How To Write a Successful Social Media Strategy in 10 Easy Steps
It's hard to imagine a time when social media wasn't an integral part of our lives. If you're old enough (like me) to remember a time BEFORE social media, then well done for making it this far!
Social media has integrated itself into our lives so deeply that it's now second nature to reach for your phone and instantly share your latest brainwave with the world rather than the person next to you.
If you're running a business, social media will (or should) be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy.
The thing is, having a social media account isn't enough. Just posting your latest product offer when the mood takes you won't cut it on its own, you need an ongoing social media strategy to make it work for you, but what is it? How do you create one? Where do you even start? We're glad you asked.
We've put together 10 steps you can take right now to create a social media strategy for 2023 (and beyond) that works and will take your marketing game to [CLICHE BUZZWORD ALERT] the next level!
Before we get to that, let's start with some basics to make sure we're all on the same webpage.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING?
Good question. As opposed to other marketing channels like email campaigns or offline paid advertising, social media marketing is simply the use of social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) to sell or promote your business, your brand, your products or your service.
Social media is a great outlet for this because you can...
Advertise and sell your products or services to your target audience.
Build brand awareness.
Offer more 'social' customer service.
Track the performance of your marketing campaigns and adjust quickly.
Measure your brand sentiment (i.e. the positive, or negative, feelings people have toward you).
Build and connect with your own engaged communities.
Achieve all these things...... for free!
OK, BUT WHAT'S A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY? AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
Another good question. Well, two in fact!
If you're just logging on to your social network of choice regularly and posting a little something every day from your business account that's fine, but it's not really a 'strategy'.
A social media marketing strategy is a documented marketing plan, but one that includes everything you want to do, the platform(s) you're active on and how you're going to achieve your goals.
It will also detail the actions you need to complete to get where you're going. Your goals are important as they will help you understand if you're succeeding (or not).
A social media strategy, whilst sounds a bit grandiose, it's just a document that helps you outline your social media goals for your business in a more structured way, but one that should also align with the overall marketing strategy.
Social media probably won't be your ONLY marketing outlet, but it should be part of the overall plan.
If you have a team, then part of the strategy will also include their roles and responsibilities. In other words, who does what and when!
It should also include the workflow for reporting any issues that might crop up because, and we hate to be the ones to break it to you, not EVERYONE on social media is nice.
This document ultimately helps you define your goals, the tactics you're going to utilise to achieve them and the measurements you'll have in place to track your progress towards said goals! That way you'll know if it's working (or not). Those goals will often be specific to each platform.
Because of the sheer amount of social networks available to you (there are literally hundreds of different platforms) with around 4.9 BILLION people using them all on a regular basis.
Obviously, each one will work slightly differently and will cater to a different audience in many cases.
For example, a campaign that might work well on Twitter, may not work as well on Instagram., so you may also use each platform differently according to your needs, but more on that later.
The strategy should also include a list of all your existing social media accounts and goals that are specific to that platform.
If you have an account on a particular platform that you don't use, decide whether you're going to revitalise it or, if not, close it. It's better not to have an account at all than have one that's dormant and looks like you don't care about it.
With these basic requirements, you're ready to start putting some meat on the bones of this skeletal document.
1. SET GOALS
When putting together this document, even in its most basic form, it's a good idea for your goals to be as SMART as you can. SMART is a well-known acronym in business circles which stands for:-
EVERY goal you set in your strategy needs to be bound by these criteria. Without them, you won't be able to measure your success or, more importantly, your Return on Investment (RoI).
An investment you say? Sure, social media is free, but the time you or your team spend on this isn't.
Don't, for example, just put 'Increase Followers'. It's not SPECIFIC and what does it even mean? Is adding 1 solitary follower mean that the job is done? Yes sure, you've increased followers, but what benefit will it bring? What comes after that?
As we said, your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. so instead of the rather broad 'Increase Followers', your goal could be to "Increase Followers on Twitter by 20 every week'. This is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
The more specific the plan, the more effective it will be.
We appreciate it can be a bit daunting at first, especially if you're new to social media strategies, so start with creating just 3 or 4 social media goals. You'll get these by just working out what you want to get out of your social media.
Bear in mind, this should be an ever-evolving document. You should constantly be adding and refining it as you understand more about how it all connects, what works and what doesn't
Finally, remember to match your goals with your business (not to mention your overall marketing strategy) and match your metrics to your goals. There needs to be synergy. Speaking of metrics....
2. MONITOR MEANINGFUL METRICS
Alliteration aside, and we know we used it as an example in the previous step (just to illustrate a point) but tracking the number of followers isn't always a particularly useful metric unless you're starting your business from scratch. Sorry to spoil your first goal!
If you're an established business, what you really need to track are MEANINGFUL metrics.
Whilst we all like to see our follower count increase or that people 'Like' our posts, in business terms, these metrics are more vanity than value-adding. They're nice and certainly easy to track, but they don't provide any real substance.
The real insight into social media comes from things like engagement, conversion rates and clicks.
Remember, each social media network will need separate metrics on your plan and you may also have different goals for each platform. You might want to use Instagram to increase your brand awareness or track the views on your Insta-Story.
On the other hand, LinkedIn might be more focused on getting clicks back to your website to drive traffic to your blog or to your online store.
If you're paying to promote posts or advertising on Facebook, then tracking the 'cost-per-click' is often a good indicator that you're getting your money's worth.
Social media platforms will also, in many cases, provide some basic metrics themselves which you can access via their Settings (usually referred to as 'Insights' or 'Analytics'). If you're not seeing them, make sure you a 'Business' account rather than a 'Personal' one.
If tracking social media metrics is something you're interested in learning about in more detail, we wrote a whole other blog on that very subject which you can read here.
3. GET TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Social media is all about people; well sometimes bots, but generally they're real living, breathing people! These people will all have needs and wants and be looking to you to satisfy them! No pressure then.
Whether you call them your audience, your community, your followers, your fans or your customers, understanding which of them match your ideal customer's persona means getting to know them on social media. This is going to be a key step in building a successful strategy.
We're not talking about becoming a creepy stalker, but knowing some basic things about them (i.e. their age, where they live (roughly), what they do for a job and their interests) will help you find those who meet your ideal customer personas. Social media really comes into its own here.
Again, each platform will give you some insight into who your audience is on that particular platform. As we mentioned earlier, this may differ across social networks and platforms, but this insight will help you plan your strategy.
Knowing where your customers live and how they engage with you on social media will help you understand things like the tone of your messages, demographics, most active times, and even things like what device they use to access your website or engage with you. Use these to help you refine your strategy further still and target them more effectively.
4. GET TO KNOW YOUR COMPETITION
Whilst it's important to understand your audience across social media, understanding your competition across platforms is just as significant.
Every business will have some competition. However friendly (or not) that rivalry might be, you'll have someone else doing what you do, selling what you sell, and offering what you offer. It's time to get to know them a little better too.
No doubt they'll also be using numerous social media platforms to promote themselves and sell their wares, just as you're trying to do.
This is the point at which you can capitalise on their weaknesses and make them your strength. As such, there are two main ways you can get to know them;
a. Competitive Analysis
Competitive Analysis allows you to take a snapshot of your competition to understand who they are and how they portray themselves on social media, i.e. what personality they display, what's their tonal voice, what is their content like, what are they doing well and what they're not doing so well. It's important to be objective when doing this.
You might, for example, see that your competition focuses more on one platform and are less dominant on others. If your shared audience as a whole is being underserved on a particular platform, that might be where you put your effort, rather than compete with them, especially if they're 'bigger' or more established than you are.
As we said, they are your competition but you MUST try and look at what they're doing without prejudice. It's easy to look at everything a competitor with disdain, but this step only really works when you can be objective.
It's also important not to be constantly comparing yourself to them either. Don't do this every day or it'll become an unhealthy habit, but checking once a month may provide you with valuable insight you can act upon.
b. Social Listening
The other weapon you've got in getting to know your competition is social listening.
It might sound a bit creepy, but basically, it involves researching your competition (just as customers might do).
Look for things like what their account handles are, what hashtags are they using, what are they sharing, who are they following, who's following them, do they use 'influencers', what are people saying about them, what reviews they have, do they get retweeted/reposted often and by whom? The list goes on.
Do this across a range of platforms to build up a picture of who they are online.
The more you listen and the more you see how they work, the more you'll learn. You'll begin to understand how they use social media, you might even see new trends coming within your industry and maybe have that lightbulb moment.
You'll see what works and what doesn't so learn from the mistakes you see and build on the successes of others to help evolve your own social media strategy.
By understanding your competition, you'll get a sense of what's expected within your industry (although that doesn't mean you have to replicate what they do) but they can all help you as you create your own strategy.
If it's a crowded marketplace, don't be afraid to think outside the box. If everyone is posting the same kind of stuff, that might be an opportunity to highlight your differences or offer a different perspective to stand out from the crowd.
5. SOCIAL MEDIA AUDITING
So now you've got an understanding of your audience AND your competition, it's time to turn your gaze on yourself!
As you develop a social media strategy and begin to see where you want to go and what you want to achieve, you first need to understand where you are right now. That's why you need to carry out a social media audit. Don't be scared.
Just as you did with your competition, take a look at your own social media game up to this point. Ask yourself questions which could include things like (but aren't limited to) ;
How often do you post?
Which platform(s) does your audience use?
How do they use the platform? or is this even where your audience is?
Who engages with you?
Are there any users you could partner with?
Where do you get the best engagement?
Does this platform help you achieve your goals?
How do you rate against your competition? (Be honest)!
Also, when searching, be on the lookout for imposter accounts. This might not be an issue for most small businesses, but it's worth checking for anyone impersonating you or your brand, either as a joke or to be harmful to your business. Since Mr Musk took over Twitter, this might be more of an issue than it was before!
You might also find duplicate accounts of your own. Remember when you got locked out of an account, but rather than send them an email to customer support you just created another one? Yeah, that!
Once complete, your audit should give you a better understanding of what purpose each platform offers you. If it doesn't, maybe it's not worth having being part of your strategy going forward.
6. CHOOSE YOUR NETWORKS. OPTIMISE YOUR PROFILES
Now we're getting to the real nitty-gritty. You might have flirted with some networks, but with all this new data, it's now time to decide which network you're actually going to use.
Once you know that, you must make sure your profile page is as good as it can be.
A key aspect of that optimisation will be determined by who you are as a business. If you're a solo or very small team then you probably won't have time to post across every platform multiple times a day.
In this case, prioritise those that will have the most impact on your bottom line and those your team can manage content on.
If you have a whole squad of people then that won't be so much of a concern, but there will still be limits.
For every platform you decide to use, you'll need a strategy for each one. As we said earlier, the platforms that are going to work for you best will really depend on the type of product or service you provide and the content you want to showcase.
To help keep you focussed, it's a good idea to write a mini mission statement for every platform you want to use that defines what it's for. One sentence is more than enough.
That might look something like "We will use Twitter to supplement our customer service", "We will use Instagram for product updates." or "We will use LinkedIn to showcase our company's ethos to attract new staff". Naturally, use whatever works for you.
They can be whatever you think is going to work best on that platform. If you struggle to think of one, that might be a sign that it's not the network for you. Remember you don't HAVE to have an account on EVERY network to succeed.
Once you've decided and if you don't have them already, it's time to create some accounts and subsequently your profile/bio on each one. If you have them already, it might be time to give them a polish so they align with your strategy.
There are a couple of key points to bear in mind when completing your profile.
Keep the branding consistent by using the same logo, images, colours, font and messaging. Bear in mind that banner image sizes differ between networks so adjust accordingly.
Include relevant keywords and, if you have one, your #hashtag.
Make sure you complete ALL the fields consistently.
7. GET INSPIRED
"Good writers borrow, great writers steal" - T. S Eliot
We stole that ;-)
Your brand, as much as ours or anyone else's, should be unique, but that doesn't mean you can't be inspired by what your competition and other businesses in your sector are doing on social media. Staying active and engaged on your timelines is a vital part of this.
If the only time you log on is to post your own content and then log off again, then you're missing out on a world of information you can be inspired by to create your own fantastic content.
Stay abreast on what's happening in your industry so you know what campaigns are working, the newest technological developments, the latest products, current (or future) trends, the newest businesses in your sectors, published case studies, business award winners even your own favourite accounts can all provide valuable inspiration for your content. If all those sources fail you, then you can always ask your existing followers about the content they'd like to see. What do they want or need from you? Which topics would they like you to cover in your blog? What are their pain points? Is there anyone they'd like you to collaborate with? How do they use your product?
When posting your content, ensure you do so with a consistent tone, style and voice. This helps people to understand what to expect from you and, ultimately, what's in it for them.
Having this consistency means that, whoever is posting on your account, the content feels like it comes from the same person, even if it's not.
8. CREATE A CONTENT CALENDAR
If you're already one of our amazing clients, then you'll be used to us shouting about the benefits of creating a content calendar.
They are a key part of social media marketing as well as marketing strategies in general. If you don't have one, get one! If you don't know how read on!
As you'll see from the next step (SPOILER ALERT), content is king, but creating great content is just one step.
To make it pop, you need a plan on when and where to share your posts so they get the attention and engagement that they undoubtedly deserve.
A calendar shouldn't just show your posts, but also schedule in time for you to interact with your audience, although there's nothing wrong with some spontaneous engagement now and again.
Whatever you going to post and wherever you're going to do it, a social media content calendar will display the dates and times, the type of content and the platform is going on for every post you're going to put out online.
This allows you to see at a glance all your upcoming social media activities, whether it's an image you're sharing, your latest blog post, your latest reviews, sales offers, etc.
It should include your day-to-day posts but also any upcoming social media campaigns. By having an overview, you'll be able to see that your posts are well spaced out, cover all the platforms you're using and go out in time to coordinate with other campaigns you're following.
A calendar will also help you capitalise on particular daily, weekly or monthly campaigns that occur in the world at large.
Things like World Mental Health Day, Nurses Week, Small Business Saturday, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, etc. (or any of the hundreds of different special occasions) are all opportunities for posting relevant content.
There are loads that occur throughout the year, some serious, some more light-hearted so almost every day is 'something' day on social media.
They all offer an opportunity to utilise that hashtag for your own content to be seen by a wider audience. Just make sure it's relevant and you're not just jumping on the bandwagon (that can backfire). NB - Daysoftheyear.com is a great tool for finding these dates.
Over time, you'll learn the best times to post based on past engagements, clicks or impressions. This can be added to your calendar for repeated events in the future.
What To Post
When coming with up your strategy, determining the right mix of content is going to help you enormously.
Remember those platform mission statements you created earlier? Your posts on each social network should reflect the mission statement you've assigned to each one.
As tempting as it might be to go crazy posting memes and joining in every hashtag game, maybe leave them for your personal account and focus on your business strategy.
When posting, it's important to portray your business as well-rounded and not one-dimensional. Posting the same banal 'motivational quote' or one littered with unrelated hashtags day after day will soon get tiresome for you and your audience. They can get that from any number of other accounts. You want your content to be very specifically 'you'.
If you're struggling to find the balance, there are a couple of marketing 'rules' you could try when it comes to social media posting, but there's no hard-and-fast one, so decide which one suits your business best and feel free to change it up (or create your own).
In this scenario:
80% of your posts should be a mixture of information, education or entertainment.
20% are direct promotions.
Rule of Thirds
Here, you split your posts across three (hence the name) categories:
1/3 of posts promote your business; i.e. designed to convert the audience and generate profit.
1/3 of posts share ideas and / or insight from leaders in your industry (including you).
1/3 of posts are personal interactions with your audience; commenting, liking, retweeting, etc.
50% of posts are designed to drive traffic to your website.
25% of posts are curated from other sources (industry bodies, industry news sites, etc.)
20% of your posts are calls-to-action (CTA); e-book downloads, newsletter sign-ups, etc.
5% of posts promote your company culture/ethos.
To Post or Not To Post, When Is The Question!
One of the most common questions that comes up when it comes to posting is how often to post on your social media accounts.
Again, there's no hard and fast rule to this. It's something you will just have to experiment with to find out what works for your business.
Whilst there isn't a definitive answer on what works best, you absolutely can post too much, or not enough.
Posting too often risks annoying your audience; they won't want to see post after post after post of yours in their timeline. Alternatively, posting too little looks like you don't care (so they won't either) or they'll simply conclude that you're just not worth following.
At the end of the day, people follow accounts to be entertained and/or to be informed, so give them a reason to engage with you by posting regularly.
If you're just starting your social media strategy, we would recommend the schedule below as a jumping-off point, but feel free to adjust it as you learn more about your audience and what works for you.
Remember the quality of the post matters more than the frequency, so don't post just for the sake of it, but we'd this as a guide:
Twitter - minimum 1; maximum 4 posts per day.
Instagram - minimum 3; maximum 7 posts per week.
Facebook (Business Page) - minimum 1; maximum 2 posts per day.
LinkedIn - minimum 1; maximum 3 posts per day.
Bear in mind multiple posts should be spread throughout the day. It's also a good idea to vary your posting times, at least initially, to see what works best and when.
People will check in with their socials at different times of the day, so spreading them out gives you the best chance that'll they see at least some of them.
Schedule Your Posts
Once your plan is starting to take shape and you know where you're going to post and how often, it's a good idea to schedule them in advance.
Manually posting across multiple platforms throughout the day can take up a surprising amount of your time. It's just not time or cost-efficient. The secret is to schedule them automatically.
All the main platforms have the option to schedule posts on their website (and some within their app). On Twitter's website, for example, it looks like this.
NB: You can't do it on the app as we write this (come on Elon!).
Whilst they might make it easier, if you're looking to really keep costs down in this economy, then you can quite easily do it yourself and for free!
9. GET CREATIVE
Deep breath, we're nearly at the end! Whilst all of these previous steps are relevant, this one is the Daddy of them all.
No matter how good your planning is, regardless of how well you research your competition or how colourful your content calendar is, without original, quality and engaging content, it's all a bit moot.
The content you produce needs to be engaging, original and relevant to create an audience, but it also needs to help you achieve your goals.
Also, don't forget about those mini-mission statements from Step 6. Get them back out, because, before we finish it's time to put a little more meat on those bones!
Think about some examples of the type of content you can post to help fulfil your mission statement on each of the networks you've chosen to use.
The content you create needs to be, not only suited to the network you've chosen but also fulfil the purpose you've outlined.
As you've probably realised by now, we're expecting quite a lot from a little social media post.
However clever, however funny, however profound your posts might be, they need to do quite a bit of heavy lifting to tick all the boxes needed to really work its magic. That's easier said than done.
We've listed a few ideas below but feel free to get your own creative juices going and that content will be flowing in no time.
Topics over in a regular series (daily/weekly/monthly)
Contest / Competitions.
Share product hacks/secret (either your own or suggested by customers).
Spotlight your customers.
Share a list of books/albums/podcasts that help you work.
Tease new products.
Share a milestone.
Polls (both serious and light-hearted).
Host a challenge (with associated #hashtag)
Host an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session to connect with your audience.
Celebrate 'Whatever It is That Day' Day / Week / Month (See Step 8).
Introduce your team so people get to know them.
Display your product used in unusual ways (either seriously or as a joke)
We appreciate it's not as simple as many people think, but if you're daunted by the task and are struggling to come up with them, try not to overthink it and instead go back to basics.
When coming up with posts ask yourself a couple of simple questions;
Is there any cohesion between the types of content you want to post?
Does your content provide value to you and/or your audience?
Is the mix right?
Do you have the right balance of entertaining and informative content?
Does it make people stop scrolling and engage with it?
Do they share it?
What does it offer them?
Start by creating a couple of different categories that give you a strong foundation that encompasses different aspects of your brand's storytelling. Thinking about what you can offer your audience is a good place to start.
If you're still struggling, remember we do this stuff for a living, so please get in touch with us and we will see how we can help you grow. We only succeed when you do.
Here we go, the last step! Go you!
10. TRACK, MEASURE, ANALYSE and ADJUST
Phew! You've made it!
As we said earlier, your social media strategy should be an evolving document, regularly updated to reflect the ever-changing landscape that is social media.
It evolves through iteration which happens as you track the data you receive over time.
By tracking, measuring, analysing then adjusting your strategy, you'll build on successes and learn from mistakes to get stronger and stronger with every campaign.
Back in Step 3, we mentioned that each platform offers some basic analytics and insight, so use them as a starting point when it comes to tracking and measuring the data they provide.
If you've created brand new accounts on any of these platforms, it may take a little time for the data to reach a point where it becomes actionable, but keep plugging away and it will come.
When it does start to come through, learn what it means. Don't just take the figures at face value and put them in a spreadsheet without any understanding of what they mean to you and your marketing efforts.
Use the data you get to evaluate and re-evaluate your strategy on a regular basis. Maybe not every day, but certainly once a week so you can begin to see the upward trends you're expecting and if not, why not?
When you understand what the data is telling you and have a baseline, you can begin to test new ideas, different types of posts and new marketing campaigns to see if they work better (or not) against what you know so far e.g. do any posts work better at particular times of the day or on certain platforms?
You can also begin to mix up your reporting over different time periods. Play around with the data and you'll be amazed at what they tell you.
By learning what works (and also what doesn't) you can begin to refine your strategy and it will become invaluable to you.
As we said, the insights and analytics provided by social media platforms are a great starting point, but they're not the only option you have when it comes to tracking and measuring your data.
Your customers will have invaluable data that's also worth tapping into. You can write a blog (with polls) to ask them their opinions on a multitude of things about your business. You could conduct customer surveys for everyone who's bought from you, or ask website visitors what they like (or not) about your site.
When you have that information, look at it, absorb the answer and act upon it. Remember, this information doesn't (and shouldn't) exist in isolation, so repeat it at set intervals and you'll have more and more valuable data every time.
SQUARING THE CIRCLE
Now your social media strategy is taking shape, it's important to reiterate that there's no right or wrong on what exactly it should contain, how it should definitively look or even what is written in it.
Unless you've spent the time literally carving them in stone, then it's not fixed. It can change. It should change. It will change.
It will change as you implement new campaigns, launch new products or engage with other people, and it should. It will also evolve as you learn what doesn't work, and that's OK too.
Finally, bear in mind that the social networks themselves will come and go. There are well over 100 of them after all. While some are obviously more popular than others, find the ones that work for you.
It's also worth remembering that their overall popularity will also ebb and flow, so don't be afraid to adjust not only what you post, but also where, as preferences, tastes and social influence change.
To illustrate this, it wasn't too long ago that Facebook was the most active place to be for young people. Companies targeted it for that very reason. Fast forward to today, that landscape has changed.
Users between the ages of 18 and 24 have decreased from 24% in 2012 to just 16% in 2020. On the flip side of that, the number of users aged 65+ has increased from 4% in 2019 to 9% in 2020. Not massive, but it more than doubled in a year!
Your strategy also needs to be tailored to you and your business. If you don't like how it looks right now, don't worry. As you learn more, your document will grow into something that forms a vital part of your overall marketing strategy and you'll begin to love it how much it helps.
It's a long one we know, but we hope you've found something useful here to help you craft the perfect social media marketing strategy.