imagery that is part of your branding guidelines needs to be applied to social media.
The challenge, though, is that most branding guidelines don’t include “voice,” perhaps the most important part of your social media branding.
Who will represent (or represents) the voice of your company in your social media branding guidelines? And what will their tone(s) be?
If social media users are communicating and sharing information in social media, what is your company going to talk about? Content provides the medium to help you engage in conversation – and creating content that is truly resourceful and shareable can have many long-term benefits to your company’s social media presence.
Content isn’t just about blog posts, photos, and videos: Think outside of the box! Presentations, infographics, memes, and even discussions (such as in a Facebook or LinkedIn Group) are all types of content that should be considered for your social media marketing strategy.
That being said, at least 75% of websites now include a blog – and I’ve been blogging since 2010 as to why a blog should be a part of your social media marketing strategy.
Has your company started blogging – and is it completely integrated in your social media marketing strategy?
If you’re just talking about yourself in social media, no one wants to listen. It’s only when you begin to curate content that is of interest to your followers and promote it together with your own content that your social media accounts begin to breathe new life. In addition, did you know that 85% of marketers surveyed stated that content curation is an important tool for establishing thought leadership?
Does your social media marketing strategy include which sources you plan to curate from – as well in which ways you plan to leverage your content curation activities? Don’t forget that crowdsourcing content is also a great way of curating – especially if it is from your own fans’ tweets about and photos of your products.
Stat: There are more than 26 social networks having at least 100 million members. Which of these social media “channels” will your company include as part of your social media marketing strategy?
You can’t – and shouldn’t – have a presence on every social media channel, but deciding which social networks to engage in – and creating internal best practices and tactical plans for each of these networks – will form a sizable part of your social media marketing strategy.
While most companies concentrate on the more established social networks of Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, depending on your industry you might be more successful on smaller networks such as Twitter or Pinterest, or even more niche social networks.
No two social networks are alike, and with limited resources you need to decide how much time you are going to spend doing what on each platform. This will also help you measure how well you are doing as well as maximize your ROI for time and resources spent on each platform.
More frequent posting doesn’t necessarily make your social media more effective. Post strategically. For instance, one data point shows that when a brand posts on Facebook twice a day, those posts only receive 57% of the likes and 78% of the comments per post that a single post receives.
Are you using data to properly tweak your frequency strategy for each social network so as to maximize the effectiveness of your posting?
Engagement should be considered in both its proactive and reactive forms. While most companies do well at proactive engagement with their own content, proactively engaging with new social media users and reactively engaging with those who engage with your updates are equally important to create an effective social media presence.
One thing to keep in mind about engagement, though, is that engagement should be a tactic to help you achieve your objective, not the objective itself.
It’s interesting to note that 60% of Facebook fans and 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands since becoming a fan or follower.
Is the engagement with your fans on each of your social media profiles worthy of being followed?
7.) Social Listening
Social listening has more meaning than merely being on the lookout for complaints. Every engagement with a social media user is a golden opportunity, and being a good listener can also help you reap the benefits of utilizing big social data to help understand potential future trends for your products and services.
Here’s two stats that indicate the importance of implementing a social listening strategy as part of your comprehensive social media marketing strategy plan:
Does your company have a social listening strategy in place?
Readers of Maximize Your Social will get a fresh look into how I redefine what a “campaign” is in the age of mainstream social media. Think of it less as a promotional marketing campaign and more of an experiment to better understand – and more effectively engage with – your social media followers.
That’s why I believe, as part of a comprehensive social media marketing strategy plan, that it’s important to create campaigns on a regular basis – and remember to make them platform and/or content-specific to help give you more precise data for your future planning.
We all know the many potential benefits of campaigns. One stat that I like is that 39% of Facebook users who click on a “pick your favorites” ad campaign post go on to share it with friends.
Is your company experimenting not only with different campaigns on different social channels, but different types of campaigns that are best suitable for each channel?
9.) Influencer Marketing
Amplification of your message via influencers can help make your social media more effective – if you are engaging with the right influencers for the right reasons in the right way. The task of determining who an “influencer” is is not a trivial one.
Are you targeting the right influencers – for the right objectives?
10.) Brand Ambassadors (including Employee Advocates)
Whether they are the long-forgotten brand ambassadors that are your current employees, alumni of your company, or loyal fans to your brand, your social media marketing strategy should always be looking for ways to engage – and reward – brand loyalty and amplification in social media.
Brand ambassadors are critical because we all know of the famous stat that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all forms of marketing.
I believe one of the biggest untapped opportunities for businesses is to leverage their own internal employees as brand ambassadors.
11.) Crisis Management
Because of social media’s impact as well as public broadcast functionality, a company needs to be always prepared for the worst. Make sure that your crisis communications plan includes messaging for each of the social media channels you’ll be investing in.
One study suggested that 76% of social media crises could have been diminished or averted with the proper social media investments. Have you completely integrated social media into your crisis management planning?
With each new social media marketing strategy consulting client I revise and add more components to the above list. In fact, as I work with more companies on their organization-wide social business strategy, there are a number of new ingredients that are augmented based on the objectives and needs from each department. Think of the above list as a bare minimum to think about as you create or revise your own social media marketing strategy plan. For your convenience, please use the below visual graphic to help you audit your social.
Are there ingredients in your comprehensive social media marketing strategy plan that are missing? Please chime in!
Are all of these essential components included as part of YOUR social media strategy plan?
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