One of the biggest things I preach in social media is having a strategy. If you're really going to see success on social media, you need a plan. Something actionable. Something that defines where you're going and how you're going to get there. It's why I focus so much on strategic developments for my clients. And I want you to do the same!
So, I'm pulling back the curtains on part of my process to show you how to create a social media strategy that will actually help you succeed with your social media marketing. The information in this blog post are actual steps that I take when crafting social media strategies for all my clients.
Determine Your Starting Point
The first thing I do with my social media strategy clients is get them on the phone. I go through a preliminary conversation with them to really find out where they're at and what they need. I have a questionnaire that I go through with every client to fully assess their status.
Here are some of the questions I ask, and what you should ask yourself before starting your own strategy:
- What are your short term goals for social media? Be honest here. And know your "why". What do you really want in the short term? More engagement? More brand awareness? More traffic to your website? And why do you want these things? Defining your "why" will help you plan your "how".
- What are your long term goals for social media? Try to make this quantitative. Do you want X number of clients? Or $X of sales? Or an X% increase in website conversions? And keep these goals realistic - if you only sold $1000 last year, saying you want to sell $10,000 this year, may not really be realistic - based on social media alone...
- What does "success" look like to you after one year of effective social media marketing? This plays off the last two questions but I like to ask it cuz the answer is often completely different. Knowing what successful year looks like to you will help you plan realistically. For example, maybe you want to increase sales by 25% as your goal, but a successful year on social media would be doubling your fan base, increasing engagement, and driving more qualified leads to your website. Knowing how these all play together helps you create an effective, actionable strategy.
- Who is your target audience? This could be your existing clients or your potential clients. It may also include people who will never actually buy from you, but don't worry about them. Who are you targeting in your social media efforts? What age? What income range? What family status? What geographical location? What hobbies? What professional industry? The more you can narrow down your target audience, the more you can focus your strategy on giving them what they want.
- Which platform(s) should you be using and why? You might be surprised when you sit down and answer this question. You might have no idea. Or maybe you think you should be on every platform. But where should you really be? Where is your target audience? Why are they using social media? What can you offer them on each platform? What type of content do you have to share? These questions help you determine where you should be.
- Who will be managing your social media platforms and strategy? You? An employee? Your spouse? An intern? It's important to know WHO is going to be taking care of your social media content. They need to know what is expected of them and you need to know what to expect from them. The strategy will give them clear guidance, but they still need a clear set of expectations and company support.
- How much time can you devote to social media? I love asking this question because it's so important for people to be honest about this. I can create a super detailed, intensive strategy that will require 8+ hours a day of your time, but if you only have 2 hours a day to commit, what good is that strategy? Know your limits - for real. If you only have an hour, then plan for an hour a day. If you can do 3 hours, plan for three. Whatever you can commit is good and you can make it work for you. But you need to be clear and devoted to that time frame.
- What are your current marketing strategies? Social media marketing is not a silo. It should work in conjunction with whatever else you do. Whether it's word of mouth, commercials, ads, mailers, trade shows, business cards, store signage, etc., your social media should complement these other tactics. You already have a voice, a tone, a color scheme, a theme, a brand. Use this to create your social media campaigns successfully.
- What are you afraid of when it comes to social media? This is another question I love, which I usually leave to the end, on purpose. Knowing what you're scared of is just as important as your plan, goals, and dreams. Some things people are worried about include negative comments, posting something deemed offensive, not being "ready", showing their vulnerabilities or insecurities, or just plain failing. Whatever it is, we're all afraid of something. You need to know what yours is. To be fair, working on your own, you might want to reach out to someone for help or support in tackling how to handle what you're afraid of - this is one of the advantages of working with a professional who will help you understand how to deal with multiple situations that may arise.
These questions aren't easy and they may take a while to answer. That's ok! In fact, that's good! You should put the time and effort into really knowing what your answers are if you're going to create a social media strategy that will actually see results.
Auditing Your Social Media Profiles
Now that you've asked yourself all these questions and figured out where you stand, you need to see where your profiles stand. It's time to review your social media profiles.
I recommend you look at the following aspects:
- Number of followers. I know, it's not all about numbers. But in a long term strategy, you still need to track data and numbers. Knowing where you're starting, will help you determine how you grew over the year.
- Reach/Engagement. How are your current posts and content performing? Of course, we want to grow this impact so we need to know where we're starting from. Whether you're at basically zero or at high levels, there's always room for improvement.
- Profile setup. How do your profiles look? Do they need updating? New cover photos or profile photos? Are your descriptions accurate and reflective of your business? Could you add some personality? Are your profiles consistent across platforms (would someone from Facebook recognize your Pinterest or Instagram account)? And, do your social media profiles align with your website? Are the messages the same? If the voice/tone the same? They should be! Have you completed ALL sections of your profiles? About info, website links, contact information, business hours, business description, etc.? Anything you can do to improve your profiles and make them more cohesive is highly recommended at this point.
There are other areas to look at but these are paramount in getting your social media strategy established.
What to Post
This is the meatiest part of your strategy. The what. What are you going to post.
Now that you've figured out why you want to use social media, who you are targeting, and have formatted your profiles for maximum effect, you need to figure out what to post. To be fair, this is where the expertise of strategy development professional is most beneficial. They work with companies to help them determine exactly what to post and why.
But here are some tips to figure out what you should post:
- Seasonal content. Of course, this always works. Determine which "seasons" are most relevant to your business and audience and craft content around that. Seasons could be holidays (Christmas, Valentine's Day) or events (sporting events, local conventions) or significant times of the year (graduation season, wedding season) and other types of "seasonal" content.
- Themed content. This works for things like Throwback Thursdays (show how your business has grown over the years) or Selfie Sundays (showcasing your product instead of you as a selfie). Or create your own theme. Maybe you do a Wacky Wednesday and mash up the sale items in your store into one crazy outfit. Or a Mayday Monday where you offer a tip or solution to a commonly asked question. Get creative! By creating this recurring, themed content, you drive your audience to follow you more closely so as not to miss these fun and regular posts.
- Your products/services. Yes, you should promote your own stuff. Not all the time but sometimes. Have photos, videos, testimonials, reviews, sneak peeks, and other ways to showcase your products and services. User generated content goes a long way here too! If you have photos or videos of your customers using your products, showing this is a way to promote yourself but via word of mouth, which is more trusted, and it gives you free content to share!
- Behind the scenes. Everyone loves this kind of content. Where do you work? Who works with you? How do you celebrate events or milestones? How to pick out new items for your store? How do you travel? Do you have pets - show your pets, they always bring in good engagement 😉
- Educational content. If you can educate your audience, you will win them over. Whatever industry you're in, provide links, articles, tips, quotes, DIY suggestions, resources, and other information to educate your audience.
- Entertaining content. Ok, I advise this with caution. Yes, you should entertain, but it should be relevant to your audience. Random cat memes (unless you're a pet store or cat lovers site) are not relevant. Find fun facts, videos, quotes, memes (yes, on occasion only!), and other fun ways to entertain your audience in a relevant fashion.
All of this content will depend on your business, your products and services, and your audience. It will also depend on the platform. Facebook is more conducive to photos and videos where LinkedIn is more conducive to articles and links. Knowing which content works well on each platform is going to be key in determining what you post to each site.
How to Post
When I create my client strategies, I also dive (significantly) into recommended tactics. These get really specific based on the client, but again, here are some tips to get you going.
- How often to post. Are you going to post once a week, once a day, multiple times a day? Having a clear expectation for posting schedules is key to consistency and social media success.
- What times to post. You could post at any point in a 24 hour period. And then there are 7 days a week to work around too. So you need to look at current analytics (if you have them) and do some analysis on your audience to decide when to post. And remember, peak times aren't necessarily the best times to post. Don't be afraid to run tests too - post at various times to see which posts get the most reach/engagement/conversions.
- Writing the right captions. This isn't easy. Do you write a short 100 character post or a longer post? Do you include a personal take on the share or just share? Do you ask a question or give your thoughts? Do you include hashtags or not? Do you include a call-to-action? I can't answer that all here but you need to determine these things. And know that not every post is the same. And, again, each social media site is going to have different expectations. What works on Facebook does not work on Twitter which does not work on Instagram. There should be variety and a mix of captions as much as you mix up your content.
- Engagement strategy. You absolutely MUST be engaging with your audience. That's why I insist on including this in the strategy. How will you engage? Depending on how big your brand is, you should ideally respond to every comment and question. But, when really large, this isn't practical, so determine what is an appropriate response strategy. You also need to determine your brand voice and how to respond. Simple, quick responses or highly personalized every time. Using humor or staying completely professional? Signing the name (or initials) of the person responding or leaving it anonymous or is it only you? How quickly will you respond? If you can only check social once a day, then expect to respond within 24 hours. If you're checking multiple times a day, expect to respond within 2-6 hours. Or, be super on top of it and respond within 30 minutes. Whatever you set as your standard, your audience will learn to appreciate.
- Using ads. Yes, we're at a place and time where you might need to incorporate ads into your posting strategy. How will you use ads? What's your budget? What's your goal with the ads? Don't risk throwing money away! Be sure you know what you're doing - and hire a professional or get trained on ads before you get started.
- Running contests. If you're planning to run contests on social media, make sure you know the rules for each platform. Some are very specific and restrictive while others are pretty open. Then figure out what you're going to do to administer the contest and award prizes. You may need additional software or tools to manage a successful contest.
Again, there are other aspects and tactics to consider, but this should get you well settled in your strategy.
I want to stress that it's important to have a clear strategy and know where you're going. But it's also important to have flexibility in your approach. Don't be afraid to tweak your strategy throughout the year. Add new ideas, fix tactics that aren't working now, or adjust posting times and content to keep your analytics on track.
I know this is a lot. That's why so many people don't do it! But, if you take the time to do this (or hire someone to do it for you), you can see how you'll have so much more success with social media this year! I promise you, a clear strategy with effective implementation will drastically improve your social media results!