A good social media strategy can take months of planning and teams of people to create, but if you’re a small business this isn’t always an option. In this guide we hope to provide the starting blocks needed to create the foundations of your very own social media marketing strategy.
What is a social media marketing strategy?
Put simply, a social media marketing strategy is a guide that sets out how you plan to achieve your social media goals. Rather than trying to wing it and post content on an ad-hoc basis, the strategy ensures that careful thought and planning has gone into your social media presence. By creating a strategy you’ll be able to gain better insight into how your business is performing across social channels and, if you’re not performing as well as you’d like, it’ll be much easier to identify areas that you can improve on.
Do I need a social media marketing strategy for my business?
Whilst you don’t require a strategy to use social media for your business, it is advisable that you try to get something in place to help structure your social media efforts. Whilst it may take some time to sit down and create the strategy, it may just save you valuable time in the long run, as you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to be doing.
How can I create and plan a social media strategy?
So, you want to get started with your social marketing strategy, but what should come first? Here we’ll guide you through the steps we think are most important when it comes to creating, planning and implementing your social media marketing strategy.
1. Set your social media marketing goals
Having clearly defined goals from the start can really help you measure your social media marketing efforts. So be sure to ask yourself; “Why am I using Social Media for my business?”.
Whilst it may seem tempting to list something quite generic, such as “get more likes”, this is probably too broad of a goal to measure and therefore may not be all that helpful when trying to determine if your strategy is working for your business. Instead, you should consider setting SMART goals.
Example of a Smart Goal
A small business with 300 followers on Twitter might set the SMART goal of increasing their twitter followers by 10% in the next three months.
This is a SMART goal because it’s;
- Specific: A particular platform and objective has been specified.
- Measurable: The business knows it has 300 followers currently and that number will increase with each new follower.
- Achievable: A realistic increase in followers has been set. The business needs to gain 10 new followers a month in order to achieve this goal.
- Relevant: The goal aligns with the business’ aims and values and will benefit the business if achieved.
- Time based: A three-month time frame has been given to achieve the goal.
Goals that have an end date, and a component that’s measurable will really help you see just how much your social media efforts are helping you.
Define Key Performance Indicators to measure the success of your goals
Identifying what you should be measuring as part of your SMART goals can be confusing.
This is where KPIs (key performance indicators) come in. KPIs allow you to measure your social media efforts and determine how far away you are from achieving what you set out to do – and how far you’ve come since you’ve started.
Tip: check out our blog post on key social media metrics to get started on setting your KPI’s.
Adding your goals to your strategy
Now you understand how to set measurable goals you should create a document that outlines your goal for each social platform as well as your overall social media marketing goals.
To set these goals you should;
- State the objective of the goal.
- Specify how the goal will be measured.
- Make a note of your current performance so you can track the improvements.
- If you’re working as part of a team make sure other team members are aware of these goals too.
- Determine when you will review your goal and see if it’s on track.
- Review and redefine your goal when the specified time is up.
2. Define your target audience
You may just want to list “everyone” as a potential customer, but to be able to appeal to your audience you need to know who they are in the first place.
Create Buyer Personas
Creating buyer personas can really help you identify those who may be interested in the services your business provides. Think about the age, hobbies, lifestyle and jobs of these people. For instance, if you’re a cake shop, your target audience may look a little different to that of your local night club.
By trying to figure out who you want to attract, you will in turn figure out what type of content you should be creating, when you should be posting and what platforms you should be posting on.
Identify the platforms and content your target audience interacts with the most
There isn’t much point in creating a whole Facebook advertising campaign if your core audience isn’t actively engaged on that social network.
By gathering data you can determine where your audience is most likely to find and interact with your business, and also streamline your social advertising costs should you choose to run a paid-for social media campaign.
And whilst you may think the core demographic of each social platform is obvious, some results may surprise you. For instance, Facebook would probably be thought of as the more popular platform for older generations, but as of April 2021, individuals aged 25 – 34 years made up the largest group of Facebook users by age in the UK.
It may be that you create a Facebook campaign aimed at one segment of your targeting audience, and a completely different campaign that utilises TikTok to draw in another segment of your audience. By figuring out what platforms your target audience are using, you’ll be able to invest your time more wisely into creating relevant content.
Once you’re posting regularly on social media channels, you can also use each social media channel’s built-in analytics to cross-reference with your buyer personas and see if there are any data points you may have overlooked.
You can also use the analytics to see what content your audience respond to the best and create more of that type of content.
Figure out when your target audience are most active online
Once you’ve decided on the where and who, you’ll need to determine when. Figure out when the people you want to reach are most likely to be engaging with your content on social media. E.g. posting before 9am, after 5pm or midday to coincide with lunchbreaks may give your social posts a bit of a boost if your ideal customer is typically somebody who works a 9-5 job.
You can also conduct your own experiments with posting times. Try scheduling posts for a different time each day to see if you can pinpoint times that work best for your business. There has been some research conducted on the best times to post on social media and whilst the information is quite general, it’s a good place to start if you’ve not yet been able to conduct your own research.
Another tip is to utilise social networking ‘live’ features which can tell you how many of your followers are online at that time, and post when these figures are at their highest.
It’s also advisable to consider avoiding posting during times, events and occasions which distract and remove people from their phones, such as Christmas Eve, national competitive football matches, overnight, heatwaves.
3. Identify your competitors
Like any competition, it’s hard to prepare if you don’t know who you’re competing against. By researching your closest competitors, you can look at what they’re doing on their social channels and understand what kind of content performs well from other businesses in your industry.
Not only will it give you inspiration for your own social channels, but it may also give you the option to spot any gaps in your competitor’s marketing strategy and use it to your advantage.
How do I track my competitors?
If you already know the businesses you want to compete with then you can, of course, search for them on social channels. But what if you want a broader reach? Or aren’t necessarily sure who you should be competing with? This is where social listening comes in.
What is social listening?
Social listening is a way of monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, your industry, your competitors, products and more. It’s a great way of finding out what other businesses in your industry are posting and posts their followers seem to engage with the most.
You may find that a particular campaign is performing well, (or not so well) or that people on Twitter are reacting more to a post that was also posted on Facebook. By keeping an eye on this type of activity, you can inform your own social media strategy and learn from any mistake they make.
Social listening is something you should consider doing often as the market shifts and new trends emerge, it’s good to stay up to date and identify different ways to enhance your social media strategy.
Things to consider when monitoring your competitors’ activities:
- What social platforms are they using?
- Do they have a clear goal for their social media marketing efforts?
- Which platforms seem to be generating the highest engagement rates for them?
- What isn’t working so well for them?
- Is there anything they’re not doing that you could be?
4. Perform a social media audit
If you’re already using social media for your business, then it’s a good idea to take a look at what you’ve achieved so far.
Creating a social media audit is a way of creating an overview of your current efforts so you can better inform your social strategy going forwards.
Things like tracking down and streamlining any duplicate social accounts, ensuring all your channels are on brand and identifying top-performing posts on each platform can help give you a clearer picture of what you should be doing on each of your social channels.
Whilst conducting the audit you should also take the time to ensure that there are no social media accounts that have been created that claim to be your business, or that there are no old social media accounts that you no longer have access to (for instance, if an ex-employee set them up and you no longer have the password). Be sure to report any of these accounts and make sure all of your active social accounts are verified so that customers can find the right profiles with ease.
5. Set up/improve your social media accounts
After researching social channels and looking at your competitors, you should have an idea of the social platforms you’ll be using for your business.
When choosing, you should consider which channels your audience is most active on and which channels you can realistically utilise to achieve your goals.
Once you’ve decided, you’ll then need to specify the purpose for each individual platform.
For instance, if you’re a restaurant, you may decide that you’ll use Facebook for gathering bookings and providing customer service, whereas you may opt to do live cooking demonstrations on Instagram and provide recipes on Pinterest.
If you’ve decided to use any new social media platforms that you weren’t originally using, it’s a good idea to go back to step one of this guide and set your goals for these platforms.
To keep your social media channels organised it is also worth adding an additional document to your strategy that highlights the main intended use for each social platform.
Setting up your profiles
When setting up your social media profiles, or improving your current profiles, there are a few key things that you should do across ALL platforms
- Ensure that all profile fields are completed.
- Keep your branding consistent.
- Utilise keywords to make your business easier to find online.
Always ensure that any profile headers or profile pictures are designed to the size specified by the social channel in question and that the pictures are of a good enough quality.
6. Create your social media content guidelines.
Whether you’ll be the sole manager of your social media accounts or sharing the duties between a team, creating content guidelines can help keep your social channels unified and your content on brand.
Why is branding important?
It may be tempting to ditch your logo and reinvent your brand every time you see another company with show-stopping visuals, but don’t be too hasty in doing so.
Whilst it can sometimes be a good thing to refresh tired branding, you should only do so with careful planning. Using multiple logos or changing your fonts and colours too often can be damaging when you’re trying to improve brand awareness.
Take a moment to consider all the major brands you can think off of the top of your head. It’s highly likely that when you think of each brand, you’ll be able to picture their logo clearly in your mind. That’s the power of strong, consistent branding.
This consistency is something you want to bring to your own branding.
What should I include in my social media content guidelines?
Your social media content guidelines may be very similar to your overall brand guidelines, but should be tailored to highlight what content you want to produce, how to produce it and for what channels.
Things to include:
- Brand voice
- Posting guidelines
- Image guidelines
- How to respond to comments
- How to utilise hashtags
7. Choosing the right content for your social media marketing strategy
Coming up with new content ideas for your social media marketing strategy can feel quite daunting. Don’t feel you have to be posting a 50-page downloadable guide, or a free template every single day.
Try to get the most out of your content by repurposing and re-using it. For instance, if you’ve written a blog post on your website then don’t be afraid to share it a few times across different channels, changing the wording of the social post to suit your chosen platform. Just don’t fall into the trap of copying and pasting the same message week-in, week-out.
When it comes to creating or posting content on social media, you should be able to categorise the post into one of three categories:
Re-sharing ideas from thought-leaders in your industry or news that can be seen as relevant and positive to your business.
Teach your audience about parts of your industry, product set or business that may be insightful and helpful.
This is where you get to sing about what you do. Try to avoid just repeatedly posting links to your products and services, instead try to get creative with the content that champions your business.
For instance if you were a clothing retailer, rather than just posting a link to a t-shirt you could create a social post around styling the t-shirt including links to other products you sell too.
If you’re creating content that doesn’t fit into these three categories then make sure you have reason to be posting it. If your followers think you’re posting low value content too often they may choose to unfollow you, or the dreaded social media algorithms might be less favourable towards your posts.
The more you post, the more you’ll get better at it and the more you’ll understand what generates engagement.
8. Create a social media content calendar
Creating a social media calendar can help you organise and plan your social posts around upcoming holidays or key events for your business.
Rather than trying to think up fresh, engaging content daily, you can plan out what you’re going to post for that month then create and schedule the posts in a way that allows you enough time to create the relevant content.
A social media calendar doesn’t just have to include your posts though, you should also schedule in some time to review and respond to any engagements/comments you receive on your social channels (although this should also be done as a priority if your resources allow).
Your calendar should set out the days (and the times) you’ll be posting, along with which channel you’ll be posting to and, if you want to be thorough, the content type.
Your calendar can include your general posts as well as planned posts for any social media campaigns you might be running.
Be sure to constantly refer back to your social media strategy goals and ensure . Try and break your goals down in to percentages, for instance “50% of what I post is going to be posted with the purpose of trying to drive traffic to my website” “20% is to generate newsletter sign-ups” etc.
Having these goals in mind should help you create blocks of content that serve a purpose relevant to your business, whilst keeping you on track with your social media marketing strategy.
Is there a way to schedule posts from my social media calendar?
As mentioned previously in this article, identifying prime times to post on social media can be key in getting the maximum engagement for your post.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with logging on and manually posting on your social channels each day, the flexibility of scheduling a post in advance is undeniably an easier option when trying to stay organised.
Websites such as HubSpot, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck all give you the option to schedule your posts to go out automatically on your chosen day/time.
9. Review and adjust your strategy
In order to get the very best out of your social media marketing strategy you’ll need to revisit, review and re-adjust it. You may find that after a few months of implementing your strategy, some things are less effective than others.
Social media platforms change, new platforms are introduced, and your business will also change too. All of these can be big factors that will influence changes within your strategy.
You’ll also want to check if what you’re doing is working.
By re-visiting the KPI’s you set earlier on in your strategy, you should be able to gauge if you’re on course to achieve those social media marketing goals you set out.
You can review each social post’s performance by using the built in analytics tools provided by each social platform. Setting up UTMs (Urchin Tracking Module) for your social posts can be a great way of seeing which posts are driving the most traffic to your website.
If certain posts are getting significantly less engagement, then you can start to identify if there are any trends in what your audience interact with the least.
The more data you gather, the more it’ll become obvious what type of content your audience responds to. You can then use this data to better inform future campaigns and social activity.
You can also utilise surveys to engage with your audience. Asking your followers/website visitors/newsletter subscribers if they’re happy with the content and experience you’re providing, (and if there’s anything you could improve) is a great way of identifying anything missing from your strategy.
Over time your social activity will inform your strategy just as much as your strategy informs your social activity. With this in mind, it’s worth treating your strategy as a working document.
It’s also a good idea to let the rest of your team know when any changes have been made to the strategy, that way you can ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.
Whether you’re ready to take the next steps with your social media marketing strategy, or you’re just looking or some more information, we’ve got social media experts on hand to help you get started.